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Since 1919, the ASC Has Been Dedicated to the Artistry of Cinematography

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Since 1919, The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has been dedicated to the sheer and pure artistry of filming motion pictures. It was not founded as a trade guild or a union but was originally formed as a society that honored and promoted the best in cinematography achievement. Membership is by invitation only and only extended to those directors of photography that have had proven and exceptional credits throughout their careers.

Members have been dedicated to promoting film as the true art form that it is and to exchange philosophies and ideas as well as to establish new techniques to advance the art and the science of cinematography. In the ever shifting landscape of values and motivation, the ASC has been determined to stay loyal to its core values of progress, artistry and loyalty. The ASC continues to proudly declare itself to be the oldest continuously operating motion picture society in the world.

Famed cinematographer Edward Lachman, seen here filming 2007's I'm Not There has been nominated for an ASC Award for Outstanding Achievement for 2016. (photo by Jonathan Wenk)
Cinematographer Edward Lachman, seen here filming 2007’s I’m Not There, will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s ASC awards ceremony. (photo by Jonathan Wenk)

The state of California granted the ASC its first charter in 1919 and the society seemed a synergy of two popular camera clubs of the time. These two clubs had been originally founded by cinematographers back in 1913. The Cinema Camera Club was started by a trio of working cameramen, Frank Kugler, Lewis W. Physioc, and Phil Rosen. All three were working at the time for the Thomas A. Edison Studio.

The three saw a long term need for a professional society that would help to establish industry standards toward the profession as well as encouraging the industry to see them as the artists that they were and to lobby for the introduction of upgraded equipment. Around the same time, the Static Club was formed in Los Angeles and it mirrored the professional aims of the Cinema Camera Club. When Rosen arrived on the West Coast around 1918, he was instrumental in combining the clubs into the society’s present form. Over the past 97 years, the ASC has been dedicated to its original mission and currently has 340 members.

Cinematographer Phillippe Rousselot will be awarded the society's International Award at the ASC's February 2017 awards ceremonies. Rousselot won an Oscar for A River Runs Through It. (photo courtesy of the asc.com)
Cinematographer Phillippe Rousselot will be awarded the society’s International Award at the ASC’s February 2017 awards ceremonies. Rousselot won an Oscar for 1993’s  A River Runs Through It. (photo courtesy of the asc.com)

It was in 1919 that cinematography got its first credit line in a film and it was the legendary movie star, and a founder of both United Artists and the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Mary Pickford, who began adding the title of “ASC” to the names all cinematographers in her productions.

In 1920, the ASC launched its American Cinematographer magazine which remains in publication today and is considered the premier source for all things cinematography. Along with the magazine, the society as also published eight editions of its American Cinematographer Manual. The manual has been considered the authoritative work in the profession and the manual was recently given a special Award of Commendation by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

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For the past 31 years, the ASC has presented its ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in recognition of exceptional achievement for cinematography both in the film industry as well as in the television industry. The Awards have greatly helped to highlight the critical contribution that cinematography has made to the production of both movies and television shows.

The ASC’s extraordinary web site continues the tradition of excellence and of bringing the news and event from the world of cinematography out into the public eye. The society continues to promote causes it deems important as it has since the beginning. Currently, the society has been heavily involved with trying to establish certain standards and protocols with regard to digital cinema.

As it has for the past 97 years, the ASC continues to be a champion for the artistry and the majesty of motion pictures.

-Written by Kevin Sawyer

Mr. Sawyer is a freelance writer, editor and journalist from Tampa. He has written thousands of articles for hundreds of magazines and news sites on countless topics including science, the media and technology. He is also the author of many white papers, special reports and ebooks covering a wide range of subjects.
Kevin Sawyer
Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource