Brad Branson died suddenly from Cancer in 2012 at 49 years of age. He left behind an incredible wealth of photographs documenting the arts and fashion scene of the 80s and 90s. His sister, Jan Lane gathered the many large cartons of his work that he had left in the care of a friend in Britain for almost two decades and began the lengthy and tedious process restoring, cataloging and archiving the thousands of negatives and prints leading her to curate a collection honoring the legacy of Branson's work providing us with a glimpse of the fashions and legends of the 80s and 90s during Photo Independent opening Friday, April 29 until May 1 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood.
How would you describe your brother in relation to his work?
My brother was incredibly engaging, always able to make people laugh. I sorely miss the sound of his laughter. He was kind, and he made everyone feel special. I always notice the expression on the faces of those he photographed which reflect the comfortable camaraderie he so easily brought out in everyone.
His early work was a melding of his fascination with the Golden Age of movies, the dramas, and using the pop and cult figures he admired at the time, Annie Lennox, Los Lobos, John Waters, Edie Massey, Bryan Ferry, to play the lead in his still “movies”, so to speak. He then joined artist and collagist, Fritz Kok under the name, Indüstria incorporating his signature style of photography with Fritz’s otherworldly images that you'd have to see to appreciate.
When restoring and archiving your brother’s work when did you subconsciously begin the process of elimination to exhibit a retrospective?
It was an evolutionary process that began that first day that I received the five large cartons of Brad's possessions which had arrived from London after a three-month journey by sea on a cargo ship to my home in Southern California. I immediately set to work on the restoration and archiving of the thousands of negatives which took more than a year to complete. Each envelope of negatives that were last touched by my brother over eighteen years earlier was the object of my complete focus and fascination until I moved to the next. It was at the time I was transferring each strip to a new archival negative page where I made sure to duplicate any of Brad’s comments or markings made on the original one. So, my first, rather conscious process of elimination was to select those frames he had marked with an “X”, his choice of the best poses of the subject. Later, once I was able to take the time and view the entire roll, I also picked some that I personally felt were print worthy.
Brad was one of the young pioneers of iconic imagery with pop culture figures, how (if so) do you feel his work is more relevant now in an age where photography has become a medium that is run by social media, mainly Instagram?
So many of the photographs appearing in social media are candid shots captured by paparazzi. You don’t see the carefully lit and stylized portraits of current pop culture figures unless it’s in print form; a book or cd and magazine cover. This has moved portrait photography into an art form, which it always has been, but even more so today.
Having Brad’s work in art fairs like Photo Independent provide an opportunity to reach brand new audiences as well as remind those who are familiar the scope of work he produced, how do you feel curating such an immense project, from archival through selection to display?
My grief over losing my brother was the catalyst which drove me on my mission to gather his belongings which he had left with a close friend in London for almost two decades then to Amsterdam to meet his former creative partner, and ending in St. Francis, Kansas where he was living when he died.
Once I grasped the breadth of the collection going through the hundreds of envelopes containing images of the many iconic names that defined the music and fashion world of the 80s and 90s, I could not conceive of merely stowing all of this away. I knew my life, from that point on, would be dedicated to honoring my brother’s memory and talent by sharing his wonderful work with the world. His collection of portraits captures the height of the global trendsetters in fashion and music during a most creatively unique and exciting time where originality and unlimited potential existed. I am very pleased to find an outlet such as Photo Independent where I am able to debut Brad’s collection and get his name and work back in the public consciousness since the galleries are virtually impossible to crack into unless you have a solid connection.
Brad was also a filmmaker, are you interested in finishing the documentary as an added or completely separate element in this “ resurgence” if you will?
Brad only made one music video and spent years on research for a documentary but never got it to film. I am now working to resurrect this documentary project with his former partner on the project, Susan Pile who was a PR executive at Paramount.
His passion for filmmaking was reignited when collaborated with George on his first music video directing Jay Henry’s UK single of Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove in 1991.His next film project awaited on his return to Los Angeles in 1995 for a much-needed break from his heady and frenetic life in Europe. Brad began work on a documentary film project on the life and mysterious death of Jet Propulsion Laboratory co-founder, Jack Parsons. During a break in production he flew back to London to photograph George Michael for his studio album, “Older” which turned out to be Brad’s final farewell to the photo genre he had made his own and returned to the U.S. where he lived until his sudden death of cancer at age 49.
I don't know where I would be if I hadn't chosen to curate Brad’s work. This has been a catharsis and salvation from my mourning that seemed to grow in unending directions. I grieved at the brevity of his life and the huge talent he possessed that would no longer be realized. This exhibition and hopefully many more to come, is helping to transmute the sense of loss by injecting new life into his work through retrospection. It has provided the greatest opportunity for me to actualize my creativity and feel my brother is beside me always, guiding me towards the right path.
Born in Los Angeles, Branson had an early passion for the music and movies of the 1930s and 40s. At seventeen, he managed a chance to meet movie legend Gloria Swanson who was charmed by him that she offered him a part-time job as her personal assistant. Taken under the wing of renowned photographer, Paul Jasmin, Branson's portraits of pop and underground cult icons began appearing in magazines including Andy Warhol’s Interview, Vanity Fair, L.A. Style, and Rolling Stone.
Moving to Amsterdam in 1988, Branson teamed with talented Dutch artist, Fritz Kok and the pair begain working under the name, Indüstria. The pair was in hot demand and featured in international magazines including Blitz, Diva, The Face, Harpers & Queen, Select, and Vogue and in exhibitions at both London’s Victoria and Albert Musuem and the Black and White Gallery. Their album design credits included covers for Boy George and Robert Palmer,’s Addictions Vols. 1 and 2. Branson’s photographs also appeared on albums for George Michael, Elton John, Paul Rutherford, and Marc Almond.
In 1992, Branson was chosen as the photographer of the official Vivienne Westwood portraits and worked with other top fashion designers including John Galliano, Thierry Mugler, Katherine Hamnett, Jasper Conran, and Stephen Jones as well as an impressive list of models including “the Trinity”; Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington.
You can see The Legacy of Brad Branson: Capturing the Icons of the 80s and 90s this weekend at Photo Independent.
Photo Independent is an annual photography art fair held in Hollywood that provides a forum for direct exchange of ideas and contacts between photographers, collectors and art professionals. Photo Independent provides potential exhibitors with the unique opportunity to present their work to global decision makers — curators, galleries, collectors, editors and publishers — who seek to acquire, publish and commission the best photographic talent today.