Frederick Elmes
Born (1946-11-04) November 4, 1946 (age 77)
Other namesFred Elmes
EducationRochester Institute of Technology (BFA)
American Film Institute (MFA)
New York University (MFA)
Years active1970-present
AwardsIndependent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography
1991 Wild at Heart
1992 Night on Earth

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 (1990) and Night on Earth (1991), and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series for The Night Of (2016).[3][4]

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 (1977). Since then the two have collaborated on Blue Velvet (1986) and Wild at Heart (1990).[6][7] Elmes is also a frequent collaborator with directors Ang Lee and Jim Jarmusch.[8] Elmes has been a member of the American Society of Cinematographers since 1993.


Documentary film

Year Title Director
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

Short film

Year Title Director Notes
1974 The Amputee David Lynch
1976 Number One Dyan Cannon
1978 The Flight of the Gossamer Condor Ben Shedd
1987 Liebestod Franc Roddam Segment of Aria
1988 Speed Demon
Smooth Criminal
Come Together
Jerry Kramer
Colin Chilvers
Segments of Moonwalker
2001 Chosen Ang Lee Segment of The Hire
2002 Int. Trailer Night Jim Jarmusch Segment of Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet
2017 Hair John Turturro

Feature film

Year Title Director Notes
1977 Breakfast in Bed William Haugse
Eraserhead David Lynch With Herbert Cardwell
1983 Valley Girl Martha Coolidge
1985 King Solomon's Mines J. Lee Thompson With Álex Phillips Jr.
1986 Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold Gary Nelson
Blue Velvet David Lynch
River's Edge Tim Hunter
1988 Permanent Record Marisa Silver
1990 Cold Dog Soup Alan Metter
Wild at Heart David Lynch
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
1997 The Ice Storm Ang Lee
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 With Piotr Sobociński
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
The Jesus Rolls John Turturro
TBA Father, Mother, Sister, Brother Jim Jarmusch With Yorick Le Saux


TV movies

Year Title Director
1987 Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 Jeremy Kagan
1988 Tales from the Hollywood Hills: Closed Set Mollie Miller
1997 In the Gloaming Christopher Reeve


Year Title Director Note
1988 The French as Seen by... Werner Herzog
David Lynch
2 episodes
1998 The Wedding Charles Burnett
2014 Olive Kitteridge Lisa Cholodenko
2016 The Night Of Steven Zaillian 4 episodes
2018 The Looming Tower Michael Slovis
Craig Zisk
4 episodes

Other credits

Assistant camera

Year Title Director DoP.
1972 Invasion of the Blood Farmers Ed Adlum Roberta Findlay
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

Camera operator

Year Title Director DoP.
1977 Opening Night John Cassavetes Al Ruban
1979 A Force of One Paul Aaron Roger Shearman

Additional photography

Year Title Director DoP.
1979 Real Life Albert Brooks Eric Saarinen
1981 Modern Romance
1984 Dune David Lynch Freddie Francis
1998 The Object of My Affection Nicholas Hytner Oliver Stapleton

2nd unit photography

Year Title Director DoP.
1984 Red Dawn John Milius Ric Waite
1985 Real Genius Martha Coolidge Vilmos Zsigmond

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result
1986 Boston Society of Film Critics Best Cinematography Blue Velvet Won
National Society of Film Critics Best Cinematography Won
Sitges Film Festival Best Cinematography Won
Independent Spirit Awards Best Cinematography Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Best Cinematography Nominated
1990 Independent Spirit Awards Best Cinematography Wild at Heart Won
1991 Night on Earth Won
1996 Fantasporto Directors' Week Award for Best Cinematography The Empty Mirror Won
WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival Gold Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography Won
1997 Chicago Film Critics Association Best Cinematography The Ice Storm Nominated
Chlotrudis Award Best Cinematography Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Cinematography In the Gloaming Nominated
2016 The Night Of
(For episode "Ordinary Death")


  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.