Natalie Kingston wins big at 75th Emmy Awards

Written byMarie Elizabeth Oliver


Before Natalie Kingston won an Emmy for her cinematography on the Apple TV+ miniseries “Black Bird,” before she was named a “rising star” by the American Society of Cinematographers and before she collaborated on music videos with Billie Eilish, she graced the Burke-Hawthorne Hall Theater stage — covered in gold feathers — in a 2003 adaptation of Aristophanes’ “The Birds.”

Kingston, who was awarded Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie at the Television Academy's 75th Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Jan. 6, admits the stage ultimately wasn’t her calling. Still, her time as a mass communications major and theatre minor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette left a lasting impact.

“That community just really had an effect on me as an artist,” says Kingston, over a video call from her home in Los Angeles. “I really got to just let go and tap into my inner artist. It was a magical time.”

Kingston recently wrapped production on a feature film, “The Shallow Tale of a Writer Who Decided to Write about a Serial Killer,” directed by Tolga Karaçelik and starring Steve Buscemi, John Magaro and Britt Lower.


Paul Walter Hauser and Aaron Egerton in a scene from Apple TV+'s 'Black Bird' shot by Natalie Kingston.


Life, she says, has been moving especially fast since she got the call for “Black Bird,” which was developed for television by Dennis Lehane of “The Wire” and gave Kingston the opportunity to film in New Orleans. The 2022 drama earned three Golden Globe nominations and four Emmy nominations, including its cinematography recognition. Kingston's win made her the first woman in Emmy history to receive top honors in cinematography for a work of fiction.

“It really felt surreal; just going back home,” says Kingston of her time shooting in Louisiana. “It was a hard shoot. We were in a prison for a long time. We went through Hurricane Ida, we went through COVID. I’m really proud and really honored for the nomination.”

Originally from New Iberia, Kingston says her Cajun roots shaped her work behind the camera. One of her first productions was a documentary-style show for KDCG in Opelousas, where she leaned on skills acquired in her broadcast journalism courses. The experience became her working film school and led to other opportunities to collaborate with Lafayette-area creatives during the tax-incentive led production boom.

There’s still a soulful South Louisiana aesthetic to her work, no matter where she’s filming.

“There's just such a grit and a texture to where we're from,” says Kingston. “I tried to bring that to my imagery and never make anything so clean and perfect. And let it be a little rough around the edges.”

Kingston says even though she didn’t always know she wanted to be a cinematographer, she was raised to appreciate the power of creative storytelling. She credits her family and community for cultivating the empathy that is so crucial to her artistic process.

“We're storytellers at heart,” she says. “We tell stories around the table eating gumbo, we tell stories through music and through our culture. It's just so ingrained in us.”


Photo Caption: Natalie Kingston received an Emmy for her work on "Black Bird." (above) Paul Walter Hauser and Taron Egerton in the Emmy-winning episode of "Black Bird." Photo credit: Apple TV+.

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