Cinematography Contenders on Capturing TV’s Most Stunning Images

Cinematography Contenders on Capturing TV’s Most Stunning Images

Traveling back in time allows cinematographers to celebrate the old while making something new.

“Fargo” (FX)
NOMINATED FOR LIMITED/ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR SEASON 4, EPISODE 9, “EAST/WEST”

“Fargo” showrunner Noah Hawley always meant for the ninth episode of Season 4, “East/West,” to be photographed in black and white.

Movie buffs will note the homage to “The Wizard of Oz” as the palette shifts from the established ‘50s Kodachrome color look after which the season had been fashioned, to black and white five minutes into the episode, and then shifts back at the end.

Another big influence, according to DP Dana Gonzales, was Robert Frank’s photography book “The Americans.” “Not only was I interested in the look of the photographs, but also what Robert Frank captured in his images: the not-so-perfect, often-flawed America of the 1940s,” he says.

His biggest challenge was “creating a realistic period black and white look” because I wanted to find a vision that was not the typical desaturated color image, nor the film noir reproduction that many cinematographers prefer. “I wanted the esthetics to match the story and period the audience was experiencing in Season 4 and how the photographs of that era captured those tones,” he says.

“The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Prime Video)
NOMINATED FOR LIMITED/ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR EPISODE 9, “CHAPTER 9: INDIANA WINTER”

DP James Laxton, Barry Jenkins’ longtime collaborator, relied on longer camera movements to capture Cora’s (Thuso Mbedu) journey in Amazon Prime Video’s “The Underground Railroad.” They wanted to avoid edits, letting scenes play out in real-time.

During “Chapter 9: Indiana Winter,” the corn-shucking scene transitions from afternoon to night. Laxton worked with colorist Alex Bickel to create each chapter of that journey.

“The camera panned and moved from one character to another character or one character to a train,” he says, noting that he wanted to create images that felt true to audiences. That was his guide throughout, rooting the camera perspective to characters, rather than being gratuitous and following the motion of trauma.

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