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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

August Bradley: Master Of The Future

While other photographers struggle in the new digital business model, August Bradley is turning his meticulously composed fine-art imagery into commercial success

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“In the new economy, with new digital distribution tools,” Bradley explains, “we need to think of ourselves not only as service providers to commercial buyers, but as our own magazines or TV networks providing content directly to large public audiences. Through this direct dialogue, we can build an audience that has an ongoing interest in our work and has a curiosity in how we engage in the process of interpreting our environment and transforming these observations into artwork. I think this active conversation also enhances the work itself because now the work is linked to a larger ongoing communal dialogue that frequently references the images and films, instead of being merely a stand-alone entity. The result is increased and longer-lasting relevance to a greater audience.

“I first started this on Twitter,” he says, “which I use as a ‘thought column,’ sharing things that inspire and interest me, and more recently starting an open policy of answering any photo or filmmaking questions. I get a lot of such questions by email, but it’s impossible to respond to them all. With Twitter, if someone can keep the question tight to 140 characters, I’ll give a direct answer every time in a tweet or two. Furthermore, with the new website, I’m putting a lot of thought and effort into substantive blog posts with behind-the-scenes content, as well as thoughts on art, creativity and the process of making images and films.”

Though the move to professional photography as a career came later in life for Bradley, his mother was an artist with her own photography studio, and he literally grew up assisting her with lighting, even as a toddler. This, no doubt, was an important educational background for someone known for their impeccable lighting and precise composition, and his images are perfected in the real world before they ever hit a computer.

Like many photographers, Bradley is also moving into a wider range of content creation beyond still imagery. He has already shot TV commercials for brands like ABC and Nestlé, and is excited to be expanding into physical art and design, as well. In fact, he’s ever on the forefront of technology, and when asked, as a former marketing analyst, if he has any opinions on the digital revolution and how it has wreaked havoc on existing business structures, he has a lot to say about a world in which too much freedom can end up being a limitation.

“It’s pretty clear that while digital technology gave us phenomenal capabilities, it undermined a lot of business models,” he answers. “One, digital capture technology made it much easier to do the technical, mechanical part of photography to the point that most anyone could do that aspect of it. A major barrier to entry dropped significantly, flooding the market with new supply. Two, severe uncertainty and instability in the economy since 2001 has led to aggressive cost-cutting and cost-monitoring by clients. Three, digital distribution severely weakened the print industry, as well as broadcast TV and other distribution channels, and replaced it with a platform based on an endless supply of free content, devaluing all types of media content, including photography. Nobody is immune from the effects of an economic downturn or a flood of competition or a market-wide devaluing of the product.

“As a relatively young artist,” Bradley concludes, “my growth has been defined by getting known in the industry and having been fortunate to strike a chord rather than following the general economic curve. But creative fields have never been easy and never will be. Any field that looks fun will draw a huge number of people aspiring to compete in that area. We all come in with some unique qualities, and it’s a good idea to figure out how to effectively use the things that set each of us apart. I tend to have a distinctive aesthetic sensibility, and while it’s not right for most jobs, when it’s right, it’s really right, which enables charging a premium for it. I think part of the solution is to avoid being a commodity and make one’s work distinctive. Anyone can capture a digital image, so put some style and spin on it that makes it different, and put some ideas behind it.”

To see more of August Bradley’s work, visit www.augustbradley.com. Bradley will respond to any and all questions about photography or filmmaking at www.twitter.com/augustbradley.


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