Emmanuel Lubezki is a living legend. His work as a cinematographer on Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant has earned him an Academy Award for three consecutive years; he was nominated five times before that. In his collaborations with directors such as Terrence Malick, Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mike Nichols, and Joel and Ethan Coen, Lubezski has pushed the boundaries of the camera's eye, taking us to apocalyptic futures, the most remote corners of the uninhabitable wilderness, and the far reaches of outer space.
Though widely known and revered for his realism and natural lighting, Chivo, as Lubezki is affectionately termed, infuses his images with a poetry and majesty rarely witnessed by mortal beings. When he shoots light as it flows through the branches of trees, it's as if he's summoning the power of the earth in his frame.
A beautiful new video essay from James Hayes explores Chivo's aesthetic, which consists largely of low angles shot with 35mm lenses on cameras that capture high dynamic ranges. (He is most fond of the ARRI Alexa M.)
As Hayes notes, Chivo frequently changes perspective in the same shot. Where other cinematographers and directors would opt to cut to a different shot and change the focal length of the camera, Chivo transitions from objective to subjective in one shot, putting us in the characters' shoes and then returning us to the omniscient narrative.