Clubhouse Conversations — Nomadland

In this interview — conducted by Amelia Vincent, ASC — cinematographer Joshua James Richards discusses his naturalistic visual approach to this engaging drama, directed by Chloé Zhao. 


Nomadland follows Fern (Frances McDormand) as she travels through the West after losing her husband and her home. She survives on odd jobs, meets a community of kindred nomads, and continues alone on her healing journey through powerful American landscapes. 

With its natural lighting and simply lit interiors, Richards’ cinematography renders the subtleties of sunlit Badlands, sunsets, and dusks, and reveals the dignity of humble faces.


The filmmakers were in part inspired by the work of director Terrence Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AIC on The New World (AC Jan. ’06) and The Tree of Life (AC Aug. ’11).

Richards is a two-time Film Independent Spirit Award nominee whose cinematography credits include Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Winner The Riderand Songs My Brothers Taught Me (both collaborations with Zhao), for which he also won Best Debut Cinematography at the Camerimage International Film Festival. Richards was nominated for a Critics Circle Award for best technical achievement for his second feature, the BAFTA-nominated God’s Own Country. For Nomadland, he was recently awarded the Golden Frog at Camerimage. The film has also earned the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion and Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award.


Interviewer Amy Vincent is a native of Massachusetts and studied cinematography at the American Film Institute. Her credits include the features Eve’s Bayou, Hustle & FlowBlack Snake Moan and Footloose (2011) as well as episodes of True Blood, Eastbound & DownWayward Pines and Legion. She currently serves as a vice president of the ASC. 

You’ll learn more about the filmmakers in this interview from the February 2021 issue of AC and this blog post by the author, which extends his analysis of their “New Naturalism” shooting approach.


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