Bradley Pearce

The Photographer Who Couldn’t


In “The Photographer Who Couldn’t” Pearce presents himself as the titular photographer and through a mixture of appropriation, studio photography and photo montage Pearce attempts to come to terms with his identity and overcome his photographers block. This photographer’s block has been caused by his father who was a professional football player; Pearce did not follow in his father’s footsteps, instead choosing the become a photographer meaning that he did not succumb to the pressure placed on him from both family and society.

“Volume One” of the project showed Pearce’s struggle with his father’s image and was seen in his handmade book. The book is a unique “one-off” copy. All images and text were glued into the 52-page Panini sticker book by hand as is clear in the imperfect aesthetic of the piece; the non-parallel layout and poorly cut elements reflect Pearce’s struggle with his identity. In the book Pearce moves from giving out cameras in a jazz club to an attempt to become his father through staged studio portraiture and the appropriation of old images.

In “Volume Two” Pearce attempts to find some resolution for his struggle with his identity. Through a series of positive slides, taken in 1969 in Seattle that show his great-grand mother on holiday, he attempts to reconnect with his family and overcome his photographers block. By editing himself into these images Pearce aims to reconnect with his family through photography and therefore overcome the issues of representation that are placed on his shoulders.

By placing his own images, text and appropriated pieces into a Panini book and slides respectively Pearce reflects the relatable burden placed onto our shoulders by both family and society. The theme of phototherapy is present in this work and Pearce uses the camera as a means of healing.



Short Bio

Bradley Pearce is a fine art photographer who specializes in self-portrait work that is based on themes of identity and representation. Using studio photography and post production Pearce creates scenes and photo-montages that reflect narratives focused on the self and the perception of the self. Pearce deals with relatable topics including: societal and familial representation, and the difficulty of understanding one’s own identity. By using text in his work Pearce not only creates another layer to his pieces but also creates intricate narratives that are always based on truth. For example, in his latest piece “The Photographer Who Couldn’t” all interactions and happenings are true, as well as the main theme of the work which is based off of the life of his father. Pearce also takes part in conceptual work for others including a body of work at Wolverhampton Art Gallery based off of an item from their archives and a commissioned piece for the Birmingham Midland Institute.


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Bradley Pearce



12 thoughts on “Bradley Pearce – The Photographer Who Couldn’t”

  1. I first glanced at this on my phone with my morning coffee and thought, “Oh, boy – a self-absorbed, father-hating, self pitying essay that’s going to bring his poor dad down low.” Given the tacky appearance of the thumbs on my phone screen, I did not expect much of it. But, as always, I waited to view the essay until I got my computer, and…

    Wow! I was totally taken in. This is great. The way Bradley Pearce has worked himself into the scenes of his exclusion is effective and powerful. It brings home the universal and eternal struggle of parents and children with different inner desires and ambitions in a creative, unique way.

    I was bit amused by how everybody expected him to be a football player just because his father was and how disappointed they would be when they learned he had chosen photography. The boys in my family were all expected to excel in athletics, football – American style, in particular. My older brothers, especially the oldest two, did. Their names became well known in the towns we lived in. When people would meet me and learn my last name, they automatically embraced me as a great athlete and tough guy in progress.

    And for a time, I went along with it. I played Pop Warner football, continued on through Jr High (middle school) and through my junior year high school. Come my senior year, people had pretty high expectations of me but I used my summer earnings to buy a camera, dropped football and became yearbook photographer instead.

    OMG! Were there lamentations! I had let everybody down, thrown my future away. People who once smiled warmly at me and shook my hand now frowned in disgust and disappointment.

    But you know what? My dad, who had so wanted to see 145 pound me become a football star, built my first enlarger for me and helped me set up a makeshift darkroom.

  2. Third person references. Pompous? Self absorbed, self pitying? Yes on all accounts since he can not refer to himself as “me”, “I”. Father-hating? I doubt it, but the impression that sons MUST follow in their fathers footsteps/capability says more about the emotional space around where “Pearce” existed.

  3. I can’t work out if I like this or think it is a pile of pants but it’s so nice to see something different.

  4. Richard Sharum

    So much trouble in the world, so many photographers working for years to perfect their sense of timing and empathy, and this guy wins as award for Photoshopping himself into a picture of himself petting a goat. SMH.

  5. Richard Sharum

    Let me clarify my last comment as I do not want it to come off rash and unthoughtful. I know that Burn has constantly asked itself and us “What is photography, really?” and have continued to push the bounds of what the medium represents. But, as a photographer who has done doc pj/street work for 12 yrs I am disappointed and frustrated at the lack of display for others in this field on a regular basis- not just here but other sites as well. I look at David’s work in TILII when he was an “emerging” photographer and it is obvious that because of the content, the timing, the empathy, and the technical detail David created a simple yet timeless record of a black family’s experience when most white America didn’t care. It’s simplicity yet skillfulness is what has made it timeless, able to reach across generations in being relatable. Why is it that we almost never see this type of work winning awards on here? Why does everything have to be so contemporary in order to feel fresh? Look at the last two portfolios you have on here for example. And when you do publish some doc pj work it seems very ethereal, out of focus, dreamy, too reliant on visual effect instead of practicing the craft of effect and aesthetic. Call me old fashioned if you will, but I think that classic type of doc pj/street work is still so desperately relevant and needed. Cheers.

  6. Without the introduction it is a great satire on social media and the never ending stream of photo smartphone apps that cultivate mediocrity. This the path photography has taken…. cut and paste.Wheter one likes it or not is not important it is about communicating an idea.
    Personally I do not give a rat’s arse about his dilema nor is it visually stimulating but it is effective communication

  7. Well, it’s a silly essay, but the professed concept of a photography contest is silly, so I don’t see any problem with it. (The deeper purpose of getting paid in this post-pay-for-content age is another story)

    Or maybe it’s not so silly. Maybe Pearce’s graphic description of the relationship between the image and the process of ideation suggests a manner of post-Hegelian criticism that at least achieves the doubtful virtue of innocuousness. And maybe photo contests are representative of the teleology of communicative rationality, and therefore perform the representational validity of the paratextual image in a non-paratextual medium. Quite serious, indeed.

  8. Like Imants I think this work does a good job of communicating.
    Like Imants I also dont give a rats arse about whats being communicated.
    It’s tenuous relationship to photography is that some of the collage elements used to communicate were made by lens based equipment (i am trying to be positive here guys..honestly)

    Michael.Webster. overuse of already thin material is a serious comedy crime. your punishment is to visit the artists web site and watch the ‘every 20 steps’ essay repeatedly while being in close proximity to a sharp blade, alcohol and some silvia plath books.

  9. Photography has bandwidth. I doubt that being dogmatic in looking at other’s work helps oneself in perceiving. The opposite is true, from my point of view. Try getting emmersed, try getting into the work of another person to better understand it. This essay is no PJ work, and should not be judged as such. Burn Magazine looks at Photography and thankfully limits itself not to a single genre.
    I like this work, as it shows creativity and it shows a personal standpoint. As others already have stated, it communicates, and does that well.
    I learned on Burn Magazine the importance of different opinions about my work. Be it positive or negative, it helps growing. So, keep it up – you are on a good way!

  10. David old pal, I didn’t use “silly” as a pejorative in regards to the essay. I liked the work because it is silly. Most often, silly is good, imo. That’s why I watch Monty Python instead of reading academic theses about it, not that academic theses about Monty Python aren’t silly, just not in a good way.

    As for contests being silly, sorry, but the idea that artists or journalists pit their work against one another and the superior is crowned the winner is definitively silly, though granted, in an academic theses about Monty Python kinda way. Art is bigger than that. So is journalism.

    Hopefully, we all know that the real contest is for getting published, or shown, or collected – and paid for the effort.

    But as I alluded to in the part of the quote you neglected to include, I’m thinking these contests play an important role in paying photographers, and keeping publications afloat, in this mostly post-pay-for-content world in which worthy publications struggle, too often unsuccessfully to survive.

    I’m very much in favor of people getting paid and worthy publications staying afloat, so I’m in no way condemning all contests, no matter how silly the professed concept may be. If the result is people getting paid for doing great work, yippee.

    And although as I’ve paid more attention to the burgeoning number of photo contests and come to realize that many of them are more or less ripoffs, I’ve always had the greatest respect for the EPF and have even gone so far as to help fund it every year, which is a bigger thing for me than you probably realize.

    You know I like you – as a publisher, as an artist, and as a person. Perhaps it’s wrong, but unless I’m addressing you directly, I’m not really thinking about you when I make comments here. I just like talking about photography. I can’t even begin to communicate how much talking about photography here has benefitted me as a photographer, and as a person, so it pains me to see how badly the discussion has withered. The kind of back and forth we used to have could be so valuable for so many. Anyway, point is, none of my comments are personal, certainly not in a bad way. And I’ve considered whether less than laudatory comments about what you publish here might negatively affect your brand, and your income; and just don’t think so. Feel free to shoot me a personal note if I’m way off about that.

    I’ve also come to realize that most of the people who comment here don’t have much opportunity to talk high level photography in their day-to-day lives. Bill is in Alaska, Imants in the wilds of Australia, Akaky somewhere in New Jersey, others, myself included, spend the great majority of time with regular people who have no interest in the meaning of photographs. Sounds kinda sad, dunnit. I don’t think so, though. Certainly no sadder than spending all one’s time with only people with whom we have a lot of things in common, even photography. Some kind of balance is best, and that’s the opportunity some of the better comments sections provide. They allow like-minded individuals to communicate when it would otherwise be impossible. World seems to be moving away from that though. Oh well, no point in bitching about the world turning. It’s not going to stop.

    In short, regards, best wishes, congratulations, great work, thanks, and peace.

  11. “Maybe Pearce’s graphic description of the relationship between the image and the process of ideation suggests a manner of post-Hegelian criticism that at least achieves the doubtful virtue of innocuousness. And maybe photo contests are representative of the teleology of communicative rationality, and therefore perform the representational validity of the paratextual image in a non-paratextual medium.”

    Yeah, what he said…I think.

    In the interests of geographical accuracy, I should point out that I do not live or work in New Jersey. Not that there’s anything wrong with New Jersey; like many New Yorkers I have family in New Jersey, but I haven’t been there since my cousin’s Star Trek themed wedding ten years ago (yes, Michael, it was a very silly wedding, but one does have to put up with a lot of silly things in this life that one would otherwise choose to skip, like paying one’s taxes and attending one’s own funeral). As for Bradley’s essay, I think it’s very cleverly done and demonstrates a great mastery of Photoshop and a lot of patience on Bradley’s part; it must have taken quite a bit of time and work to pull all of this stuff together; but I don’t see the point, unless the point is to show how clever he is, in which case Bradley is succeeding admirably. If there is something larger at work here, I am clearly missing it.

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