Kirsten Johnson has worked as a documentary cinematographer and director, and has committed herself to recording human rights issues and fostering visual creativity. She has been the principal cinematographer on more than 40 feature-length documentaries and she has been credited on numerous others.
After graduating from Brown University with a degree in fine arts and literature, Johnson traveled to Senegal to study with acclaimed filmmakers, Djibril Diop Mambéty and Ousmane Sembène. The experience inspired her to apply to La Fémis, France’s national film school, where she studied cinematography. Following her graduation from La Fémis, Johnson served as cameraperson on a number of highly acclaimed and award-winning documentaries, including “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” and “The Invisible War.” Johnson has had a long-standing collaboration with Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras; she was the cinematographer on “The Oath,” “Citizenfour,” and shot Poitras’ new film, “Risk.” Additionally, she shot footage that appeared in Poitras’ visual arts exhibition on surveillance, “Laura Poitras: Astro Noise,” which opened at the Whitney Museum.
Johnson teaches a graduate course in visual thinking at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, a course on cinematography at the School of Visual Arts, and often leads workshops for young camera people and documentarians in countries including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.