A play of light within the shadows, a single strange moment that once would have been trapped on film now confined to pixels, and the creative mind of photographer August Bradley is trapped forever within the still images he captures. He doesn’t mind though, it’s what he was born to do.
Essentially growing up in his mother’s photography studio, Bradley says he basically lived in the darkroom for years – shooting and developing images in what seemed to be an endless cycle. Yet strangely he did not plan to be a professional photographer and went on to study art history at school. His early career then saw him working as a marketing strategist for big consumer brands such as Gap, Banana Republic, J Crew and Crate and Barrel. “But in the end I just had to go back into a creative field,” he says. “When I returned to photography I started out doing a lot of outdoor travel work, initially for magazines. Eventually I got a taste of working with big creative teams. I loved the energy of working with a group of talented creative people, with ideas bouncing around among the team.”
Given his art history background, Bradley naturally brings what he has learned to his photography, stressing he believes every photographer can benefit from studying the old masters – such as Claude Monet, well-known for his use of light in his paintings. “I have learned more about how to use light from the old painting masters than from any other source. You’ll also get much more out of any state-of-the-art photography lighting gear if you combine that modern technology with knowledge of how the old masters used light.”
Similarly just as the old masters spent a great deal of time perfecting the use of light in their paintings, so too does Bradley explore this same light in his photography. “To me, lighting is an actual character in the image, playing a role and interacting directly with the people in the image,” Bradley explains. “There’s a sense of the light and shadow actually having weight and mass. I exaggerate the highlights and shadows to pull more emotions out of the narratives. I also muddy up the colours to further enhance mood and the nuance of the lighting.”
The result is work that is provoking yet beautiful, drawing the viewer into the frame – precisely what Bradley had in mind. “I hope that people who view my images will have some sort of emotional connection with them, or that the images will spark a curiosity,” he says. “When we’re looking at a fantastical or surreal image, what we are really seeing is a glimpse at the inner workings of another person’s mind. It lets us experience their subconscious to some degree. To actually see and experience another person’s inner dreams is a pretty extraordinary thing, and so we [the viewers] develop an emotional connection to it, but only to the degree that there is some relevance to us. This helps us better comprehend and articulate our own abstract thoughts, or at the very least it raises questions that we can struggle with.”