10 Cinematographers to Watch 2013: Linus Sandgren

Linus Sandgren studied film in his native Stockholm, where his early professional work met with high praise — he became the youngest cinematographer ever honored with the Swedish Film Institute’s Guldbugge Award. In 2009, he photographed “Shelter,” his first U.S. feature. In a subsequent two-year span, his commercial work earned three Cannes Lions Silver Awards, a Clio Gold Award and a Mobius Gold Award. Sandgren’s second U.S. feature effort is “Promised Land,” lensed for director Gus Van Sant.

On “Promised Land,” Sandgren used an unusual film format to mimic the crisp, detailed images of large-format still photography, especially the work of the American photographer Stephen Shore, but also the reportage-style images of Steve McCurry, Mitch Epstein and Eve Arnold. The format, used previously only on commercials, uses 1.3x Hawk anamorphic lenses and the full 4-perf 35mm film frame to achieve 70% greater image area.

“To create a look, I need to find the reason for what I’m doing,” says Sandgren. “I look to the script, and to the vision of the director. It’s all there; you just have to lay out the puzzle. I try to create depth with light, and I am very fond of shadows and texture. I like to paint with broad strokes, using the simplest technique possible.”

Van Sant and Sandgren worked without playback monitors. Sandgren usually lit the room, rather than the shot. “Working that way saved time,” says Sandgren. “Everyone was very focused, and it made things spontaneous and instinctive. On the set, I try to create an environment with a great spirit, where everyone goes the extra mile.”

Sandgren is preparing to shoot David O. Russell’s next feature film, reportedly about the Abscam bribery scandal that sent several members of the U.S. Congress to prison in the 1980s.

Favorite tool: “A collection of vintage glass I use to break up or color the light, create lens flares or distort the image.”

Inspiration: “(Cinematographer) Robby Muller — he always manages to bring the audience in, and his photography is always very authentic and personal.”

Representation: UTA in the U.S., Artofficial in Europe.

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