We had the good fortune of connecting with Darren BRADLEY and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Darren, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
This is such a cliché, I realize, but loving what I do is the most important factor for success. The fact is, I’d be photographing architecture whether someone paid me to do it or not. And I did just that for many years before taking on my first paid commission. I’m just fortunate that people are willing to pay me for doing what I love. Many architectural photographers are really photographers first, who happened to end up photographing buildings due to circumstance. If it wasn’t buildings, they would be doing wedding portraits or reportage or some other sort of photography. They are very good, technically. Probably far better photography skills than I have, to be honest. But what many lack in that case is a real love of architecture, or a point of view. I think you can tell when an architectural photographer truly loves architecture. That love of buildings shows through their work. In the case of these photographers – and certainly for me – we are really just architecture lovers who happen to also be photographers. If I wasn’t photographing buildings, I’d be doing something else related to architecture – not photography.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I do commercial photography which, by its nature, is not always considered for its artistic merit. After all, the point is really to record and document the work of architects. It is these architects who are doing the real creating here. But I like to think that every photographer has a point of view. In my case, I am more interested in trying to photograph what I feel about a building or a space, rather than simply documenting where the walls are placed. The best architects are usually trying to create experiences through their spaces. I consider it my job to try to convey those experiences through photography. Of course, it’s impossible to truly convey what it’s like to experience a space through a two-dimensional medium such as photography, but the challenge – and the fun – is in trying to get close. And when I create a photo that represents on some level what I feel about a space, it makes me happy. That’s the addictive part, and it’s what makes me want to keep going every day. I’m not sure that I have a clear sense of brand identity about myself. Perhaps my clients do. For me, I am just an architecture geek, always seeking those butterflies I get when I’m in a great space. But I think my photos do often have a certain look or feel to them. I like to play with scale and context a lot. I like to place people in my photos in a way that shows that scale. I try to find a narrative in my images – to tell a story. I also like to find patterns and repetition. My eye tends to focus more on big picture than on small details or vignettes. Overall, I do hear that my photos often evoke an almost vintage feeling, like classic architectural photography from the 50s and 60s. This is not a coincidence, since photographers like Julius Shulman and Ezra Stoller are my biggest influences.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m assuming this question is more for a pre- or post-COVID world, because it would be impossible in today’s environment to do this properly. In any case, my tours of San Diego are generally architecture-focused, as you might imagine. And no visit to San Diego would be complete with out a trip to the Salk Institute. We are lucky in San Diego to have one of the greatest and most famous works of architecture on the planet right in our own backyard. And just across the street on the campus of UCSD, there are also quite a few architecture gems. So a walk around that campus is also part of the typical tour (including Scripps Institute). The usual spots such as Gaslamp, Little Italy, Balboa Park, La Jolla Village, and Sunset Cliffs are also on the list, of course. But one of the less well known things I like to do is a visit of all the Irving Gill-designed homes in Bankers’ Hill, which also includes a tour of the pedestrian bridges across the canyons there. For food and drink, the breweries around North Park are fun, as is the Stone Brewery at Liberty Station. My favorite weekend hangout has been Blind Lady Ale House in Normal Heights for about ten years. I also like so many of the Consortium Holdings restaurants and bars, such as Noble Experiment, False Idol, Ironside, Craft & Commerce, Born and Raised… Restaurants and bars that provide great food and drink, but also offer a fun experience are my favorites.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are many architects in San Diego and elsewhere who believed in me and supported me even very early on, and I’d like to recognize them for all of that support. That includes Pauly DeBartolo and the team at DBRDS, as well as Kevin deFreitas, and also the team at Hanna Gabriel Wells.
All photos are my own, and should be credited to me. Thanks.