Features and Columns · Movies

DP Rodrigo Prieto on the Creative Thrust of “Subjective Cinematography”

If the camera has a perspective, it’s worth asking whose perspective it belongs to.
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By  · Published on November 5th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on subjective cinematography.

First thing’s first, let’s get the obvious out of the way: all cinematography is subjective. Calling something “subjective” just means that it is influenced by particular opinions and ideologies. And because people operate cameras, and those people are usually working in the service of someone else’s creative vision, to say that a camera can be truly, entirely objective is a bit of a stretch.

Indeed, cameras, by their very construction, capture a specific perspective. And the question we should be asking is not “is this cinematography subjective?” but rather “whose subjectivity is this cinematographer representing?” When we, the audience, look through the camera lens, whose eyes are we looking through? What are the subjective aspects of the cinematography trying to tell us about this story?

Some shots (most obviously point-of-view shots) literally capture a character’s perspective. This can also manifest more abstractly, as in Frida, where the camera resonates with the output and artistic fantasy-tinged worldview of its subject. These details can also be minute, like in Argo where differences in film perforation lent Tehran the grainy aura of a Western movie. Unpacking the depth of subjective cinematography is most rewarding when you’re talking specifics. So in that spirit, here’s cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, on his process with infusing his work with subjectivities:

Watch “What is Subjective Cinematography? DP Rodrigo Prieto on Working with Scorsese, Inarritu, & Ang Lee”:

Who made this?

This video about subjective cinematography was created by StudioBinder, a production management software creator that also happens to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).