Samuel Bradley is the young, British photographer, whose images make us once again love British culture and catch our attention by waking up our romantic side, which we all hide deep down in our hearts. His photographs are inspired by his home country. Samuel grew up on the sprawling Devonshire countryside, reading John Clare for English literature.
Whitelies sat down with the young talent to talk about his unique, photographic style, as well as his feelings after the Brexit. Samuel is currently based between London and New York.
Your photographs evoke a melancholic feeling. Are you a sensitive person?
Haha! I think I am. I do try to inject some optimism into my work where possible but often there is a sense of melancholy. No highs without lows.
What attracts you to the medium of analog photography?
It’s primarily an aesthetic choice. A finished hand print can’t be replicated by digital cameras, film’s aesthetic comes from a physical chemistry, not pixels. Then there’s the value you place on each frame working with analogue. There’s a weight, a tangibility to everything. The whole process of shooting is more meaningful and considered. Also, I’m drawn to the uncommon, ever since I was a teenager. ‘If someone else can have it I don’t want it’ sort of thing. Analogue isn’t that exclusive by any means but it’s on the way.
You decided last year to go completely analog. Why have you made the decision?
I wanted to take the time to completely understand working with film, from shooting to hand printing. I’d taken a break from it post-university to try to make money and I wasn’t happy with my pictures. A lot of my commercial work is digital though. Honestly, sometimes it’s wonderful to be able to see your images right away, especially with clients on set. Using a digital camera is the simplest thing in the world.
Your landscape and still life photographs speak a picturesque language. Some of them almost seem like romantic paintings. Are you also inspired by fine arts?
Absolutely. Although I’d say this romance comes from growing up in the English countryside. My formative years were genuinely spent sleeping in barns, climbing trees and running through corn fields. I lived in a village that didn’t even have a shop, just a church and a pub. Plus there was an agonising year reading John Clare for English literature which must have rubbed off on me.
Your portrait are strangely beautiful. What makes for you an interesting portrait?
I’m interested in the tension between photographer and subject, an awareness of the camera; some performative element. A portrait is collaborative and the subject directs the photographer as much as they are directed, even if they are unaware of it. You have to allow for this and be open to it. I find it disconcerting sometimes though, like a staring contest.
Your photographs have a strong British signature. How do you feel about the current political situation in the UK?
It’s devastating and idiotic. The result of ignorance, fear and misplaced anger. Unfortunately like most countries, many of our core media outlets cater to these fears for profit. In many ways I’m apathetic, because it feels like we’re on a course to self destruction and I’m not sure if anything can be done about it.
London is the heart of young, avant-garde and innovative creatives. Unions like Creative Europe will disappear due to the Brexit. Do you think that the Brexit is a threat for British artists?
I had to look Creative Europe up, it’s not something I’ve heard of before so not sure I can comment on that. But I think if there are restrictions on work and free movement it will of course have a huge impact on how London is viewed by the creative industries and it may no longer be the Mecca it is now for young artists. I’m trying to work a lot more in the US this year, and that’s hard enough with the cost of a visa and the application process. I think we take for granted being able to go anywhere in Europe and work without restrictions. If we had the same problem with the rest of Europe it would be a nightmare.
How do you think that the Post-Europe Union time could effect your work?
I’m not a politically motivated artist, currently. Perhaps it will inspire some work, perhaps not. It might mean I leave England for a while and I may have less of a fondness for the country I grew up in. I’m curious to see what happens.
One last question. What’s your plan for the future?
I’d like to work more in New York, but I’m also open to seeing what is happening outside of the major creative cities. I’m interested in China. On the flip side I’m working on a larger body of work in the UK which I hope to exhibit at the end of the year. I am also learning Mandarin.
Words & Interview