Sometimes it's a signature style that calls attention to a cinematographer's skill. Sometimes, like in the case of Robert Richardson, it's something else entirely.
We already know that Robert Richardson is a master of his craft — his lighting techniques alone push the art of cinematography to new heights. However, even though he does have a few trademark tricks that he utilizes in his work, it's his ability to satisfy the demands of today's greatest directors that makes him a unique DP.
In this video essay, Sareesh Sudhakaran of wolfcrow gives us incredible insight into Richardson's work, from his lighting philosophy to the technical details of his artistic choices. Check it out below:
There are plenty of interesting tricks you can learn from Richardson, like using his signature hot backlight technique. But perhaps the greatest thing you can glean from his work is his ability to understand a director's vision and adapt his style accordingly. Think about it, you have to really understand your craft in order to satisfy the likes of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Oliver Stone — all of whom have very unique styles and very precise visions for the look of their films.
To put it another way, having a style that is wholly yours is great — you're an artist after all, so of course that will develop the more you work, but being a one trick pony won't get you very far. Being able to fully grasp what a director wants from you and then translating that into the images they envisioned in their head is a skill that comes with not only a lot of experience and practice, but maturity as well.
I mean, if you were a director wouldn't you want to work with the DP that had enough imagination and technical knowledge to bring your ideas to life? Of course you would!