“I’m very excited about this exclusive interview with contributing photographer “The Bradford” (haha) sounds like I’m introducing a superhero, which isn’t that far-fetched. Bradford has continued to be a constant source of inspiration and support for myself and Toksick Magazine. I’m honored to have him as a creative support system and cannot wait to witness his growth. Well, here ya go, take it away Katie-Rose!” – Lexx Miller, editor in chief of Toksick Magazine.
My name is Katie-Rose. I’m a writer, mother, wife, and feminist in no particular order. I sat down and interviewed Bradford, a fashion photographer who also happens to be my husband and the father of our small daughter.
As Bradford’s wife I’ve watched him grow from an Art Director who toyed with film on the weekends to a creative force who is starting to make a name for himself in the photography world. He’s dedicated, driven, and adorably humble. He’s also ridiculously talented. (I’m allowed to say that because I’m sleeping with him… and because it’s true.)
If you, dear reader, are anything like me, your eyes begin to glaze over at the hint of any technical talk. I don’t give a shit what camera someone uses as long as their work moves me. So I’m gonna get straight to the juicy stuff…
KR: Let’s start by setting the record straight. A question I get from my friends is “How do you feel about what Bradford does?” And I know you get the same from a lot of people who wonder if I’m bothered by the type of photos you take. The short answer is: I’m not. What do you say when people ask you this?
B: First, I laugh, because it’s a bit of an awkward question and I knew it was coming. I laugh because I know the answer, of course. You’re one of the biggest fans of my work, and I know this because we discuss it a lot. I’m someone who’s always treated my photography with the utmost professionalism. Whether I’m working with a man or a woman, I’m respectful.
It’s a loaded question, because it really speaks to our society’s inability to disassociate the female body from sexuality. And the male body too. For me, nudity doesn’t necessarily equate with sex. Also, what does this say about society’s opinion of men and this stereotype of the caveman male who can’t control himself?
As far as my work goes, if you look at my images and think ‘oh my god that’s evocative or stimulating or moving’ then as an artist I’ve done my job. Because the sexual energy that presents itself in my work isn’t indicative of the type of person I am necessarily. I’m a gentle guy, I’m respectful, I’m a little awkward around girls. In fact, you’ve been the biggest proponent of the type of work I’m creating. You really helped me conquer those fears and be more confident. I remember the first time I was going to shoot someone nude, and we talked about it…
KR: I remember! You were so terrified. You showed me her pictures and she had this gorgeous full bush. You were so hesitant at first. I think my gentle words of advice were: “Babe, it’s a fucking bush. Shoot her!” One thing I’d say about you is that you’re a good friend. And you’ve always had quite a few female friends. In fact, we were good buds before we got together. Why do you think women gravitate towards you as a friend? How does this help or hinder your work with models?
B: Ha. I don’t think with my cock! I can separate friendship with a woman from the idea of being romantically or physically involved with her. I’ve always grown up around women and have been comfortable in their company. At one point I grew up in a house with four girls. If you do that you’ll certainly learn a few thing about relating to them! I can relate. I like to listen. I believe men and women are equal, so that helps. It’s such an age-old stereotype that a man just wants to be friends with a woman because he wants to bone her. I do think this helps my work. From a practical point, it’s helped me communicate my ideas. And as a photographer, it’s helped me to stay on the side of subjectivity versus objectivity.
KR: When you’re shooting nudes it’s only natural for awkward situations to arise. What do you do to try to put the models you work with at ease?
B: Make eye contact. Act normal. Don’t be creepy. It’s easy, to be honest. Business as usual. I imagine how I would want to feel. How would I want someone to treat my wife, or sister, or any of my friends if they were in a vulnerable situation?
KR: Let’s talk about inclusivity. As an intersectional feminist it’s very important for me to see all types of women – women of colour, trans women, women of different shapes and sizes – represented in fashion photography and photography in general. How important is this to you? What steps are you taking to ensure that your work is inclusive?
B: It’s very important to me. I’m inspired by androgyny and gender fluidity and I think all bodies are beautiful. As a whole, I’m body positive. I’d rather shoot with someone because they have an amazing energy than because they were a certain size. For me, it’s about the face. Diversifying my photography is something I’m always working on. Logistically, as an Amsterdam-based photographer, the pool of models available to me often isn’t as diverse as I’d like it to be. I need to find diverse models who jive with my style and who I can connect with, because I love collaborating on creative ideas.
KR: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
B: Unequivocally, Yes. I believe men and women are equal…. Do I need to go into more detail?
KR: You’d be surprised with how many men are reluctant to associate themselves with the movement!
B: I’m fully aware of my privilege. I recently read We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As a society we have a long way to go before equality is gained. There are so many issues in our society and a lot of it comes down to how we educate our boys… from teaching them about consent to changing our language… like how boys are told to ‘man up’. There’s the whole stereotype of a women being emotional and yet most of the men I know are way more emotional than the women i know. I think not embracing feminism does a disservice to women and men.
KR: You’ve chosen to be a photographer in an industry that perpetuates society’s unrealistic beauty standards and uses photoshop like it’s going out of style. How do you reconcile these issues with being a feminist and a father to a little girl?
B: I wrestle with this a lot. And I wrestle more now as I shoot digitally. Before, when I was shooting analogue, I was really reluctant to adjust film as a medium. I felt it was sacrilegious and the idea of the rawness added to the ambience of a shot. But now, as I shoot digital, I find myself in an interesting internal discussion as to how I feel about it. I think my images are more raw than most. I don’t overly photoshop, and for me that is partly how i reconcile that feeling. I try to do as little as possible and look to enhance an image, as opposed to changing it. It’s an ongoing conversation, a work in progress. Ask me this question again in a year.
KR: When I was a young romantic, I always dreamed of either having a song written about me or being someone’s muse. Is there any one model that you’d say is your muse?
B: That’s quite a tough question. I don’t know if I’ve found my muse yet. There are people who have the potential to be… Obviously they have to have a look I love, but overall, It’s a collaboration thing. They need to want to collaborate. They need to have similar taste to me. There’s a transference of energy when you just get each other’s ideas. My muse will be someone who wants to do weird and wonderful stuff with me. And it could be a dude. I’m not gonna rule that out.
KR: How would you define your style (you know, in case your future muse is reading this?
B: Portrait photography with a quirky foot in fashion. I think that’s one thing that makes me different from other photographers at my level. I still do a lot of different things. In fact, I confuse myself sometimes. I don’t always know if someone could look at one of my shots and know it’s a Bradford shot.
KR: What’s been your all time favourite shoot and why?
B: The Romy shoot that got published in Nakid magazine was my favourite. I liked the clothing, the energy in the shots, the lines we created, the colours. The way we thought outside the box.
KR: I loved that one too! In fact, that shot of a mostly-naked Romy bending over and looking into the fridge has the potential to go down as one of the great ‘Iconic Bradford Shots of All Time’. Speaking of being iconic, when will you know deep down that you’ve really made it?
B: I feel like that’s a question that changes. When I first started I thought getting published was a sign of making it. Then it was getting paid. It’s a goal that changes as you grow as an artist. The next step for me is making books. I’d like to combine my art direction and design sensibilities with my photography and storytelling and then self-publish.
KR: Wanna go to bed and watch something?