Balancing the Artistic and Technical Aspects of Cinematography: Danish DP Sophie Gohr
Though every department on set plays a crucial function in the creation of a production and each comes with its own separate set of challenges, the tasks taken on by the cinematographer and their camera department is arguably one of the most challenging. As an audience captivated by a project’s imagery, it’s easy for us to imagine a visual magician letting their creative inspiration run wild behind the scenes in order to capture the shots that leave us breathless; but cinematography is more than just an art, it is a science, and a highly technical one at that.
Danish director of photography Sophie Gohr is one of the key figures behind the camera who has mastered the delicate balance of the scientific and creative aspects of cinematography.
“For me it’s the best of both worlds… Cinematography is a perfect combination of doing something technical and artistic. Working with lights and camera gear and finding the right tools for the project is a joy for me. I love nerding out on gear. The best part of it is the different technical tools you can use to create the exact look you want for a project,” explains Gohr.
“The artistic part of cinematography is a soulful experience and it’s why I started doing cinematography. I love creating a visual story, from the colors to the camera movements to the framing and locations. All of that makes it an amazing creative process.”
Gohr recently wrapped production on several upcoming European films, including Katherin Vintersborg’s dramatic comedy On Deep Water starring Rikke Westi from the Ole Award nominated film Freddy Frogface, Ida Lund Larsen (Where She Lay, Natten er Ung) and Michelle Sarah T. Heedal, and the documentary film A Women’s Story from director Nathalie Jornheim.
“Every project I choose to work on is a project of passion and heart for me and I feel extremely blessed to be a part of every project,” says Gohr. “Though I do have a strong love for indie dramas, thrillers, and crime films.”
While Gohr has become a powerhouse as a cinematographer in the Danish film and television industry, she has also made a name for herself working regularly as the cinematographer on commercials for national and international brands. The visual appeal of a commercial is one of the key elements that grabs a viewer’s attention and allows a brand to get their message across, and it is in this area that Gohr’s talent shines.
She recently wrapped production on a commercial for Radon Spy directed by Katherin Vintersborg, the director behind the upcoming film On Deep Water, which is slated to release later this year in Europe. A system for measuring carcinogens and other toxic chemicals in the air, the commercial for Radon Spy intends to draw attention to the way one family member’s lifestyle affects everyone in the house.
Aiming for a dark and moody vibe, Gohr says, “I really wanted to visually tell the story of the family being uncomfortable in the house.”
In order to create the commercial’s bleak and unsettling look she incorporated heavy contrast and darker blue tones into the lighting using two 2 x 2 Kino Flo lights and several 650W tungsten Arri lights, all with defusion.
“I love lighting and shaping with light, and I really feel I had a lot of freedom to shape the light on this project,” explains Gohr. “For the dinner scene I put a 2 x 2 Kino Flo on a telescope boom pole above the table, and 1 Arri light bouncing off the wall camera right and some practical lights in the window.”
When it comes to the technical side of cinematography, Gohr is a seasoned pro. She knows exactly how to use every tools in her trade from the various lighting sources to camera angles and how to frame the shot in order to capture the mood the director is going for on screen.
When a director and a cinematographer form a strong collaborative working relationship, they often continue to work together again and again. With so many things happening on set, it is vital to have a creative partner behind the scenes who you not only trust implicitly, but one who gets your vision the first time.
“Since our first project we’ve kept working together, as well as developed a great friendship,” says Vintersborg. “Sophie is a very focused artist who is extremely talented and passionate about her work… She’s not only has her own vision, but she is good at executing the visions of others.”
Over the years Gohr has been the cinematographer on multiple commercials for Danish jewelry brand Hipzen directed by Vintersborg, and she’s preparing to shoot another one — this time however, she will be directing as well. With the theme of the commercial being ‘all is one,’ the story follows five women from different cultures with each woman finding a different piece of jewelry that ultimately leads them together in the end.
In contrast to the dark and alarming nature of the Radon Spy commercial, this project is going for a colorful, fresh and happy look, and Gohr knows exactly how to achieve that on screen.
She says, “It’s about using a lot of warm tones, lens flares, and natural locations that speaks to the culture of each character… Using my RED weapon with anamorphic lenses will give it a very cinematic feeling.”
Considering it was Gohr’s passion for photography, which she discovered during childhood, that ultimately led her to become a cinematographer, it’s not at all surprising that she’s also been tapped to serve as special photographer on multiple sets. In 2016 she was the special photographer for the film The Visitor, aka Besøgsvennen directed by multi-award winning director Jesper Isaksen (No Exit, No Exit 2- Rise Against).
Nominated for an award at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, the film follows a robber who, while on the run from the police, is invited into an old woman’s house for coffee where they form an unlikely alliance. As the film’s special photographer Gohr handled the behind the scenes photography for the film as well as shot the film’s poster.
Coming across as beautiful and quirky representation of the film’s unique story, Gohr’s poster for The Visitor is incredibly intriguing. “I wanted to have the set up very casual and show that the older woman was very interested in the young man who came by her house and have the young man looking out the window scared that the cops were going to find him,” explains Gohr. “I wanted to show all of that in one picture.”
Additionally, Gohr has been the special on set photographer for the music video ‘Ghostfriend’ by Fallulah, which she also shot the cover for, the series Exitium starring Lucas Munk Billing (Hold Me Tight), Frederik Carlsen (A Horrible Woman) and Rasmus Hougaard (Viking Blood), and most recently Sicilla Luna’s (Out in the Woods, Sometimes I Wish) dramatic film Aurora Vega starring Anna Bruus Christensen from the comedy series Superhelt and Thomas Diepeveen from the Danish romance film Isabelle mon Amour.
Regardless of whether she is working as the cinematographer on high-profile films and commercials or using her talent as a special photographer to capture the publicity shots that get audiences excited about a project, Sophie Gohr’s unique artistic vision coupled with her expansive technical knowledge have made her a force behind the scenes in Denmark and abroad.
When asked where she draws her inspiration from, Gohr says, “Life, people, photographs, music, paintings, nature and travelling… being an observer I constantly feel inspired.”