Director and Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, US 2017 (1hr 42mins Cert 15)
Cameraperson is Kirsten Johnson’s remarkable autobiographical documentary about her life and career as a cinematographer. Winner of the Sheffield International Documentary Festival’s Grand Jury Prize in 2016, the film brings together 20 years of Johnson’s personal and professional footage, weaving together scenes from around the world that have left their mark on Johnson. From the title alone, which reminds us of the gender-bias inherent in the more commonly used term “cameraman,” this unique project allows us to gain insights into the under-represented figure of the female cinematographer.
Cameraperson draws our attention to the unseen labour of the cinematographer behind every film, especially in those non-fiction films that make up Johnson’s body of work. Throughout Cameraperson, we see Johnson’s meaningful interactions with her documentary subjects, including the mutual capacity of the cameraperson and the subject to move one another during shared moments of filming. And while Johnson naturally remains invisible for the majority of the film, her presence is palpable through off-screen comments and the various moments when the camera moves, or is moved by, Johnson--as though an extension of the cinematographer’s own body.
One of the most globally accomplished women working in cinematography, KIRSTEN JOHNSON has served as the Director of Photography on more than 40 feature-length documentaries. Born in 1956 and based out of New-York where she teaches at NYU, Johnson has served as director of photography on films such as on the Academy Award-winning Citizenfour (dir. Laura Poitras, 2004) and the Tribeca award-winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell (dir. Gini Reticker, 2008). Johnson’s other collaborations with female directors include Deadline (2004), which she co-directed with Katy Chevigny, and The Oath (2010), for which she shared the 2010 Sundance Cinematography Award with Laura Poitras. Johnson also works as a documentary director and producer, including on Cameraperson.