All photos by Dean Bradshaw. Used with Creative Commons permission.
Superheroes always make fun subjects for creative projects, so it’s not surprising to find a lot of noteworthy photography projects out there. It’s especially the case for cosplay photography, as superheroes are among the favorites of the subculture. However, did you also know that there’s actually a subculture dedicated to real life superheroes? Don’t take our word for it — just take a look at this beautiful portrait project of Los Angeles-based photographer and director Dean Bradshaw!
In his project description, Bradshaw shared that the members of the “real life superhero” subculture featured in this series are from across the United States, and photographed in San Diego, CA. Interestingly, he also noted that everyone in the group has adopted superhero alter-egos, complete with superhero names (ranging from the simple like “Power Boy”, something borrowed like “Cheshire Cat” or “Urban Avenger,” dark and heavy like “Nihilist,” to cheeky and original like “The Golden Don”) and the and costumes. Of course, they all deserve the pro studio treatment fit for a superhero, as Bradshaw has nicely done for this project.
Unlike cosplay photos, these portraits take us to the make-believe world of each “superhero” — not the universes crafted for Marvel, DC Universe, or popular anime. Each shot is a portrait both of a character and the creative imagination of the person behind it (or underneath the costume).
As a documentary portrait project, Real Life Superheroes is a testament to the interesting subcultures that most of us have yet to discover, especially through the lens of documentary photographers. Hopefully, Bradshaw will continue scouring the globe for these interesting personalities and their even more interesting alter-egos!
If you’re interested in more of Bradshaw’s documentary work, you may also want to check out our previous feature on his Icelandic Fishing series.