Edinburgh 4 years ago

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In this article Gavin and Gareth Bragdon show us the ‘real’ Edinburgh


QSo how did we discover and get into street photography in the first place?


AWell I had played around with photography here and there like most people for most of my life, but usually it was about “look at I what did, this is where I went, this is my pal, this is what I like etc etc”…it was about the memory and the documenting and keepsaking of that memory rather then about the photograph itself. It was only about a couple of years ago that it started to become about the photography.  Of course we started off with what most of us start off with: landscapes, pretty sunsets, pretty things and so on and so forth. And of course we did a helluva lot of over processing..saturation to the max, and how about nice dollop of that HDR filter? But the thing is by that time, photography was becoming more and more of an obsession for us and we were beginning to dig deeper. Eventually and perhaps inevitably we came across that BBC documentary Genius of Photography (which I highly recommend). Total eye opener…theres that one episode where they talk about Henri Cartier-Bresson and the man jumping the puddle and the decisive moment. I was like “Ok, theres something going on here, I’m intrigued…tell me more” and then the next episode really gets into street photography and I was like “HOLY SHIT…a lightbulb just went off”. It was this incredible revelation that the world around us was made of these things and moments that could really become something else, something more when stuck in this frame. It was a good thing we found out about this when we did, we were running out of nice scenery and buildings to take pictures of and thats what was great about street…the same old streets are constantly changing and refreshing. Same stage, different movies. It was addictive.



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QYou and I have moved around a lot throughout our life between the US, Germany and the UK…we’re permanent expats it seems.  As we discussed earlier with Edinburgh, the nature of a place can have a have a huge effect on how your work and approach develops especially in the early formative stages. How you think your photography would have developed if you picked up photography for example in the suburbia of Virginia Beach for example instead of here?


A It absolutely does as discussed earlier. Hmm…thats an interesting question. Someplace like a suburban sprawl tends not to have crowded thoroughfares of pedestrians, most people are inside their cars or shops or whatever, so in other words it might have been a little bit harder to break into street or even relate to it. I don’t know. I would have taken a different route and approach technique-wise. The light is better there so my guess is I probably would been doing colour, more lights and shadows, more composition-y type stuff. I probably would been trying to go for that Stephen Shore or Joel Sternfeld approach. Who knows! In this parallel universe it would have definitely developed along different lines than what I’ve done here in Edinburgh. Thats whats so fascinating about how place can have such a profound effect on so many endeavors and thats certainly the case with photography, especially with street photography because fundamentally its about the spirit of a place, the zeitgeist as much as it is about people.



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QSo, you and I are both brothers doing street photography in the same place…what sets us apart in approach, how are we similar?


AWell we both shoot the same streets and we often shoot together so yeah, so there’ll be some similarities here and there, for instance we both lean towards black and white and hell we even see the same subjects. We both have a thing for surreality whether its in the subject or how the picture looks due to techniques. But we do have our different approaches. You’ve been more focused than I have been…you’ve found a road and stayed on it and sort of have this formula that works really well for you. I’ve been a bit more ADD about it and have experimented a bit more with black and white/colour, film vs. digital and so on and so forth for better or for worse. Jack of all trades, master of none! Am trying to keep more focused though, albeit being flexible at the same time. You tend to have more of a direct approach, more about the subjects themselves, whereas I tend to go more for an overall type of thing. I like to go for strangeness and surreality a bit more so I tend to get stranger pictures whereas yours tend to have more of an immediate punch. I think we started off fairly similar but as time has gone on we’ve become more distinguishable from one another.



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QWhere do you see your photography going at the moment? Any particular plans or ambitions?



I am playing more with colour than I had before and I think part of that is due to the fact that the Ricoh GR I got a couple of months ago is much better at colour than was the Fuji X10 I was using before. So its sort of encouraging me so to speak with using colour more than I was…sometimes the equipment you have can push you in one direction or another as much as place does. Again its all about using what you got and adapting to it and having it adapting to your needs and wants as well. It’s an interesting process to watch unfold and see where it takes you. Anyway, the use of colour is of course going to depend on what the what kind of spring/summer we get this year…if its nice and sunny,  you’ll see more colour, if its grey, pissy and rainy then expect more black and white and flash gunnery.

Anyway beyond that, I’m hoping to start moving towards a more project and body of work based approach and I think things are going in that direction slowly but surely anyway. But I would like to do something more with my photography than just trying to grab a single good shot. We also are both involved with a local street photo collective (pluggity plug: Greyskiescollective.com, do check it out!) and I think some good work is going to come out of that so we’ll see where that goes. Also I’ve been wanting to start putting together a photo-zine so hopefully once this semester is over I can focus on that! Oh yeah, speaking of which we go to school for photography so it well be interesting to see what direction that takes us!



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AWhat were once bland and empty walks down the street from point A to point B have now become the journey itself as I now keep my eyes peeled for potential pictures. I find it bizarre now walking down the street with either my girlfriend or anyone else and seeing the things that they wouldn’t have seen themselves. Photography has altered not only the way I see things but also my existence as I no longer go about my world with blinders on. Its become about the journey; the walk itself. The immediate surroundings that most people ignore or just drift through because they have to are now to me a stage and  the show itself. Photography has allowed me to see a world that is more beautiful and tragic than the world I once knew.


QOk first off, so philosophical deepness…how has doing street photography changed and shaped your view of the world?



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AEdinburgh is a city of cobblestones and blaring bagpipes, known for its postcard looks. I remember getting off the train here for the first time on a visit and I immediately fell in love with the city. It was all new and fantastic at first after coming from plastic American suburbia. By the time i picked up photography two years in though that novelty had worn off and things like the castle and the Scott monument were just part of the everyday. The weather here is shit and the sky is often a sheet of grey and the colours mute and muddy. The sun rarely shines and is rarely seen. As a street photographer one must adapt to their surroundings and shooting in black and white has been one of those adaptions to the environment.  I didn’t pick up flash because of being influenced by Bruce Gilden or whatever, I picked it up out of necessity to combat the poor lighting conditions we have here. Edinburgh is often a dark and grey place and since we don’t see much of the sun, sometimes you got to make your own sun.

Edinburgh may be a capital but by no means does it operate or feel like that of a major city. Its town like size and build make it easy to feel at home. The characters that haunt and live in this city I often see several times throughout a day or a week, which often consists of bankers, pram pushing youths and the occasional interesting character and everyone else in between. When I am out taking pictures I am subject hunting, I am looking less for the decisive moment but more for the decisive subject so to speak.  We may not have the iconic characters of New York or the sunshine of Greece but we do have a unique vision and vista and a beautiful city that never fails to surprise.


QHow has Edinburgh shaped the way you’ve taken photos?



Untitled by Gareth Bragdon

AWhen I started I wasn’t using flash, I was simply interested in capturing candid portraits of interesting subjects. Winter soon came and the days became much shorter and darkness more prevalent. It became difficult if not near impossible to capture moving subjects and I was never into that f/1.8 bokeh bullshit. With little sunlight and ambient light subjects had no contrast and little character. So it came down to adapting once again and using flash became an obvious next step in my evolution.  Putting a camera in a strangers face was already nerve wracking enough but adding flash to the equation was like giving Curious George a double-sided dildo.  The flash highlighted my subjects giving them character and giving the frame more punch and energy. There was no going back, the flash soon became as important as the camera itself. One thing I learned over time is that flash photography is as liberating as it is restricting. When I take a picture is not only an exchange between me and the subject but due to the Hiroshima like force that comes out of the flash gun it engulfs everyone else around it. This can sometimes attract the wrong attention and there is no hiding when one is using this technique. Due to the risk involved there are some subjects and opportunities I avoid. Using flash has given me more the look I want but sometimes I’ve become too reliant on it.  Flash is an integral part of my photography at the moment but I hope to expand my horizons and rely less on it.


QOne of the most distinctive things about your photography is you use of off-camera flash…what are the advantages and disadvantages of using this technique?



Untitled by Gareth Bragdon

AProbably confidence, fear and anxiety which tends to come along with the territory. Street tends to be about taking photos of strangers. Theres a lot of photos that I should have taken but didn’t because I hesitated or froze. Its about fighting that survival instinct thats telling you no.


QWhat are your biggest obstacles in shooting street? What gets in the way of taking better photos? 



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Gareth has really stepped up to the plate and devoted and pushed himself to achieve his photos. For example pushing himself to leave his personal comfort zone in the name of getting that shot. I see that and the results he gets and think to myself “right I need to have a bit of that attitude”.  He sets the bar high and goes for quality over quantity. He inspires me to wake the fuck up, quit fannying around and set my own bar higher. He may be my little brother but I always find there is a shit load I can learn from him.

We often shoot and collaborate together anyway but it was great to work on this mini-project to get ourselves to focus a bit more and in the process learn about what we’re good at and all the things we need to improve to get our photography on another level. Its been a worthy endeavour.


I’ve always been Gavin’s little brother liking what he likes doing what he does.  For this collaboration he has captured pictures that show people of Edinburgh suffering from first world problems like rain & annoying phone calls.  No one has ever created such a surreal and haunting take on Scotland as Gavin’s headless bag sucker.  He continues to surprise & inspire me always see and thinking something I did not see or think.  This group project has helped us see eye to eye and exposed are weakness & strength.  I see this  collaboration as a stepping stone in our photographic journey.

Favourite street photos from UPSP

Bragdon Picks

Elephant in the room by Ksenia Tsykunova

I’ve always had a thing for museum, zoo or aquarium shots. Places such as those are where the normal everyday meets the exotic. This is very, very much displayed here in this photo. An old tired museum employee seeming as dusty and as tired as a stereotypical librarian wiling away her shift as the minutes and seconds tick arthritically by. You look up and there’s an elephant and her elephantling. It’s just so casual and surreal at the same time and the expression on the elephants face makes you believe that it’s a living elephant who just happened upon the museum.  The green colour palate along with the patterning on the floor is also great and draws the viewer. Good work Ksenia…time for me to get my ass back to my local museum


Bragdon Picks-2

Magnum Size by Mary Cimetta

I think Mary has single handedly redefined the decisive moment!  Not only has this picture made laugh my ass off but I’m now craving ice cream and questioning my sexuality.  I can’t help but wonder what Mary was craving when she made this exposure?  I’m now seeing her work for the first thanks to Urban Picnic.  Mary’s pictures are not your typical street shot of someone walking by a sign.  They are funny clever and well thought all of which are key ingredients to a great picture


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GuestMiya PlufelizRob HillGuestMike RakerJens Ignasi

Street photographs are mirror images of society, displaying "unmanipulated" scenes, with usually unaware subjects.




  1. April 12, 2014  4:17 am by Tristan Parker

    Great work guys! Really cool work and cool to see two guys that are related working together. Adds something a little different. Been fun!

  2. April 12, 2014  9:07 pm by whitey_hendrix

    thanks for having us on dude!...was a fun project/interview

  3. April 15, 2014  12:34 pm by Norbert Farkas

    Excellent works guys!!

  4. April 15, 2014  10:48 pm by Rob Hill

    Thanks guys for putting this together, really loved the shots you have produced. great project

  5. April 18, 2014  12:44 am by whitey_hendrix

    thanks guys! Really enjoyed it!

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