I first saw the photography of Chelsea Bradway at the Franklin Square Salon at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, Massachusetts. The September 2021 reception for her “Be a Lady They Said” exhibition, presented by ArtsWorcester, had the double benefit of being an opening and the first time many people felt safe coming together again in a public gathering.
My notes from that afternoon said that Bradway was a self- proclaimed whimsical photographer who aims to construct a collective voice through her photographic subjects, aiming to dismantle preconceptions of femininity and power with her own words stating, “When silence is broken around the modern struggle between women’s personal and professional identities, both subject and observer can reclaim some of themselves from fear, and stand up for what they believe in.”
Some of her female subjects in the show were professionals – including Dr. Yvonne Spicer, the former mayor of Framingham – while others were children whose images reminded us of the power of the imagination, and the ability to fly, as shown through a young dancer in flight and “Sarah R” – whose back image outside of the typical gym setting showed how you don’t need to fit the stereotypical gym rat prototype to be a superwoman. For all in attendance, especially those seeing their images on the walls, it was a celebration.
Bradway first picked up a 35mm camera in high school in “Mr. Vinning’s” photography class in 1990 at Monument Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. That class, that teacher and her first assignment left a lasting impression on her. “I remember taking a photo at a soccer game where I was able to capture a soccer player in midair doing a roundhouse kick of a soccer ball. When I developed it in the darkroom, my jaw dropped. I took that photo, me!”