Rachel Morrison makes history as 1st female cinematography Oscars nominee
LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison can tell you that making history isn’t always glamorous.
The 39-year-old was waiting in line at the airport and cradling a sleeping three-year-old when she became the first woman ever nominated for the cinematography Academy Award in the Oscars’ 90-year history.
“I’m still very much in shock,” Morrison said after arriving in Park City, Utah, where she’s serving as a juror for the Sundance Film Festival’s dramatic competition.
In “Mudbound,” which is set in the Jim Crow South, Morrison’s camerawork creates a bucolic setting for the story’s ugly racism. She turns her lens on leafy woods, light-dappled buildings and watercolor sunsets across enormous skies, as well as intimate moments shared by the two families at its heart.
Morrison’s photography is up against Roger Deakins, who earned his 14th Oscar nomination for “Blade Runner 2049,” Bruno Delbonnel (“Darkest Hour”), Hoyte van Hoytema (“Dunkirk”), and Dan Laustsen (“The Shape of Water”). All five were also nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers’ award, which will be awarded on Feb. 16.
Morrison said it’s ironic that there aren’t more female directors of photography, known on sets as DPs, because women are “very inherently qualified” for the work.
“It’s a job that basically is combining empathy with channeling emotion into visual imagery. It’s everything women do well, I think,” she said. “I could never quite understand why there aren’t more of us.”
Despite being outnumbered by men, Morrison said she’s felt supported throughout her career by male and female colleagues. She worked with Rick Famuyiwa on 2015’s “Dope” and the HBO film “Confirmation.” She collaborated with Ryan Coogler on “Fruitvale Station” and the hotly-anticipated “Black Panther,” in theaters next month.
More women are pursuing cinematography so she said things are slowly changing.
“I just hope that they’re patient and persistent,” Morrison said, “so when we get to the next level, you’ll see just as many women DPs and as there are men. And maybe someday we can stop referring to them as women DPs because they’ll be closer to a 50-50 representation.”
Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood said Morrison’s Oscar nod will open the door for more female photographers.
“We’re all really tired of having to still accomplish the first,” Silverstein said. “But every time a milestone is reached, it paves the way for the next one and the next one.”
Which means Morrison will have to get used to a new level of visibility.
“One of the things I think is pretty common for most cinematographers is we like to fade into the background. We’re behind the camera for a reason,” she said. “So I’ve had to get over my fear of public speaking and accept that I’m going to have terrible pictures of me all over the internet and be OK with it.”
Dressing up for the Academy Awards ceremony on March 4 will present another challenge for this self-described “jeans and T-shirt girl.”
“I think the scariest thing for me about the Oscars is what the hell am I going to wear,” she said.
Winning is another story. She’s already made history. NVG
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