The beauty of “Nomadland” rests in the hands of its direction by Chloe Zhao and its gorgeous camera work by Joshua James Richards.
Some of the best work in 2021 has been delivered by young, consummate professionals, who are speaking volumes to the future of cinema and where it’s heading. From vibrant colors to emotional lighting, there seems to be a chemical reaction to how a filmmaker and director of photography challenge and explore each other’s artistry. Reflecting on Richards’ previous works may seem premature for someone who has only shot four feature films thus far, but hearing the symbolism and connection he has to each of the frames shows what we could be in store for the near future.
“Nomadland,” which tells the story of Fern, a woman who decides to live as a van-dwelling nomad during the Great Recession, has been not only revered by critics and audiences but has been solidified as the frontrunner for best picture at the upcoming Oscars, where it’s nominated for six total awards — including director, adapted screenplay, editing (all for Chloé Zhao), actress (for Frances McDormand) and cinematography. It’s also nominated for seven BAFTA awards. The film has won over three dozen critics awards for best picture and Richards has been the leading winner of cinematography prizes this year.
At the Oscars, he’ll be going up against some big names in the business, including Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”), Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) and Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”).
“Nomadland” is his fourth feature film following “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” (2015), “God’s Own Country” (2017) and “The Rider” (2017). In his lates film, he elevated the tender and intimate story to new heights, further bringing more notoriety to the awards season steamroller from Searchlight Pictures.
Here are Richards’ favorite shots from his four features so far, and his thoughts on those memorable moments and how they shaped his approach to cinema.