Dick Pope was born in Bromley, Kent in 1947 and became interested in photography as a young boy. His father gave him a Brownie box camera and he began making portraits of his family and friends. Later, an uncle who worked for the BBC suggested a career as a cameraman so he became a trainee at Pathe Film Laboratory in London and worked as part of camera crews on ‘B’ movies and TV documentaries. Eventually, he began shooting music videos and feature films.
Pope’s collaboration with the British director Mike Leigh commenced in 1990 on Life Is Sweet and over the years blossomed into one of the longest standing and the most remarkable creative partnerships in the history of British cinematography. Pope and Leigh went on to shoot Naked in 1992 and following the wide critical acclaim of Secrets and Lies (1995) continued their success run with Career Girls (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1998) All Or Nothing (2001) and the masterly chronicle of 1950’s backstreet abortions Vera Drake (2003). The latter propelled Pope into Hollywood elite and he went on to shoot two blockbusters, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Neil Burger-directed The Illusionist (2005) which earned Pope an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. Following the blockbuster success of The Illusionist Dick returned to Mike Leigh a few more times, in 2007 for Happy-Go-Lucky, in 2009 for Another Year and most recently this year for Mr Turner.
Dick Pope has demonstrated an uncanny flair and understanding for realistic illumination (with an emphasis on realistic), spatial composition and the drawing out of the emotional texture of a film in tandem with the director. The camera method he has been employing throughout the career is the one of tracking the actors across the room or a space, right around them slowly which creates the effect of action serving the camera and not the opposite, i.e. camera serving the action. As Mike Leigh explains, “I did sit in cinemas as a kid looking at English and American movies thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the characters were like real people?’ And the worst thing is films are constantly advertising themselves, drawing attention to their style of things. But actually me and Dick make films that I think are extremely sophisticated and cinematic. But you don’t want the audience thinking about the bloody film. You want them to think about what’s going on, and believe in it. Be flies on the wall, you know?”