Exclusive video: Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael on lensing ‘Nebraska’

After a long, distinguished career, Phedon Papamichael may finally nab his first Oscar nomination for lensing Alexander Payne‘s “Nebraska.” He crafted the cinematography of Payne’s “Sideways” and “The Descendants,” but this one is special. It takes a big artistic chance – it’s shot in artsy black and white as it alternately provides an up-close look at a fierce father-son drama and the step-back perspective of an epic journey they take across the sprawling flatlands of mid-America.

But why shoot in black and white?

“It helps this particular story. In a way, it’s more realistic,” he tells Gold Derby. “It helps to show the vastness of the landscape, the graphic value of the horizons and the huge sky, our little lonely figures.”

But more than anything else, it provides a revealing look at the cranky father, Woody (Bruce Dern), who fights to keep everyone away. Papamichael says the photographic approach helps “just the way he looks visually – his white hair glows, his textured face. It allows us not to be distracted by any kind of palette. Just focus on his expressions and the subtlety of his looks. He becomes this symbolic figure of death in a way without getting too Bergmanesque, this ghostly figure of loneliness and isolation. In all of those ways the black and white helps.”

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