500 Days Of Film Reviews Documentary, Cameraperson

Kirsten Johnson is one of the most respected cinematographers working in documentary cinema. Her impressive filmography includes Citizenfour, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Invisible War and Audrie & Daisy. 


After 25 years behind the camera, Johnson decided to take pieces of memorable footage and edit them together to form a memoir, an exploration of human connections and a look at what it means to film and be filmed.

Is It Any Good?

Cameraperson is a cinematic collage - a series of film moments selected from a truly illustrious career. There is no voice over, nothing to tell you what to make of the footage you are watching. An introductory title card explains that, while Johnson “originally shot the following footage for other films”, she would like us to see this new film as "my memoir. These are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still”.


The subjects of Johnson’s film appear (typically only accompanied by details of the shot’s location) and disappear in a loop that slowly begins to take on a deeper narrative meaning. In this way, Cameraperson explores the role of documentary film in telling the often shocking stories that occur around the world and asks - what is the lasting impact of those stories on the storyteller?



Cameraperson also takes us behind the scenes of a film shoot, giving incredible insight into the work of a cinematographer. It is fascinating to see Johnson frame a shot - in one scene moving blades of grass out of the way. 


We are constantly reminded that the camera is operated by a human with all the emotions that accompany this condition. We are aware of Johnson’s concern as she films a young child attempting to play with an axe (at what point should she intervene?), her surprise at a lightning strike and her distress filming a struggling maternity unit in Nigeria.  


The only time we actually see Johnson in Cameraperson is during a moving scene with her mother who, a few years prior, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.


I was left wondering about the relevance of these more personal scenes (the film also includes footage of her two children).  Are they there to emphasise the person behind the camera? Whatever the case, they certainly add to emotional weight of Johnson’s film.


Cameraperson is a powerful and insightful film. It is a wonderful cinematic collage of life - with all the beauty and pain that entails.

Random Observations

Cameraperson has been given a limited cinema release. However, you can also watch this film at home via Curzon At Home.


Have you seen Cameraperson? 


If you have, what did you think about this documentary memoir? Let me know by leaving me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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