Introducing Gareth Bragdon

Gareth Bragdon is a photographer from Scotland.  Currently, he is studying at Edinburgh College, but takes to the streets of Edinburgh to make confrontational portrait’s of the people he finds there.  Read on to learn how he interacts with those individuals and how he achieves his dramatic lighting.



  

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m 25 years old and was born in New Hampshire. I grew up in a military family and moved around a lot. My brother Gavin and I moved to Edinburgh about 5 years ago. I’m studying commercial photography courses at a college and enjoying it for the most part. I’m happy to be studying photography, but it is a commercial course and often contradicts my philosophy of what photography is and should be. Over all, it’s a good thing to study. You learn how competitive and difficult it is to make money doing photography.

How did you get started?

I didn’t grow up doing photography and didn’t start until 2011 when I went on holiday to Malta and started taking holiday photos. There was a period where I got into “HDR vomit photography”. It wasn’t until my brother and I watched a program called Genius of Photography and were introduced to photographers like Joel Meyerowitz that we were inspired to do street photography.

 

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Is there anything in your background that motivates or informs your work?

I used to do a lot of drawing and I used to be in a noise band. In bizarre ways, they’ve inspired the way I photograph, especially making surrealistic drawings of weird people and figures. I’ve always been interested in the human figure.

How do you find subjects?

I walk around until I run into someone interesting. When I go out, my subconscious takes over. Some subjects are more magnetic than others, whether it’s the clothes they’re wearing, the look on their face, or the way their arms are. I’m looking for something strange or unique about a person.  My favorite time to photograph is around four or five when people are getting off work. You get characters rushing about in their silly little business suit’s.

 

Is there a particular place in Edinburgh you like to photograph?

There’s a historical district in Edinburgh called the Royal Mile, which intersects with Prince street. I end up walking in that area because I want to be where there’s a lot of people. I don’t usually walk down streets where there’s only me and another guy. If I photograph that guy, it’s going to be extremely awkward and I won’t get the expression I’m looking for.

 

 

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The biggest hurdle for street photography is confidence. 

How do you interact with your subjects?

It depends on how the subject interacts with me. If I see a subject crossing the street, I’ll walk over and take the shot. I’m looking into their eyes while I’m doing it and usually compliment them once I take the photo. When you photograph someone randomly in the western world you’re going to get a negative reaction. To reverse their desire to kill me, I compliment the subject and send out a positive message of why I’m photographing them.

How has the reaction been by and large?

The biggest hurdle for street photography is confidence. I went through a phase of lifting the camera, taking the photo, quickly putting it back down, looking in a different direction and acting as if I hadn’t taken the picture. It was a process to gain the confidence to shoot the way I do—going up to people, getting very close, using a flash.

At first, when I walked away from it, I would get a negative reaction. As time has passed, I’ve learned to take the shot, stand there and compliment them. Usually they will thank me and smile. I’ve had people explode on me very few times. Once, I took a photograph of this absolute dick who punched my camera, which hit me in the face. I’ve had a few arguments here and there with people, but nothing as extreme as what people imagine.

People only see a split second of what’s going on. They don’t see what happens after or before. People assume that I’m going around flashing people and assume that the subject wants to kill me or I’m sprinting away like some pussy. Usually the subjects smile afterward or continue walking, completely oblivious to having been photographed.

How are you using your flash?

I use an off-camera flash with a radio remote to create dramatic shadows. The only time I ever direct a flash toward their eyes is if they’re wearing sunglasses. It’s usually held at a sharp angle to the right or left.

 

 

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How long have you been working on this series and how has your process changed?

I started early in 2012 with a compact system camera. I didn’t have a viewfinder, so I went through a period of doing hip shots, but never got anything good. I upgraded to a DSLR and saw the work of other local street photographers in The Grey Skies Collective. My shots became more brave. People see you when you’re using a big, black DSLR. There’s no hiding and no hip-shots. I got used to people seeing me take their photograph.

 

Tell me more about Grey Skies. What have you learned from this group?

The Grey Skies Collective was created a year ago. We’re a group of street photographers based in Edinburgh, with the common interest of showing an exhibition and creating blogs together. Paul Cruickshank is the member who’s inspired me the most. When I first started street photography, I found his work on Flickr. The way he framed his shots was so subject-based. You could see the souls of the people he was photographing. His photography inspired me to go the direction I went. When I got into street photography I thought this could only be done in major cities like New York. Seeing the work of the other members gave me and my brother the confidence to do it on the streets of Edinburgh.

Who are some photographers that inspire you?

I’m looking at Crewdson’s work to inspire a future fashion shoot for college. I like the work of Guy Bourdin, Mark Cohen and Bruce Gilden. I’m mostly inspired by work I see on Flickr when it comes to street photography.

Every time I go down the street I see a million potentials for pictures, most of them I can’t take. It’s made me see the world in a completely different way.

Why photography?

Photography allows you to go outside and explore. It’s always changing and you never get the same thing. It’s easy to grow as long as you’re committed to making more work. With communities like Flickr, you get feedback on your work instantly and grow as a photographer.

Photography also forces you to get the hell out of your place and interact with the world. Before I got into photography, I’d walk to work with my eyes to the ground, looking at the pavement. Since I began street photography, every time I go down the street I see a million potentials for pictures, most of them I can’t take. It’s made me see the world in a completely different way.

 What dynamic do you hope to maintain?

The main thing is growth. If you get yourself into any form of expression, you need to let it grow and have the motivation to do it. I have to keep myself doing it. Sometimes you go through points in your life where you don’t want to do anything. I hope I stay on it and stay motivated.

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Do you have ideas for a new project?

I haven’t even had time to work on my street photography because of my college courses. It’s ironic that my study of photography is actually preventing me from doing my photography. The projects that I’m going to be doing are going to be completely college related.

It was one of the only photographs I felt bad about taking.

 

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Can you explain this photo to me?

This is one of the pictures that I feel guilty about. I was at a stop light and saw a woman putting her hand to her head thinking she was shielding her eyes from the sun. I was to the right of her with the sun in my eye and didn’t know she had a glass eye. I felt like a complete dick—she probably thought I was taking a photo of her deformity. However, I posted it to Flickr up because I thought it was an interesting photograph. It was one of the only photographs I felt bad about taking.

 

 

Do you consider yourself a photographer or an artist?

I would like to say that I’m an artist. I’ve always been into creating something. Photography is like making the switch from a paintbrush to charcoal for me, it’s just a slightly different medium to achieve the same goal.

If you keep doing it, you will build your confidence and you will get better.

What would you have said to yourself 5 years ago?

Be determined and stay out there. Take the picture when you need to take the picture. Be confident in yourself. When you’re trying to achieve something, no matter what it is, you have to ignore those who don’t support your work in order to believe in yourself. Show your work—some people may hate it and some may like it.

Don’t give up if your pictures look like shit. If you keep doing it, you will build your confidence and you will get better.

Where do you see you work in 5-10 years?

It’s hard to predict, but hopefully on a wall somewhere. I’m hoping to work for a newspaper or be a photojournalist. I’m hoping my personal work will appear in an exhibition outside of Edinburgh. I hope that the hours I spend outside on the street will add up to something and people will want to see it. I hope my photos will be much better and more interesting than they are now.



See more of Gareth’s work and follow him on the web:

Web – FacebookFlickr



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