Without a doubt, Bradford Young is one of the most exciting and dynamic up-and-coming cinematographers working in the field today. Thing is, Young isn’t new to the game, he’s been grinding out job after job, amassing 60+ credits in a just little over a decade. He started, as do most folks, in short films, indies, and the occasional commercial, but his first big break came in 2013 when David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) hired him to shoot Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a Bonne-and-Clyde-esque southern noir starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. It was a well-received indie that established Lowery as a prominent new voice and Young as a shooter whose eye was as adept at finding simple beauty as it was capturing stark truths. Then came 2014.
That year, Young had a trio of high profile projects: Edward Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice, J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, and the film for which he received the most laudations, Ava DuVernay’s Selma. How Young managed to avoid a Best Cinematography Oscar nomination for that last flick is beyond me but this year, following his work on Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, he should expect a call real soon with some good news.
Looking forward, Young continues to rise to new levels while balancing his big-budget work with independent films and other ventures like Common’s Black America Again long-form music video. In the next year or two he’s shooting the drama Where is Kyra? with Michelle Pfeiffer, the comedy Intelligent Life for director Jay Roach, and a little film you might have heard of that’s being referred to as Untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film. Safe to say after that one comes out, Young can write his own ticket.
Being that he’s about to be the DP on the tip of everyone’s tongue, Young has gotten the wolfcrow treatment from Sareesh Sudhakaran, who this week released a video on the style and techniques of Young, starting with his shorter, more independent work and moving through his evolution to now, when he is one of the most sought-after people in his field. At the ripe young age of 39, Young still has time to make an even more indelible mark on his chosen profession. As the last decade has proven, he is a shooter who gets better every time out, and considering his somewhat meteoric rise to now, we should all be very, very excited about the images and emotions he has in store for us. If you’re unfamiliar with Young’s work, now’s the time to fix that. Start here.