Current Issue #488

Photographing the Working Class: Fringe Artists Behind the Scenes

Photographing the Working Class: Fringe Artists Behind the Scenes

Exhibiting for the first time this year, Aaron Bradbrook’s The Working Class captures the laborious lives of professional Fringe performers.

“I wanted to try and find the person behind the artist,” says Aaron Bradbrook, freelance curator and photographer of The Working Class, a photographic survey of professional touring artists. “I started photographing artists in the moment that they exit the stage. I wanted to find that link, where the person has the remnants of the performance and the character on them… where they both co-exist.”

His images capture an unseen side to the professional performing circuit. While audiences are treated to the very best the performer can put forward, they rarely see the dirt, fatigue, stress or joy an artist can experience throughout their show’s run.

“Sometimes they’re really filled and flooded with adrenaline because they’ve had an amazing, incredible performance in a packed house. Sometimes it’s the polar opposite – they’ve had a terrible show with two people in the audience or they’re sick and have the flu. It’s when the artists are a bit tired and worn out that you can chase a bit of that magic.”

Bradbrook is no stranger to the arts and festival circuit, having worked as both an artist and curator. When The Adelaide Review meets him, he’s working among set up crews building the Royal Croquet Club on Pinky Flat.


“It’s tricky working in the arts environment because you live and breathe artists,” says Bradbrook. “You see their social value and their economic value but you spend a lot of time having to tell people this. I wanted to show people that widespread social and economic impact even more, and talk about who these people actually are.”

The Working Class will exhibit as part of the Royal Croquet Club’s new home on Pinky Flat. The raw artistic portraits will be blown up to massive sizes, and hang from the limbs of a Moreton Bay fig tree among the tents and frivolity of the club.

While this exhibition at the Royal Croquet Club will be Working Class’ first public showing, it won’t be the last, and Bradbrook aims to continue this project for years to come. Working Class will exhibit in Sydney’s Head On photography festival later in the year, and he’s in talks to exhibit at the next Edinburgh Fringe.

“I’ll continue throughout this Fringe, throughout Edinburgh. I’m aiming to do it for at least five years. I want to create a big archive. This big photographic survey of artists, you know.”

Read on for a selection of images from The Working Class series with commentary from Aaron Bradbrook

Emma J Hawkins and Unicorn, Adelaide (2016)

It must have been midnight when Emma stepped off stage. I waited backstage for her to pack down her set. In this moment I had the luxury to find the right backdrop and envisage the final shot. I love Emma in this moment; glorified in her fantastical universe. 

Emma May Gibson and Betty Grumble, Edinburgh (2016)

The extreme transformation that Emma undergoes on stage is the perfect example of the intensity and labour of performance. These two pictures together showcase The Working Class perfectly.

Emma May Gibson, Edinburgh (2016) (image slightly censored)

Emma’s insight and knowledge of what is means to be an artist (economically, socially and personally) is awe-inspiring. Her work speaks of gender and empowerment and she is one artist who I simply had to work with.

Tim Grayburn, Adelaide (2016)

One of the most poignant scenes from Bryony and Tim’s show Fake it ‘Til you Make it, is when he wears this mask to represent his depression. In context, it is powerful, and out of context it becomes absurd. I love this image because it shows the artist out of place, in the reality of the off stage world.


Samuel John Kennedy & Ted Rogers, Edinburgh (2016)

This image is one of my favourites in the series. The boys had just performed to a packed house late in their season and so there was a sense of triumph and celebration. They were leaving everything on the table.

CHRISTEENE, Edinburgh (2016)

A Texas based performance artist and musician, CHRISTEENE is a game changer. I’ll never forget her message, “Set your Pony free.” On and off stage she created an incredibly inclusive environment. She is enigmatic; someone you just want to be around. Photographically, her eyes, her eyes, her eyes.

The Working Class
Thursday, February 16 until Sunday, March 19
Royal Croquet Club, Pinky Flat

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