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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The approach to both the photography and the design of the website was minimal for both practical and aesthetic reasons. The need to get the images up as quickly as possible was paramount, so the website layout was designed to do three things; to emphasize the images while giving an introductory overview to Bradley's "sea of faces," and enabling viewers to further explore the issue as they saw fit. "A head shot is by its nature simple in composition," Bradley notes in regard to the homogenous approach to composition, "yet good ones capture the complexity of the person, revealing an emotional depth. There is some variety to these images, but in the end I saw it as a series that needed to fit together."

Bradley's original intention was to use a clean backdrop, but he scouted the site the preceding day and found that there would not be enough room to place one within the crowded camp. "We would have to move from subject to subject," he explains, "so we had to be completely portable." He brought two assistants who carried a Broncolor Mobil A2L power pack and a MobilLED light. Bradley explains that they would have needed permits to set a light stand down so they needed a walking light source. "Without a backdrop, I massively blurred the background into an abstract tapestry," he says, "which ended up adding more richness and flavor than a backdrop. It also blurred the sides of each subject's head as it fell away, directing attention right to the eyes."

He says that the textures of the full-resolution images from the Hasselblad H3D that he was using are "so vivid you feel you can reach out and touch it." Precise positioning of Bron strobes with small softboxes and grids produced the hard edged, gritty look that he was going for. Bradley describes the look as a type of lighting that reads soft while actually being fairly hard. "The sharpness reflects the real, factual nature of the subject matter," he continues, "in contrast to polished entertainment or fashion images we often see. The blue-green tones are on the opposite end of the color wheel from skin tones (from essentially all skin tones), opposite tones are pleasing together and create a more stark contrast so it further separated the faces from the environment. I also have different tones in the highlights and shadows, enhancing depth and contrast. I wanted to communicate the mood, which was heavy and dramatic."

While it hadn't occurred to him that there would be any negative reaction from clients in regards to working on an Occupy Wall Street project, the overall result from the project is that a self-started initiative satisfied his yearnings as an artist, challenged him as a photographer, rounded out his portraiture portfolio and also brought him a great deal of attention online. Bradley laughs that he's not sure how long that attention will last, but he says that this is just the beginning for him, one of many that he will continue to engage in between paying projects. "I hope it will enable more portrait work," he says, "particularly in instances where access is not as easy to obtain—it's nice to have a showcase that was well received when pitching new ideas.  But regardless, I will certainly be pursuing more personal projects like this on a wide range of unrelated subjects. I had already been planning several others before this one occurred to me."


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