Bradford Young

Bradford Marcel Young (born July 6, 1977) is an American cinematographer. He is best known for his work on Selma, When They See Us, A Most Violent Year and Arrival, which earned him a nomination for an Academy Award.

Bradford Young
Young in 2013
Bradford Marcel Young[1]

(1977-07-06) July 6, 1977[1]
EducationHoward University (BA, MFA)
Years active2004–present

Early life and background

Bradford Young comes from a large, close-knit family.[3] His relatives own the A.D. Porter and Sons Funeral Home in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.[3] Young moved to Chicago at age 15 to live with his father.[4] Before moving to Chicago, he had attended The Brown School and Central High School.[5] He received early artistic inspiration by the works of Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Aaron Douglas. Although he intended to study writing, he studied film at Howard University, where he was influenced by Haile Gerima.[2][6][7] His first film project at Howard was a group project, a black and white silent film shot on a Canon Super 8. Working on set with filmmaking colleagues at Howard was his introduction to film. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C. for college, Young says "the only reason I cared about movies was how most people cared about movies. I liked watching them." As a youth, he went to the theater to see Spike Lee films with his family.[8]


Young's feature films as director of photography include White Lies, Black Sheep (2007), Pariah (2011), Restless City (2011), Middle of Nowhere (2012), Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013), and Mother of George (2013).[2][4][9] He has won Cinematography Awards at the Sundance Film Festival twice. In 2011, he won for his work on Pariah.[4] Two years later, he won for his work on both Mother of George and Ain't Them Bodies Saints.[9] Young is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).[10]

In 2012, Young worked with visual artist Leslie Hewitt on an dual-channel video installation work. On May 12, 2013, Young and director Andrew Dosunmu presented Mother of George as the Closing Night selection for Maryland Film Festival.[11] He was the cinematographer for Selma, which won the BET Award for Best Movie in 2015.

In January 2017, Young became the first African-American cinematographer to be nominated for an Academy Award, for his work on Arrival.[12] His work on Arrival also earned him a Silver Frog award from Camerimage and nominations for awards from BAFTA and the American Society of Cinematographers.[13]

He is the first person of color to be nominated in the Academy Award cinematography category since 1998 when Remi Adefarasin was nominated for Elizabeth.[3] In addition to film work, Young has done cinematography for music videos for artists such as MGMT, Nora Jones, and Beck.[14]

Young was the cinematographer for Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), about space smuggler Han Solo.[15]

Young was the cinematographer of the Netflix drama miniseries When They See Us, based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, which earned critical acclaim.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

Personal life

Young is married to Stephanie Etienne, who received special thanks in A Most Violent Year.[26] They have two sons together.[3]

Visual style

Young prefers shooting with available light. For example, in Pariah, for a nighttime bedroom scene, he shot using only Christmas lights and an IKEA lamp with a red lampshade.[6] Amanda Petrusich in her 2012 article on Young for The New York Times states that he "favors raw light and has a penchant for shooting into it, but said he ultimately focuses on getting out of the way."[4]

In a 2013 article from The Washington Post about cinematographers who were trained at Howard University, Hans Charles, a frequent camera assistant for Young said that he has developed a versatile but also consistently poetic, oblique visual style.[7]

In a 2017 article from the Courier Journal, Young is quoted as acknowledging older black cinematographers such as Ernest Dickerson (Malcolm X), Arthur Jafa (Daughters of the Dust) and Malik Sayeed (Clockers) as artists who lay a foundation for black cinematographers like himself. He told the Courier Journal that he was "trying to find that balance between making sure I am present but also being that voice in the wilderness that says 'there has been great work by African-American cinematographers and it's a shame those people who came before me and who have been my teachers were not nominated for awards.'" [3]

He also cited his childhood memory as a key source of inspiration: "Early on, when I came upon a technical difficulty (making a film), I would think back to my memories of growing up in Louisville and what the lighting was like in those moments. I still do that to this day. I think about my grandmother's house on Greenwood Avenue and scenes during her wonderful parties. Or I envision the light in my Aunt Marie's kitchen. When I am stuck on a technical issue making a film, I access those memories and I know I am doing the right thing." [3] Young has spoken about his affinity for nonlinear storytelling and switching between overhead and handheld camera shots.[8][27]



Year Title Director Notes
2011 Pariah Dee Rees Won - Excellence in Cinematography Award: Dramatic, Sundance Film Festival
Restless City Andrew Dosunmu
2012 Middle of Nowhere Ava DuVernay
2013 Ain't Them Bodies Saints David Lowery Won - Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic, Sundance Film Festival
Mother of George Andrew Dosunmu Won - Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic, Sundance Film Festival
Vara: A Blessing Khyentse Norbu
2014 Selma Ava DuVernay Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography
A Most Violent Year J. C. Chandor
Pawn Sacrifice Edward Zwick
2016 Arrival Denis Villeneuve Nominated – Academy Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – American Society of Cinematographers Award for Outstanding Cinematography
Nominated – Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – Houston Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography
Nominated – Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography
2017 Where Is Kyra? Andrew Dosunmu
2018 Solo: A Star Wars Story Ron Howard
TBA Intelligent Life Rebecca Thomas


Year Title Director Notes
2019 When They See Us Ava DuVernay

Awards and recognition


  1. "Kentucky, Birth Index, 1911-1999 [database on-line]". 2006. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
  2. "Director of Photography". The Western Front. Archived from the original on 2013-08-31.
  3. "Oscar-nominated Bradford Young: 'I am Louisville, Kentucky'". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  4. Petrusich, Amanda (2012-05-16). "He's Just a 'Custodian of the Moment': Bradford Young, Cinematographer for 'Middle of Nowhere'". The New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved 2013-08-31. Mr. Young has gathered considerable accolades from the indie community (as well as beyond it), but he continues to tussle personally with the insularity of the scene.
  5. "Louisville native Bradford Young gets Oscar nom". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  6. Lindeman, Leslie (2011-12-14). "Contender – Cinematographer Bradford Young, Pariah". Below The Line. Archived from the original on 2014-10-22. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
  7. "Howard University has become incubator for cinematographers". The Washington Post. Washington, DC. 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-08-31. For his part, Young credits another film professor, Daniel Williams, and especially Gerima as the spiritual godfather of what may be, by now, fairly codified as a bona fide successor to the L.A. Rebellion — the Howard Continuum.
  8. "'Selma' cinematographer Bradford Young accidentally fell into filmmaking, and fell in love with it". The Verge. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  9. "Sundance Festival Award Winners". Sundance Film Festival. Archived from the original on 2012-08-17. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
  10. "Young Joins ASC - ASC News". 2015-08-13. Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  11. "Mother of George". Maryland Film Festival. Archived from the original on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
  12. Merry, Stephanie. "Oscar nominations 2017: Complete list of nominees; 'La La Land's' 14 ties all-time record". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  13. "Oscars: 'Arrival's' Bradford Young Gets Cinematography Nomination". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  14. "Bradford Young Director of Photography". Archived from the original on 2017-02-22. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  15. Raup, Jordan (September 22, 2016). "Emmanuel Lubezki Reteams With Alfonso Cuarón; Bradford Young to Shoot Han Solo Film". The Film Stage.
  16. McCabe, Bret (March 21, 2019). "Oscar-nominated cinematographer visits Johns Hopkins film program". Johns Hopkins University Hub. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  17. Darrisaw, Michelle (May 14, 2019). "Ava DuVernay's "When They See Us" Looks at the Central Park Five—Here's What to Know". The Oprah Magazine. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  18. D'Addario, Daniel (May 21, 2019). "TV Review: Ava DuVernay's 'When They See Us'". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  19. Henderson, Odie (May 30, 2019). "When They See Us Review". Roger Ebert. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  20. Fienberg, Daniel (May 31, 2019). "'When They See Us': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  21. Goldberg, Matt (May 31, 2019). "'When They See Us' Review: Ava DuVernay's Magnum Opus of a Broken America". Collider. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  22. Mangan, Lucy (May 31, 2019). "When They See Us review – Netflix's gut-wrenching tale of the Central Park Five". The Guardian. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  23. Chaney, Jen (May 30, 2019). "When They See Us Is an Intimate, Sensitive Look at the Central Park Five Tragedy". Vulture. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  24. Paskin, Willa (May 30, 2019). "When They See Us Is a New Kind of Must-See TV". Slate. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  25. Lloyd, Robert (May 30, 2019). "Review: Ava DuVernay's 'When They See Us' gets to the human heart of the Central Park Five". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  26. "Stephanie Etienne". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  27. Desowitz, Bill. "How 'Arrival' Cinematographer Bradford Young Makes Sci-Fi Poetic | IndieWire". Retrieved 2017-02-22.
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