Philip Cowan



Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Philip Cowan has worked on over 80 film and television productions, including; drama, documentary, dance/performance, and animation projects, working for BBC, ITV, C4, S4C, and numerous independent companies.  As a Director of Photography he has shot on 35mm, S16mm, & various digital formats, collecting twenty international 'Best Short Film' awards, including two BAFTA Cymru awards. His work has been screened on network television, and at festivals worldwide.  He has taught as a guest lecturer at various institutions, across Europe, India and Africa.  Since joining academia he has published a number of articles, and a book, on cinematography, film authorship and aesthetics.

Research interests

As a filmmaker and an academic, Philip’s main interests lie within film authorship and the aesthetics of moving images. He explores the creation of meaning in visual narrative through both his professional practice work, as a Cinematographer, and his published articles and conference presentations.

His practice-based work, which has been screened internationally, awarded twenty ‘best film’ festival awards world-wide, and his theory-based work, which analyses the work of classical and contemporary cinematographers, like Gregg Toland and Vittorio Storaro, examine the authorial role of the cinematographer in collaborative filmmaking.

Cited Work as a Cinematographer

The Confectioner [Constantas, 1997] was a personal, almost abstract feminist work centred on sexual power play and repression, with form and content superbly married by the director Margaret Constantas and photographer Phil Cowan.” (Dave Berry, ‘Unearthing the Present: Television drama in Wales’, Wales On Screen, ed. Steve Blandford, Wales:seren, 2000, p.135)

“This multi-layering of fictional and non-fictional information creates a complex cinematic synthesis [They Call Me, Don’t Call Me (Sealey, 2006)], a subversion of New York, caught between the present and its own history, a place outside of time”, (Paul Purgas, ‘The Black Moving Cube’, The Black Moving Cube, ed. David A. Bailey, The Green Box, Germany, 2007, p.135)

Cited work as Researcher

"Cowan reframes discussion of the visual aesthetic of Citizen Kane to argue that Toland heavily and creatively influenced the film... Cowan attributes the film's success to an affective collaboration between Welles, Toland and other key practitioners involved to ultimately suggest that authorship can only belong to a combination of individuals and will vary from production to production." (Alex Nevill, Towards a Philosophy of Cinematography.  Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, p. 60).

"Certainly, convincing as a piece of historical revisionism" (Jamie Clarke, "Elegies to Cinematography: The Digital Workflow, Digital Naturalism and Recent Best Cinematography Oscars" in Collaborative Production in the Creative Industries. J. Graham and A. Gandini (eds.), pp. 105–123. London: University of Westminster, 2017, p. 108).

Education/Academic qualification

PhD by Thesis, Persistence of Vision: Film Authorship and the Role of the Cinematographer, MIRIAD (Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design)

… → 2016

MA Scriptwriting

… → 2003

PGCE/Cert Ed (PoCET), University of Wales Institute, Cardiff

… → 2001

External positions

Member of International Film & Television Research Centre, Asian Academy of Film & Television (AAFT), Noida, India

Adviser to Ethiopian Film Initiative.

Member of Society of Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI)


  • WC Art and Design
  • Cinematography
  • Film Authorship
  • Aesthetics


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