New Book: Authorship and Aesthetics in the Cinematography of Gregg Toland by Philip Cowan

In this three-part study, Philip Cowan explores approaches to co-authorship in collaborative filmmaking to propose new ways of identifying, attributing, and evaluating the creative work of cinematographers. In the first part of the study, Cowan challenges the dominant, director-centered auteur approach to film studies, critiquing the historical development of authorship theory and providing a contemporary analysis of the cinematographer’s authorial role in creating images that communicate meaning through their construction. In the second part of the study, Cowan develops a new, comprehensive taxonomy of functional aesthetic elements of the moving image by synthesizing and updating the work of previous film theorists, in order to define the complexities of composition, movement, and lighting. Finally, by using the co-author approach and the analytical tools developed in part two of the book, Cowan provides an in-depth re-examination of the work of Gregg Toland, highlighting the historical neglect of the cinematographer’s artistic contribution to filmmaking and developing a fresh approach to the analysis of contemporary cinematography.

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