Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle is an acclaimed cinematographer, particularly renowned for his hazy lighting and saturated colours.  An Australian who started as a photographer and who then became famous for his cinematography work particularly with Wong Kar-Wai an eccentric, non-conformist Chinese film director.   Although, Doyle makes unusual use of light, by comparison to Sally Mann his images are tame. They have a beauty which tends to focus on  eyes and faces which increases the mood he is trying to create for the viewer.

Doyle recommended studying the ‘beauty of artificial light on people’s faces’  (Expressing Your Vision – course notes p. 83).  In the film “In the Mood for Love”, Doyle makes the most of his advice with the use of over-head lights and table lights to highlight facial features and in so doing creates a sense of mystery and intrigue,  Doyle often shoots through doorways and openings, not only to frame the shots but also inviting the viewer into his peep-hole to add to the mystery.   In his creative use of lighting Doyle also creates a certain melancholy effect in the film.  I first watched this film with no English sub-titles and not speaking Chinese, I had no idea what was being said but suffice to say I picked up the plot through the expressions on faces and the way the lighting encouraged me to ask more of what was going on.  I watched it a second time with sub-titles and this more or less confirmed the conclusions I’d reached.

Jeffery Saddoris on the website “faded and blurred” says of Doyle:

His (Doyle)  use of light and colour meld beautifully to create a remarkably visceral canvas on which the stories of the films are allowed to play out against.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that Doyle’s work often becomes a character in and of itself – a supporting actor …….. and helps to add drama to the narrative.” (Saddoris J. 

On the same website Saddoris quotes and links to an interview in American Cinematographer magazine where Doyle says,

“not only does art come from hard work, not merely waiting for inspiration to strike, but that the entire process should be as personal as possible”. (Doyle C.)  By this I assume that like many photographers Doyle spends a long time in planning, visualising and practising the shot he wants to create.

JEFFERY SADDORIS (accessed 02/07/2016).

I would have liked to see more of Doyle’s photography but apart from a few independent studio exhibitions, which only reveal a few images there seems to be very little on the web.

Doyle is a rather controversial character who describes himself in an IndieWire interview as the Keith Richards of Cinematography and goes on to criticise with contempt some of the cinematography in some Oscar Award winning films.

(accessed 02/07/2016)


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