Frederick Elmes

Frederick Elmes, ASC (born November 4, 1946) is an American cinematographer, known for his association with the independent film movement.[1][2] He is a long-time collaborator of directors David Lynch, Ang Lee, Charlie Kaufman, Jim Jarmusch, and Todd Solondz. He has won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography twice, for Wild at Heart and Night on Earth, and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series for The Night Of.[3][4]

Frederick Elmes
Born (1946-11-04) November 4, 1946
Other namesFred Elmes
EducationRochester Institute of Technology
AFI Conservatory
Years active1970-present
Known forBlue Velvet
Wild at Heart
Night on Earth
The Ice Storm
Coffee and Cigarettes
Synecdoche, New York
AwardsIndependent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography
1991 Wild at Heart
1992 Night on Earth

Life and career

Born in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, Elmes studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology, then attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, graduating in 1972. He enrolled in the Graduate Film Program at New York University's Department of Film and Television and graduated in 1975.[5]

At the American Film Institute, Elmes met aspiring film director David Lynch, who hired him for Eraserhead. Since then the two have collaborated on Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart.[6][7] Elmes is also a frequent collaborator with directors Ang Lee and Jim Jarmusch.[8] He has been a member of the American Society of Cinematographers since 1993.


Denotes titles that have not yet been released

Feature films

Year Title Director Notes
1977 Breakfast in Bed William Haugse
Eraserhead David Lynch Co-cinematographer with Herbert Cardwell
1983 Valley Girl Martha Coolidge
1985 King Solomon's Mines J. Lee Thompson Co-cinematographer with Álex Phillips Jr.
1986 Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold Gary Nelson
Blue Velvet David Lynch Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography
Sitges Festival Caixa de Catalunya for Best Cinematography
Nominated- Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated- New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematographer
River's Edge Tim Hunter
1987 Aria Franc Roddam Segment: "Liebestod"
1988 Permanent Record Marisa Silver
Moonwalker Jerry Kramer
Colin Chilvers
Segments: "Speed Demon", "Smooth Criminal" & "Come Together"
1990 Cold Dog Soup Alan Metter
Wild at Heart David Lynch Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography
1991 Night on Earth Jim Jarmusch
1993 The Saint of Fort Washington Tim Hunter
1994 Trial by Jury Heywood Gould
1995 Reckless Norman René
1996 The Empty Mirror Barry J. Hershey Fantasporto Directors' Week Award for Best Cinematography
WorldFest-Houston Gold Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography
1997 The Ice Storm Ang Lee Nominated- Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated- Chlotrudis Award for Best Cinematography
1998 The Object of My Affection Nicholas Hytner
1999 Ride with the Devil Ang Lee
2000 Chain of Fools Traktor
2001 Storytelling Todd Solondz
2002 Trapped Luis Mandoki
Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet Jim Jarmusch Segment: "Int. Trailer Night"
2003 Hulk Ang Lee
Coffee and Cigarettes Jim Jarmusch
2004 Kinsey Bill Condon
2005 Broken Flowers Jim Jarmusch
2006 The Namesake Mira Nair
2008 Synecdoche, New York Charlie Kaufman
2009 Brothers Jim Sheridan
Bride Wars Gary Winick
2010 House Keeping Johan Renck
2012 A Late Quartet Yaron Zilberman
2013 Horns Alexandre Aja
2016 Paterson Jim Jarmusch
2017 Wilson Craig Johnson
2019 The Dead Don't Die Jim Jarmusch
2019 Going Places John Turturro Post-production

Additional photography credits

Year Title Director DoP. Notes
1972 Invasion of the Blood Farmers Ed Adlum Roberta Findlay Assistant camera
1974 A Woman Under the Influence John Cassavetes Al Ruban
Mitch Breit
1976 The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
1977 Young Lady Chatterley Alan Roberts Bob Brownell
Opening Night John Cassavetes Al Ruban Camera operator
1979 A Force of One Paul Aaron Roger Shearman
Real Life Albert Brooks Eric Saarinen Additional photography
1981 Modern Romance
1984 Dune David Lynch Freddie Francis
Red Dawn John Milius Ric Waite 2nd unit photography
1985 Real Genius Martha Coolidge Vilmos Zsigmond
1998 The Object of My Affection Nicholas Hytner Oliver Stapleton Additional photography

Short films

Year Title Director Notes
1974 The Amputee David Lynch
1976 Number One Dyan Cannon
1978 The Flight of the Gossamer Condor Ben Shedd
2001 The Hire: Chosen Ang Lee
2017 Hair John Turturro


Year Title Director Notes
1970 Street Scenes Martin Scorsese
1983 Citizen: The Political Life of Allard K. Lowenstein Julie M. Thompson
1985 Broken Rainbow Maria Florio
Victoria Mudd
1987 Heaven Diane Keaton
1990 Hollywood Mavericks Florence Dauman
Dale Ann Stieber


Year Title Director Note
1987 Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 Jeremy Kagan Television film
1988 Tales from the Hollywood Hills: Closed Set Mollie Miller
The French as Seen by... Werner Herzog
David Lynch
Miniseries; 2 episodes
1997 In the Gloaming Christopher Reeve Television film

Nominated- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series

1998 The Wedding Charles Burnett Miniseries; 2 episodes
2014 Olive Kitteridge Lisa Cholodenko Miniseries; 4 episodes
2016 The Night Of Steven Zaillian Miniseries; 4 episodes

Winner- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series for episode "Ordinary Death"

2018 The Looming Tower Michael Slovis
Craig Zisk
Miniseries; 4 episodes


  1. "Fred Elmes, asc - Director of Photography". Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  2. "The ASC -- American Cinematographer: ASC Close-Up:". Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  3. "FREDERICK ELMES". Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  4. "Frederick Elmes's Top 10". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  5. Frederick Elmes at the Encyclopedia of Cinematographers
  6. "AFI Honors Cinematographer Frederick Elmes". American Film. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  7. "Flashback: Blue Velvet - The American Society of Cinematographers". Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  8. "Fred Elmes ASC / Paterson". British Cinematographer. November 28, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
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