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August Bradley is known for photography that’s incredibly detailed and highly stylized, with deep literary references and complex, psychological motifs. He refers to his intensely cerebral approach to portrait and commercial photography as "conceptual," but for a more recent project, Bradley decided to do something that was a little less complex, at least in execution. On a trip in October 2011 to do a presentation at Shoot-NYC, an event sponsored by Hasselblad and Broncolor, Bradley used some of his limited free time to take a look through his lens at the controversial Occupy Wall Street protest movement. For "99 Faces of Occupy Wall St.", Bradley shot a series of simply lit, straightforward portraiture that centered on the people of the largely faceless movement. This project shows how photographers can produce images that are seen throughout the world in only a few short days.
The Viral Tipping Point
Bradley, who comes from a marketing background, says that his initial impulse to document Occupy Wall Street came from two principal sources—a desire to move more significantly into portrait work and a personal curiosity and lack of understanding about the movement in general. "The entire movement seemed like this big mystery," Bradley explains about his preconceptions. "There are no front people, there are no personalities widely identified with it. It’s as if the entire movement was behind a Guy Fawkes mask, making the mask an appropriate symbol. The mystery of it was intriguing to me."
Once live as a dedicated website portal that he kept separate from his own (www.99facesofoccupywallst.org), attention to the project was almost instantaneous. "The site went live late on a Wednesday," says Bradley, "at which time I posted it to my blog, Facebook and Twitter account (@augustbradley). That Thursday and Friday, most of the Occupy Wall Street blogs, Twitter accounts and digital publications were posting it, including a home page post on Adbusters, the media publication that inspired the Occupy movement in the first place. That sent a big spike in traffic and hundreds of Twitter tweets and Facebook posts.