As of this week, Rachel Morrison has made history. When the list of nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced this Tuesday, her name was amongst a collection of cinematographers who have produced exceptional work this past year.
After nearly one century, she is the very first woman nominated for the Oscar for Best Cinematography. Although it is absurd — and even a bit frustrating — that the nomination of a woman in such a major category hasn’t happened earlier, we can at least rejoice in the fact that the day has finally arrived, and that the recipient of the nomination is someone who, without a doubt, has earned this level of recognition.
Morrison was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 27, 1978. Often, in the films she’d make for fun with friends or family, she was the one holding the camera. Her interest in photography developed further throughout high school, leading to her degree in the subject from New York University. Initially on the path to photojournalism, she made the decision to shift into filmmaking because she “wanted a lifetime surrounded by other people.”
Since graduating from AFI with a Master’s in Cinematography, Rachel has worked in reality television (The Hills), absurdist comedy (Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie), the much-anticipated superhero film Black Panther, and powerful dramas, including Cake, Fruitvale Station, and Mudbound, the last of which earned her the Oscar nomination, as well as an award from the American Society of Cinematographers (also the first award in a feature-length category awarded to a woman).
Rachel Morrison works in the language of human emotion, through a visual means. She is a cinematographer with an immense range and depth of talent. Her nomination serves as both a recognition of that talent, and a reminder to the entertainment industry that there are extraordinary women in film, chipping away at the glass ceiling with every passing day.
She is doing what she can to pay it forward as well: In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she shared that she’s been hiring women as often as possible, in order to give them the platform to start their careers, adding, “Women are so qualified they should just go for it. It’s not just about cinematography, it about believing in yourself and that anything’s possible.”
Rachel Morrison has already accomplished such spectacular things in the beginnings of her career surrounded by other people. Her work is captivating, her enthusiasm is palpable, and her generosity is inspiring. Anyone and everyone can take a note from the history-making Morrison, and go for it. Pursue what you love, and lift others up with you.