It’s day 25 of black history month, the day before the Oscars. One of the films I’m rooting for is Arrival, a meditative, gorgeously-shot piece of science fiction. (If you haven’t seen it, see it.) As it happens, the cinematographer, Bradford Young, is African-American. As it happens, he’s the first African-American ever nominated for Best Cinematography. Ever.
(There was one previous black nominee, ONE, in 1998, Remi Adefarasin, for Elizabeth. He’s British. He also shot Sliding Doors, About a Boy, The English Patient…)
In an interview with Variety, Young, who also shot Selma, notes that most of the African-American cinematographers he respects and references didn’t graduate from well-known film schools. They mostly went to Howard University, where among other things they focus on how to expose for black skin tone – an area the rest of us who’ve studied film lighting (like me) need to catch up on.
We already know that, and we already discuss it – but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Per Young, we need to look at what the Howard grads are doing. In particular, he points to Clockers. (Spike Lee film; cinematographer Malik Hassan Sayeed.) I think you’ll find the rest of Young’s reference list intriguing.