Sarah Whelden’s award-winning approach to cinematography always puts the story first. It starts with asking “why” before ever considering “how.”
As a queer trans woman, Sarah has a special place in her heart for those in the shadows. She is drawn to narratives that highlight the often chaotic reality between humans and their surroundings, and to characters that are eager to find themselves but may not know where to start.
Her commercial work aims to ground brands in reality. Whether it’s finding those impossible to re-create moments in between takes, or pulling out all the stops to create the reality we all long for, Sarah is always excited by the challenges of the day.
Sarah was born and raised on the small island of Nantucket, where she honed her skills on an old VHS camera and dual deck VCR. She grew up with an affinity for odd composition, always breaking the rules before she even properly learned them.
At Hampshire College Sarah balanced her focus between film, photography, and music. She spent valuable hours learning the basics on a 16mm Bolex Camera , editing her footage on a four-plate Steenbeck flatbed editing machine, as well as further exploring her passions in 35mm photography that originally blossomed when she was ten.
Shortly after graduating, in 2007 Sarah moved west with her wife Kelly. Her arrival in Portland coincided with the dawn of the digital age of filmmaking, where she spent her first days on set watching the camera department experimenting with cable management on the RED ONE. By the time she first opped professionally, workflows had shifted to accommodate the presence of exposure-accurate image monitoring.
Today Sarah tries her best to find time for it all. She loves the short-form storytelling challenges that come with commercial production. She loves the fast-paced organic nature of shooting documentary and non-fiction content. In creating music videos, she loves trying to pack as much emotion into an image or frame as a musician is able to pack into a lyric or chord. And in scripted narrative work she loves putting it all together, to tell smaller stories that work visually with or without dialogue, and that come together perfectly to weave a longer arc. Whatever the content, Sarah loves what she does, and there is nowhere she’d rather be than on set (although a summer day on the beaches of Nantucket doesn’t sound bad either right about now).
I have been in the industry since 2010.