A Brief History of Lens Flare

This video essay from Vox is a nicely done overview of how lens flare became such a prevalent visual style in contemporary film. As the video explains, it began in classic Hollywood cinema as a mistake; the presence of lens flare in film was originally something to be avoided and, when it showed up, corrected. Later, in the 1960s, as a new generation of filmmakers sought to reinvent the movies, lens flare became a signifier of authenticity, evidence that the new cinema was being made outside of sound stages and traditional production methods. Now it’s become an often abused stylistic affectation from directors subsisting on a dearth of original ideas. This transition also speaks to the way that technology has progressively become a more and more prominent element of art—lens flare is literally the intrusion of technology on artifice. Fascinating stuff.