When The Lights Go Out


Melbourne Noir

An issue that I have been thinking about in relation to this assignment is the lighting. While I managed to bring in lots of darkness in my photos and videos, I also tried to emphasise the shadows and harsh lighting, as I was playing with the contrast, using the city lights and the protagonist´s pale skin up against the darkness of the night.

The light has to tell something. There’s a meaning, and it establishes a mood. John Alton said when he tried to persuade the directors he worked with, that a cinematographer didn´t simply ´pump light into a scene (Hollyn 2008). He was a master of light.

I would be more pleased with my work if I could get that chiaroscuro effect without the poor quality and pixel resolution that occurred when I tried to bring the contrast up a notch. The image and video resolution played a huge role and the video would have looked darker and more mysterious with a higher pixel count and a stronger low-key lighting.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the most beautiful music is sad, and the most beautiful photography is in a low-key, with rich blacks.” – John Alton.

My personal opinion is that in the Noir genre, the lighting plays a stronger role than the sound. Don´t get me wrong; the sound is almost as important. It´s just something about the low-key lighting that makes the visual feel more powerful.

That is why one can only hear the natural sounds in the video. It jumps from the sounds recorded, too silent. I like that contrast. It´s effective.

Since the assignment instructions read “Melbourne Noir”, I decided to go for some well-known locations for the shooting. The focus did not lay on capturing the impressive scenery or to fully show where it was shot, it was more about keeping it visible but not in focus.  It is more important to advance the story and emotions in a film than it is to simply make beautiful pictures (Hollyn 2008).

Another inspirator would be the photographer Annie Leibovitz. Though her work is really impressive, her way of working is more enchanting.

It is often claimed that film noir is more a matter of visual style than of content  I couldn´t agree more. The genre is luring and mysterious. And don´t necessarily need a ´deep´ story in order to be compelling.

I am really impressed by Alton´s use of light in the films  T-Men (1947) and The Amazing Mr. X (1948). Especially with T-Men. In the same frame, Alton slammed together the darkest blacks and the brightest whites.

“I could see more in the dark than I could in color,” Alton claimed, “I could see in the dark.”(Alton 1995) Using his remarkable talent, Alton made it possible for the audience to do the same. And he still does.






John Alton (1995). Painting With Light. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. -.

Norman Hollyn (2008). The lean Forward Moment: Create compelling stories for film, tv, and the web. -: New Riders. -.

Rachel Somerstein. (2008). Annie Leibovitz: Life Through A Lens. Available: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/annie-leibovitz-life-through-a-lens/16/. Last accessed 14th March 2017.

-. (-). John Alton Biography. Available: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0023003/bio. Last accessed 14th March 2017.

-. (2002). John Alton: Painting with Light. Available: http://www.celtoslavica.de/chiaroscuro/dop/alton.html. Last accessed 13th March 2017.

-. (2015). The Amazing Mr. X (1948). Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPcSRFFAO1k. Last accessed 13th March 2017.

-. (-). Great Cinematographers. Available: http://www.cinematographers.nl/GreatDoPh/alton.htm. Last accessed 13th March 2017.

-. (2014). T Men (1947). Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA8AQwzg_jg. Last accessed 13th March 2017.





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