DPP Home Profiles August Bradley: 99 Faces Of Occupy Wall Street

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

August Bradley: 99 Faces Of Occupy Wall Street

August Bradley goes viral with a personal project that was simple to execute and brought immediate media attention

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Bradley is fascinated with faces, and he says that telling the story through the faces behind the movement was exciting to him. NYC was chosen as the location for the shoot, because it was the origin of the movement and it was most interesting to him as the spiritual hub of the national Occupy efforts. For subjects, he decided in advance that he wanted an unbiased cross-section of the Occupiers. Rather than concentrating his imagery on the myriad demands and messages of the movement, Bradley chose to engage the audience with simple portraits that gave a human face to the ideologies.

"I am sympathetic to the OWS movement, though the purpose was not to advocate it," he says. "The purpose was to give a platform for those involved to communicate to a national audience what they are doing at Zuccotti Park, to address the curiosities I knew many people across the country had. And as you see from the results, those motives vary quite a bit from person to person… I expressed no viewpoint at all to the subjects, we merely said, 'We're doing a portrait series on OWS, can we include you?' If they said yes, we handed them a clipboard with one question: 'Why are you here (at Occupy Wall Street)?' The form also had a short release and asked for their first name. If anyone said no, we just moved on."

"We had a lot of images to do in one day, and we were grabbing everyone and anyone involved as we moved through the park… Some people had more alternative looks and others were very mainstream. What makes this protest movement different from the ones we have seen on a regular basis is both the size and the significant active involvement of people who mainstream suburban America would identify with—people who could be their next-door neighbors. While this part of the group is no more important than any other in my view, it does make the movement harder to marginalize by its opposition.

"We were not editing in terms of selection as we went. We had so many to shoot in one day that we were trying to get everyone in our path as we moved through the cramped walkway inside the encampment," Bradley continued. "At one point, we realized we were getting so few women that we wanted to include more. But there were far fewer women there. And more women than men turned down our request, though only about 5% of those we approached declined to participate. Some viewers have asked if we were looking for more worn-down faces, which we were not—these are the faces as we found them. Remember that most of these people had been camping in a concrete park for over two months straight."

His own reaction to the subjects varied widely from person to person, some of whom he agreed with and some of whom he did not. "That was not the point," he admits, "and I left my views out if it—both in sharing what I captured and in selecting whom to approach for the project. The overwhelming majority were incredibly sincere in their motives and dedication to the cause. I also wanted to include some police, but they were not willing. The police were a big presence there. The periphery was lined with them. There were also a ton of photographers there, though not one of the photographers or videographers was lighting their subjects, my team was unusual in that sense."

Accompanying each image was a short quote from each subject explaining their principal motivation for being there. "The personal statements certainly add a lot to the photos," Bradley says, "just as the photos do to the personal statements. Together they bring a greater depth and a better glimpse of the person. They are sometimes in contrast to each other—some of the more radical looks have some of the most thoughtful statements, while some of the more conservative faces have more aggressive and angry comments. Together they reveal the complexity of people more than either component individually."


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