On January 24th, 2017, director of photographer Bradford Young became the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award in Best Cinematography (Arrival). This marks the first Oscar nomination for Young, but hardly the first award or nomination.
The four-time Sundance winner (Middle of Nowhere, Pariah, Mother of George, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) was raised in the town of Louisville, Kentucky and moved to Chicago as teenager to live with his father, according to Young’s Wikipedia. He studied film at none other than Howard University. He cites his one of inspirations as painter Romare Bearden – the same artist who inspired August Wilson’s cycle of 19th century plays including Fences, now up for a couple of Academy Awards in the leading actor categories.
“Mill Hand’s Bucket” by Romare Bearden
In an interview with the New York Times, Young says of his process “I feel like I’m still in a great discovery process, trying to figure out what it is, ultimately, that I want to say with the camera,” he said. “I’m exploring. I’m looking forward to the day where I can communicate: ‘This is what the intention was. This is what I do.’ It’s been a really fulfilling couple years, but it’s only been a couple years.”A couple of years it’s been indeed. In September of 2016, Young was announced as cinematographer for the yet-to-be-titled Stars Wars spinoff film on Hans Solo.
The 89th Annual Academy Awards airs February 26, 2017 on ABC. We’ll be watching for another possible moment in history. Check out more of Bradford’s work at http://bradfordyoung.com/.