The Youngest Member of the Team Was a Lucky Find, Written By AnMarie Bowler
Visual points of view – previously unseen, diverse and thought-provoking – is a part of what The Wight Book promises. So when a 20-year-old Sandown photographer at the start of his career was asked to join the book’s photography team, the fresh, questioning attitude of youth also became embedded in the project.
And, to be sure, Braeden Lee, the youngest Islander to lend his considerable skills to The Wight Book made the most of the unique opportunity but not without questioning – himself.
“After realising I was working alongside some of the Island’s best creatives, I started to doubt my own work. Like anyone would,” he admits.
Armed with detailed briefs from the team, Braeden was routinely sent out across the Island to capture images that would slot into the compelling story the book was telling. Asked to capture specific visuals – everything from Island events to local products – while making them feel novel, Braeden’s confidence swirled to the surface. Self-assurance born of opportunity, undoubtedly a hallmark of youth.
Shoot after shoot quietly convinced Braeden that the team would not repeatedly task him to take photos were he not up to it.
“My confidence grew and I started to be more professional with every job I went to – which has now given me some of the strongest commercial work I have to date,” he says.
At just age 16 Braeden began taking wedding photographs. For him those early experiences with the camera, people and one-of-a-kind events were akin to a degree in photography. The lure of the camera lingered in him because after completing a 2-year sports diploma at UKSA in Cowes, Braeden still felt adrift, even with his new qualifications. His mother urged him to do something he loved, and like a good son, he heeded her advice.
His mother’s wise words and a bit of luck combined to change Braeden’s life. A last minute interview with Gary Wallis who was covering for an instructor away on maternity leave from a photography course at the Isle of Wight College, went well. Braeden was crossing paths with Gary Wallis, photography instructor at Central Saint Martins in London and highly experienced fashion photographer. At the same time The Wight Book team had approached Gary to take the persuasive portraits of the team that imbue The Wight Book with both continuity and humanity. The connection was made.
“I was accepted onto the course and basically tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could from Gary, as I was beginning to see that is was possible to go big with photography,” Braeden says.
While his Instagram feed (@braedenleephoto) shows off recent travels, Braeden’s favourite photography hot spot on his Island home is Freshwater Bay. “Different weather, different surfers and different sea conditions all play a role in how the final image will turn out,” Braeden reveals. One can only wonder how his professional career will turn out but with a growing wedding photography portfolio and new confidence born of his experience on The Wight Book, the signs are positive.
And while he’s growing his CV at pace, this young photographer offers sage advice for amateur and weekend snappers.
“Print your photos. Not all of them, just the ones that hold a memory or tell a story. There’s something different about getting out a photo album as opposed to your phone,” he says. “It was looking back on my parents’ old film photos that made me appreciate hard copies. They hold more family value over the years.”
A young man – one of our own – on a visual mission with an appreciation for the generations that have come before him. Braeden Lee’s point of view is certainly one to keep an eye on.