Samuel Bradley, based in East London
Samuel Bradley: Photographing bands in my local town as a teenager.
CUS: Did you study, or are you currently studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
SB: I completed a BA in photography at UCA Farnham. I would still consider myself self taught though, technical instruction on a fine art based photography course is minimal and projects are almost entirely self directed.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/current location have an affect on your work?
SB: I live in East London. There’s a lot I dislike about living in a city after growing up in the countryside if I’m honest. But travelling is so much more rewarding when your usual environment isn’t a haven. I don’t get homesick when I go away, I rarely miss London, only some of the people in it.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
SB: Tesco own brand fruit and fibre with skimmed milk.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
SB: I wouldn't say there's any single person or thing that influences me above everything else. My brain is my biggest influence, it’s always absorbing things.
CUS: Tell us about the people in your photographs.
SB: They are all humans, usually acting of their own accord. Mostly they are strangers, until after the shoot at least. I try not to shoot my friends too much, familiarity that exists prior to the dynamic of photographer and subject is often a barrier. However, if you develop a relationship with someone based on making pictures then there’s an amazing organic foundation upon which to build your images.
CUS: Your favourite subject to shoot?
SB: It changes all the time. At the moment I prefer landscapes. But I like the landscapes to have people in them, some human interaction or evidence of habitation.
CUS: Do you find that you take the same approach when shooting commercially vs. non-commercially?
SB: I try, but unfortunately there is a noticeable gap between the two. You have to listen to the people with the money when shooting a commercial job, sometimes this means taking photographs that you would never take given the choice, I'm not talking about subject matter, more how you deal with the subject matter, what angle you use, how you utilise the light, and how you edit the final image. My ultimate goal is for my personal and commercial work to align somewhere in the future. There will always be differences though I imagine. I don’t mind sacrificing a little artistic integrity sometimes to make a career out of photography providing I’m always able to do some work that is entirely my own.
SB: One is a project with a lot of planning, thought and execution behind it. One is a collection of images that were not premeditated, assembled as a narrative after the events took place.
I'm sorry to be so vague, it's just the work is very old now and hard to talk about - not emotionally, I just don't engage with it any more. I will say My Mother's Mother is the most personal body of work I have ever made. I created a small publication from it which sold out in less than 24 hours which was really overwhelming.
|My Mother's Mother|
|My Mother's Mother|
CUS: Coffee or tea?
SB: I've never been into hot drinks. But a friend started working at a coffee shop recently and he made me a flat white which I very much enjoyed. I even bought a coffee instead of a beer in a pub when I was visiting my parents.
CUS: What are you favourite local hangouts?
SB: There is a really disgusting bar/club in Hackney called 'The Dolphin,' which I've always had a soft spot for. Until recently it stayed open till 4/5 in the morning and we used to go there when everything else closed. Now because of noise complaints and escalating crime it shuts at 1am. For those less chaotic evenings there’s a wonderful place in Hackney Wick called ‘The Crate’ which serves great pizza and locally brewed alcohol. You can also sit in boats on the canal instead of a table which is nice in the summer.
CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?
SB: Sarcasm, time, the hour after sunset, electricity, white t shirts.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?
SB: I’ve begun to look at it another way. Before digital, to be a photographer you had to seriously commit yourself to it, learning complex techniques, memorising numbers, spending money on every individual image. People respected that, photographer’s were treated with something akin to reverence in certain situations. Nowadays, because anyone can buy a camera and take photos, it is becoming increasingly apparent how few people can actually be photographers, even with such accessible technology and free instruction available. But there’s this unhealthy network of misguided support on social media when it comes to photos. ‘Likes’, ‘followers’ and the rest. It gives false credence to poor standards of work, but because so many people are engaging with it, it’s being utilised by companies to sell products, which feeds the culture and keeps the cycle going. But it’s very hard to argue with the masses. It’s like televised singing contests like the X factor, just because you have a good voice, doesn’t mean you can be a singer, but if enough people tune in, if enough people are duped into buying your record, suddenly you are considered a credible artists, and you’ve paved the way for more of the same thing.
The digital vs film thing is a head scratcher alright. I like using film, I find it much easier to make a good photograph. The speed you work at necessitates a certain level of commitment to a subject which often results in a much stronger image. Working digitally is so throwaway and for me at least, comes with a lazy, cavalier attitude. I'll often shoot from the hip, maybe take ten pictures of the same thing, disregard an image before I've even properly looked at it. On the other hand, I can make sure the image is right, shoot over and over until I'm happy and see immediately if something isn't working.
|Luke Pasqualino for OUT Magazine|
CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet (for example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…)?
SB: I've never really thought about it as a whole. I utilise those sites every day. These days everyone wants their pictures to be seen, whether it be a photograph of the foam on a coffee, or an award winning piece of photojournalism. Everyone wants to document what they’re doing and show other people. Here I am, this is what I’m doing/eating/drinking/looking like today, please give me your opinion, please support my decision. Again the really engaging photographs are being lost, but there’s also this really interesting visual vernacular emerging which is so universal. I saw this feature about Mexican drug lords using Instagram and posting pictures of like cards full of weed, dashboards covered in guns and groups of masked and unmasked men toting weapons in front of modded cars. It’s totally crazy but it’s also really quite cool.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in "the flesh" to be fully appreciated and experienced?
SB: I think the internet is legitimate. How can anyone say it isn’t? It all depends on your intentions when shooting. Some people shoot for books, some for galleries, some don't think beyond their blog. A really good photograph works anywhere, but that's not to say that a picture is bad if it doesn't.
CUS: What are your favourite books and films?
SB: Big Harry Potter fan, I think the first one came out when I was about ten years old so I grew up with those books.
I’m reading a lot of Iain Banks’ sic fi ‘culture’ novels right now and I love Margaret Atwood. I’ve always been a very big reader, consuming books in a day or two. It’s harder now though, if I get a good book it becomes a huge distraction and I neglect emails, editing etc.
I watch movies constantly whilst editing, mostly ones with good scripts so I don’t have to look at the screen too much. As a photographer I really appreciate Wes Anderson’s cinematography and Terrence Malick is quite inspirational.
CUS: Who are your favourite photographers?
SB: Nadav Kander and Alec Soth are always in the back of my mind.
I look at Peter Sutherland’s work a lot, and Tim Barber’s too. I think guys like that have really paved the way for this less polished style that a lot of art buyers and agencies are looking for these days. I think it’s good to try and maintain a carefree approach to shooting in certain situations and candid 35mm snaps of beautiful people and interesting places are a good way to do that, they’re less intimidating, more accessible.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?
SB: I have a list of living actors on my computer who I’d love to photograph. Bill Murray is at the top, Tilda Swinton is on there, also Miley Cyrus.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
SB: Work harder than everyone around you. Be nice. It's okay to turn down work, actually It's important to sometimes. Stuff will come back to haunt you, how badly do you really need that exposure? Try and regulate your hours if you’re freelance, I can’t seem to do it but work from a normal time to a normal time and have a lunch break.
CUS: What are your plans for the winter? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or exhibitions?
SB: I've travelled a lot recently on commission, a series is starting to emerge from what I shoot in the free time allocated. You can't rush personal work, I'd like to put out a project that's a product of at least a year's time well spent. I suppose I should have an exhibition at some point but so often I feel like people are just coming along to drink the free booze and hang out with their friends, I’ve lost faith in the process. I’ve initiated some work with an art director friend of mine from university, it’s hard to find the time but I’m hoping to create a small body of quite cinematic imagery with him.
|The Spirit of Adventure|
|The Spirit of Adventure|
|The Spirit of Adventure|
CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?
SB: I am a full time freelance photographer. I shoot regular commissions and make a living from it. I certainly have a long way to go but it is my career. I’m with an agency now too, it’s early days but there have been some promising things happening of late with regards to larger clients.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Aleksandra Kojic, wants to know: What makes a good image?
SB: I don’t know, what's a good image? Surely it's totally subjective? Context is vital, a good image for what purpose?
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
SB: Why are you doing this interview?