Posted on: 31st January, 2014
18th November, 2019
The 1960s was a transformative period for the British cinema; a decade which saw substantial levels of American financial support for production, increased budgets and higher production values, and an unprecedented level of international visibility and success.
If one surveys the range of films made in Britain between 1960 and 1969, one of the most striking features is a gradual transformation in visual style: from a predominance of black and white to the ubiquity of colour; from hard edged, high contrast lighting to a softer, more diffused use of illumination; from carefully composed images and minimal camera movement to a much freer, mobile and spontaneous visual register; from the aesthetics of classicism to a much more self-conscious use of form appropriate for a decade associated with a new emphasis on spectacle and sensation. British cinematographers also achieved new levels of international recognition during this period, with the award of five Oscars for Best Cinematography between 1960 and 1969, equalling the total from the previous twenty years.
In this presentation (which has been published in the Journal of British Cinema and Television) I will examine this transformation, considering some of the most significant practitioners and films and the key factors (cultural, institutional, technological) that influenced the shifts in visual aesthetics and production processes. But I will also move beyond the scope of the original article to consider how this kind of analysis might be applied to more recent developments in cinematography in British moving image production. The development and wholesale application of digital technology has ushered in a different kind of transformation in aesthetics, production practices and accessibility.