Polly Braden is a documentary photographer whose work features an ongoing conversation between the people she photographs and the environment in which they find themselves. Highlighting the small, often unconscious gestures of her subjects, Polly particularly enjoys long-term, in depth collaborations that in turn lends her photographs a unique, quiet intimacy. Polly has produced a large body of work that includes not only solo exhibitions and magazine features, but most recently three books: London’s Square Mile: A Secret Citywith text by historian David Kynaston (20190, Out of the Shadows: The Untold Story of People with Autism or Learning Disabilities(2018) alongside the writer Sally Williams and Adventures in the Lea Valley(2016).
She works on long-term, self-initiated projects, as well as commissions for international publications. Her book China Between, is published by Dewi Lewis, 2010, a selection of her work from China is included in the book Street Photography Now published by Thames and Hudson 2010. In recent years she has collaborated with journalists to produce extended photo-essays in the UK, the Middle East, Morocco, Kenya and China. Her photography has appeared in The Guardian, The Saturday Telegraph magazine, Ei8ht magazine, Portfolio, ICON, Photoworks & Frieze.
Braden’s book Great Interactions, Life with Learning Disabilities and Autism was published by Dewi Lewis, 2016. There are around 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability and 700,000 with autism. Braden spent two years working with MacIntyre, a leading national charity in the field, to show the ways in which it works with the children and adults that it supports. Her photographs look at the everyday moments, achievements and milestones. The subject is complex but the aim is simple: to highlight everyday interactions and life-changing experiences. Braden is currently exhibiting the work of Great Interactions at the National Media Museum.
Following this Braden wanted to explore what would happen if individuals did not receive the right support. This led to a new collaboration with Sandwell based arts organisation, Multistory culminating in a new publication, Out of the Shadows: the untold story of people with autism or learning disabilities, 2018, that's being presented as a photo and text exhibition at MAC Midland Arts Centre.
Out of the Shadows offers a very different view on the human cost of locking up people with learning disabilities and/or autism. The book, which is published by Dewi Lewis in partnership with Multistory, contains intimate and powerful photographs by Polly Braden, seven in-depth stories by Journalist Sally Williams and three first-hand accounts.
Braden teaches regularly at The University of Westminster and London College of Communication (LCC). She taught photography at Xiamen University during a residency at the CEAC (Chinese European Art Centre) and at Kunming University during a residency at 943 studio.
Braden is a winner of the Jerwood Photography Prize, 2003 and The Guardian Young Photographer of the Year, 2002. She has exhibited at venues internationally including the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) 2005, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago 2006, Format International Photography Festival 2011, The Museum of London 2011, Krakow Photomonth, Alias, 2011, Minnie Weisz Gallery 2011, London festival of Photography 2011 and the Hua Gallary, London 2012. She is winner of the Joanna Drew Bursary 2013.
In September 2015 she exhibited London’s Square Mile, a photographic essay about the Financial District of London, at the 6th Fotofestival Mannheim Ludwigshafen Heidelberg, curated by Urs Stahel. http://www.fotofestival.info/en/. A selection of this work is on permanent display at the Guildhall Art Gallery, London. In 2019 Hoxton Mini Press will publish her book London's Square Mile: A secret city. The book contains 20 short texts by the historian David Kynaston.