Samuel Bradley

18/07/2012 § Leave a comment

Samuel Bradley is a 21 year old photographer from Farnham, Surrey in the UK. I originally saw his work after he won Photographer of the Year from Practical Photography Magazine in 2010. I couldn’t look at Tumblr without seeing his work, Flickr was the same, he was everywhere. I kept checking back and seeing that he just wouldn’t stop. There was always new work, always a new project, new series or another shoot. In an attempt to talk about something that wouldn’t be three projects old by the time it was posted to the site, I asked about a general aspect of his work rather than a specific body of work.

Sam travels and he travels a lot. First it was the cruise which was a prize from Practical Photo, then it was hitchhiking, and then tours with bands. He is constantly putting out great work and doing lots of interesting stuff with photography. So here’s my conversation with Sam about his travels.

Photograph from the series Fellmates

What inspired you, pushed you or made you decide on doing the hitchhiking/traveling project in the first place?

During my first year of university I took quite a half arsed approach to my work. I was pretty convinced that fine art photography was a load of rubbish and I resisted it’s influence at every turn. Then when second year came around and I’d calmed down and wised up a little, I decided to really throw myself into my work. I didn’t really know how to do this, I just knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone somehow. So when we started our second project in 2011, I literally sat down and brainstormed crazy things I could try and do and photograph at the same time. I’m not really entirely sure how I settled on hitch hiking, I just know I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of a big American Road Trip and was reading Jack Kerouac at the time. So I tried to put myself in a situation where I could have an experience like that without going over to the US and spending a whole load of money. I’ll still do that one day though.

Photograph from seriesĀ The Spirit Of… Adventure

The idea of photographing travels would seem very routed in documentary photography but i don’t get a sense of documentary from the work. From reading your blog I got the idea that the project would be more about capturing the places you went and people you met but I get a stronger connection to your creative work than to documentary. So my long winded question is: do you feel that these photos are documentary or was traveling more of a way to find new interesting scenes and locations to create work with?

I think I imagined a more documentary style project, but I’m still trying to get out of the frame of mind where everything is based on aesthetics. It’s hard for me because I’ve got a lot of aspirations for editorial and fashion, and they conflict with my desire to make a really poignant documentary series. The hitch hiking part of the project is actually a much more documentary driven set of images. I was very selective with what I photographed, and the hours I spent walking along the side of the road led to a much more contemplative approach. If anything I didn’t shoot enough, in fact I know I didn’t. When I went on the cruise ship, I knew I was just going to be sucked in by all the amazing places we were going to visit, so I just let it happen. I photographed the things that interested me and worked in a way that felt comfortable. Every new place presented opportunities to create photographs within unfamiliar environments. My approach was very visual. There’s no doubt I was often looking for cliche’s, although I hope not everything comes across like that.

Photograph of the band Our Time Down Here

You mentioned an interest in editorial and fashion which I can see the influences in your work but do you still feel that’s a direction that you’d like to head in or have you changed your mind since going through school? If so, what direction do you want to go in now/what type of work do you want to make? If not, what still attracts you to fashion/editorial and what kind of work would you like to do with that?

I’m definitely still interested in pursuing and editorial career, but what I want to do is constantly changing. It’s incredibly frustrating. I just took two weeks off uni to photograph some bands on tour, but the week before that I was shooting for my final project in Latvia, before that I had a run of lookbooks for different clothing brands which I really enjoyed doing. Those are all massively contrasting areas of photography and when immersed in either of them I feel like that’s the direction I want to go in. University has definitely turned me a lot more towards fine art photography, but it’s a love hate relationship. That world can sometimes be so horribly pretentious and inbred, work is given merit based on the most bizarre parameters and the people you know. On the other hand a great deal of work produced by so called ‘fine art photographers’ is breathtaking and blows fashion and editorial out of the water. I’m writing my dissertation about aftermath photography and that’s an area I’m really interested in.

Photograph taken in Latvia

(cont’d) Going back to fashion and editorial I really love planning and executing a shoot with a tight visual strategy tying the whole thing together. When you find a great model, an excellent team and some perfect light… well how can someone not love shooting in those conditions. I challenge anyone not to enjoy photographing a beautiful or fascinating looking person for a couple of hours and only have to worry about how the pictures look.

Basically I don’t really know, but I’m trying really hard to decide because uni finishes in around six months.

Photograph from his fashion portfolio

So with this documentary approach but no real overall concept of what you wanted to shoot, letting your shots come to you, etc. what do you feel you’ve ended up documenting?

I think I’ve ended up documenting too much quite honestly. I’m certainly not going to blow my own trumpet at all when it comes to this series. It’s weakness is it’s lack of direction and how diluted the final edit is. On the other hand, as the project is supposed to convey two, what I consider to be, quite interesting journeys in narrative form, I think the lack of direction is also quite successful. On the one hand you’ve got these photographs which are trying to be in some way iconic I suppose (not in a grandiose sense, just aesthetically), and then they’re linked together by snapshots that illustrate the journey. To coin a phrase I saw in a film recently, they’re kind of like the bits in between the panels in a comic book. Quite honestly I’m not happy with how the series is currently presented online. The work physically exists as a book, containing far more images and quite a lot of text.

Photograph from the series Fellmates

(cont’d) This would be fine if I could make the book available to buy but a lot of it is handwritten and therefore the object is unique. I think perhaps I need to upload the page layouts so people can read the text. There’s elements of homesickness, alienation and boredom interspersed with a fair amount of light heartedness; specifically referencing the fact that I’m on board a ship full of ‘seventy plus year olds.’ I’m not really helping myself here admitting that the format of the photographs is incomplete online. I still think it’s resolved enough to exist as just images, but you certainly don’t get the same depth. I remember the project being quite well received by my tutors at university and they certainly don’t like anything just because it looks nice.

Photograph from seriesĀ The Spirit Of… Adventure

Since this article is about Sam’s travels, it only touches a couple bodies of work that he has produced. He has an extensive collection of Portraits, Fashion, Bands, and other fine art work on his website.

You can see more of his work on his website HERE.

Also make sure you check out Sam’s blog HERE. He’s got lots of great stories, previews of new work and a bunch of great stuff that just isn’t online anywhere else.


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