July/August Preview: DP Henry Adebonojo

Henry Adebonojo

“Flag Silhouette.” Still photography from Henry Adebonojo.

Coming up in the July/August issue, HDVideoPro interviews Henry Adebonojo, the director of photography for the Oscar®-nominated film I Am Not Your Negro.

The cinematographer faced a unique challenge when director Raoul Peck tapped him to work on the film—nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2016 Academy Awards—which was based on the writings of author and civil rights activist James Baldwin. Largely comprising historical footage and old photographs, the film needed Adebonojo to create imagery that would lift and support the narrative without overpowering it. The DP’s work gives the film a poetic quality without ever compromising the integrity of the content.

Henry Adebonojo
“10th Avenue Birds.” Still photography from Henry Adebonojo.

The DP also works as a still photographer. “I say to young people today, always be honing your visual identity,” offers Adebonojo. “Always be looking for your own particular voice, learn your own way of seeing. It’s good to have references, it’s good to know the history of photography, but how do you develop your own voice within that? And I always encourage them to carry a camera with them, at the very least a still camera. An iPhone is not good enough. You should have a still camera where you’re actually making mechanical choices about how you’re exposing an image, I believe, so that you’re not doing the same thing everybody else is doing.”

Henry Adebonojo
Cinematographer Henry Adebonojo on set. Of his gear choices, the DP says, “For any shot where there was movement, I literally either mounted the camera to the hood of a car or I was shooting through a sunroof. I used a Panasonic GH4 with Canon lenses for that. And that was really just a function of what I had on hand that could shoot 4K. I had used that combination as B-camera on a lot of other stuff prior. The second batch of stuff, which included the portraits, we did with the Canon C300 Mark II, and I used the Canon Cine Primes for that. Those lenses are much faster than the Canon lenses I own, because they open up to, like, 1.3 and 1.5. And the shallow depth of field was an essential part of the process because we’re transitioning from those late-19th century portraits, which tended to have shallow focus, to these contemporary portraits we were doing with a little bit of dolly movement.”

Look for the full article by William Sawalich when the issue goes on newsstands July 4, 2017. Visit Henry Adebonojo’s website at www.henryadebonojo.com. Learn more about the film at www.iamnotyournegrofilm.com.

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