The Reel Crisis

Elisa L. Iannacone talks shooting with the Canon EOS C70 in areas of conflict or humanitarian disaster.


Elisa L. Iannacone is a cinematographer who uses image making to reframe critical world issues. Throughout her career, she has worked in more than 30 countries during times of conflict and humanitarian crisis, producing work for outlets such as National GeographicNewsweek and the BBC. Her DOP work encompasses drama, documentary, broadcast and commercial projects – and she is currently producing a new visual art installation for Nirox Sculpture Park in South Africa, addressing gender-based violence.


Last month, Iannacone brought her field expertise to a hands-on workshop hosted by CVP at Newman House, exploring the moral considerations and impact of capturing footage in challenging environments. “There’s no hard line. Everyone operates in conjunction with their own ethics. Broadcast lines have been drawn as to what you can and cannot broadcast – this means, you can still shoot it, but perhaps you shouldn’t,” she explains.

“Ethics should always be discussed, in any location you’re operating in, but especially in areas of conflict. At what point are you capturing to create sympathy, or just for personal gain? There was a very famous journalist who went to a country in Africa, and asked a community outright if there were any women that had been raped. It’s a blinkered assumption that, first of all, they’d understand his English and be able to respond – and then that, just because someone has that story, they would want to speak to him about it.”

She continues: “Then, you have Kevin Carter’s photograph of a starving Sudanese boy who had collapsed in the foreground, with a vulture eyeing him from nearby. It won a Pulitzer Prize, but wasn’t received well, and Carter took his own life four months later. He said that, after taking the photo, he chased the vulture away and the boy recovered to resume his trek. It caused quite the stir, with critics asking, how could he? I would argue, in that situation, taking the photograph opened up the world in a way it hadn’t been before by an image. But everything can be contested. It’s so complicated.”

Canon EOS C70

During the workshop, Iannacone also covered what to keep in mind when framing shots in such environments, making sure to select the right gear when facing the unknown, and heeding your own safety.

She explains: “It was about being prepared – knowing how to select equipment depending on the surroundings, and understanding the leeway to either set up the shot properly with a tripod and light, or shoot off with a camera from your backpack. I also covered how to pitch to the media, turnaround times, adequate codecs – it changes depending on output – and how colour can enhance storytelling.”

The session centred around one camera in particular: the Canon EOS C70. It’s compact and versatile, combining the powerful image quality of Canon’s cinema range, with the portability and flexibility of its EOS R line-up. Since the C70 is still quite new, Iannacone hasn’t yet used it in an area of crisis, but admits if it had been available to her on previous shoots, it would have been her camera of choice.

“I recently took it cliff camping in Wales, and it’s wonderful what it can do with an image. It shoots in different codecs, which helps with turnaround times. So, if you’re in a setting where you don’t have time to colour grade, you can choose the colour in-camera. On the other hand, if you do have time to play around with C-Log2 and C-Log3, you’re going to have remarkable dynamic range in your image. That’s something you don’t often find with smaller, run-and-gun cameras.”

She recalls: “In Wales, I wanted to test how the camera would respond at night- time without using any lights. Amazingly, it was able to pick up detail in the waves and the rocks at magic hour, even after the sun had passed the horizon – and it wasn’t noisy. This is huge, because if you transpose that to a situation where you have to shoot inside of someone’s house, or when you’re on the go and don’t have time to set up, you want to be inconspicuous. The notion that you can shoot in such low light in high definition is extremely valuable. I thoroughly recommend this camera for shooting in challenging environments.”

Although Iannacone’s workshop has already passed, you can still stay up to date with her by following her on Instagram: @elisaiannacone.

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