Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Going Viral

August Bradley’s personal project “99 Faces of Occupy Wall St.” was simple to execute and brought immediate media attention as it caught fire online


This Article Features Photo Zoom
The Shoot
Bradley is fascinated with faces, and he says that telling the story through the faces behind the movement was exciting to him. New York City was ideal 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 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'm sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement, though the purpose wasn't to advocate it," he says. "The purpose was to give a platform for those involved to communicate to a national audience what they're 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 Occupy Wall Street. 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. We weren't 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. 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."


Bradley's original intention was to use a clean backdrop, but he scouted the site the preceding day and found that there wouldn't 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 MobiLED 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."

 

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