#Crucial21DbW: Cameraperson directed by Kirsten Johnson


At Bertha DocHouse, we’re passionate about celebrating the fact that documentary is one of film’s most gender equal genres.

With an all-female programming duo, and a team that is very committed to films directed by women, we find ourselves asking questions like:

Can gender define the art of cinematography in documentary?

We think that Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson is a crucial piece of 21st century cinema, because its subtlety of cinematography brilliantly represents the female experience and female gaze.

Throughout a career which has spanned decades, Johnson has shown a consistent quality in the composition of the images she captures. They’re delicate, considered, restrained and with a high attention to nuanced details that illuminate the bigger picture.

In sincere moments, Johnson’s off-camera audio also consists of the whisperings of a private experience behind the camera: her worried thoughts, playful observations and high degree of professionalism.

Through the emotional connection and choice of her participants, Johnson shows the delicacy that a female cinematographer and filmmaker can achieve when representing people and experiences.


Cameraperson‘s montage is fluid and juxtapositions are created that wander through very different stories. They are subtle, yet sublime. We see a landing plane, groups of people walking, the quiet of an afternoon cityscape, the kneading of dough.

These seemingly insignificant details of the recorded experience are interspersed with moments of great sincerity that demonstrate the power of documentary, like a half-blind injured Afghan boy talking about the death of his brother from a land mine.

But Johnson is always candid, demonstrating the contrast between a casual obsession of recording for posterity of the moment, and the necessity of recording for a greater cause.


Whilst the documentaries she has filmed have exposed some of the most important issues of our times, the construction of her film is a therapeutic exercise and a personal journey.

Cameraperson is a meta documentary experience, the conventions of which define a commitment to portraying the world in a restrained and honest way.

So whilst the title refers to the practise of recording the moving image without gender categorisation, the material captured features a quality which at times seems like only a woman could achieve.

Skype Q and A with Kirsten Johnson
A shot from Bertha DocHouse’s Skype Q&A with Kirsten Johnson.
Bertha DocHouse
The Bertha DocHouse is the UK’s only cinema dedicated entirely to documentary filmmaking. [Photo: Kii Studios]

Cameraperson is available to stream on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, VUDU, and YouTube. Follow Cameraperson on Facebook, Twitter, and on the film’s website.


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