Vale Jim Frazier, pioneering wildlife cinematographer


Acclaimed cinematographer Jim Frazier has died at the age of 82 after a short illness.

The film pioneer and inventor is best known for his work on David Attenborough documentaries and for developing the Frazier Lens System, an optical system that effectively keeps everything in the lens’s field of view fully focused: from the lens surface to the horizon.

His death was confirmed by a statement on a social media page dedicated to his 2021 autobiography Through the lens, a macro view of Jim Frazierdetailing how the industry pioneer is “sorryly missed”.

“He will leave a huge hole in our lives,” the statement said.

“His life and work will outlive him and will be an enduring legacy of his vision, innovative creations, love of the environment and efforts to improve it. Rest in peace now, our good friend.”

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Originally from Armidale, Frazier’s first job outside school was at his hometown university’s Zoology Department before moving to the Australian Museum, where he headed the exhibition preparation department.

During his time at the museum he met naturalist, photographer and writer Densey Clyne, with whom he worked on a series of documentaries about Sydney wildlife.

They would form a business partnership and were asked by David Attenborough to work on his series life on earth and The living planetwith the couple eventually forming Mantis Wildlife Films.

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In the late 1980s, Frazier began developing a lens that would cover everything from close-ups to long-distance shots and beyond that would always be fully focused, having thought of the concept during filming in the ’70s.

After an exclusive licensing deal with Panavision, the equipment was later used in shooting titanic, Tomorrow never dies, Impossible Mission, Amistad, Alien Resurrectionand Stuart Little2, among other. Frazier also received an engineering Oscar in 1997 for his invention.

It is one of 40 national and international awards he has received, including an Emmy, three gold tripods and a US Industrial Film & Video Gold Camera Award.

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Frazier was made a life member of the Australian Cinematographers Society in 1998.

ACS President Erika Addis said the Society and its community are deeply saddened by Frazier’s death.

“[Frazier] completely revolutionized wildlife filming with his invention of an extraordinary lens system capable of holding focus from 2 inches to infinity,” she said.

“He was a dedicated and serious filmmaker who made the impossible possible. He was inducted into the ACS Hall of Fame in 1998 and will be fondly remembered by colleagues and those fortunate enough to have his teachings.”



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