'Hollywood Re-loaded' is a bold and brash reinvention of Terry O'Neill's portraits of Hollywood icons posing with guns. Portraits of stars like Michael Caine, Bridget Bardot and Roger Moore, each with a sleek firearm in hand, are pockmarked by bullets fired by ex-Special Forces turned artist and reportage photographer, Bran Symondson, using the same gun as in each portrait. Guns and the violence they symbolize become subjects, displacing Hollywood stars and the glorified ethos they mediate as well as create.
Inspired by the changing perception of guns and the reverberating conversation about gun violence around the world, 'Hollywood Re-loaded' is a timely addition to both artists' repertoires. Classic works by Terry O'Neill get a second life unlike their first as Bran Symondson bravely inhabits the space where being a photographer and a soldier meet. Both, he rightly observes, "…are looking intensely for the moment".
'Hollywood Re-loaded' also represents an artistic intrusion of the debate on gun violence into the world of photographic art. Here, both artists courageously depart from their artistic comfort zones.
Terry's black and white portraits of Hollywood stars, as beautiful and as memorable as ever, become readymade canvases for Bran's act of embellishment which unfolds in two symbolic steps. The first, a literal rupturing of outdated fantasies of modern gun-inspired chivalry, and the second, healing and metamorphosis, personified by fantastical blooms of butterflies.
This collection dares to explore the rebound of our painful reckonings with gun violence on Hollywood. It also reaches for the positive changes, real and imagined, arising from passionate and reasoned efforts to address this menace. Bran's artistic commitment to 'turning something of fear and loathing into something of beauty' shines through in 'Hollywood Re-loaded'. However, it is a payoff that lies beyond a shocking confrontation with the destruction and irreverence of bullets.
Terry O'Neill said "What Bran has done with my photographs is astounding. He's taken such time and consideration when creating his art – he has transformed my photographs into something entirely his own. It's been a thrill for me to work with a young artist such as Bran, to listen to his thoughts and process. And I can't be more pleased with the results."