The Survival Project


Written by Olivia Patt
Photos and illustrations by Steven Brahms
16 Sunday 16th October 2011

What with reading World War Z and watching Melancholia last week and the office radiators coming on for the ‘season’, we’ve come over a bit end-of-the-world. But in a good way. Like, it’ll be pretty awful at first, but then there won’t be any more Swiftcover adverts or X Factor, and we’ll be able to ride around in tanks made out of shopping trolleys. The long view. So we were thrilled to hear about photographer Steven Brahms, who made The Survival Project – an ongoing series that documents people living after the collapse of society as we know it.

Stick Fort

Where did you get your inspiration for your newest project, The Survival Project?

In the beginning, when I made the first couple of images I was interested in exploring how I could find nature in the bizarre world of the city. The project started out extremely pre-determined, I made a series of photographs that represented survival skills. Then over time I began to realize the images were much more than straight representation. It became less about subject matter and more about a state of mind: investigating how imagination is a tool for remembering our innate knowledge. I think it had a lot to do with the collective psychological landscape that has consumed us over the last couple of years. The world has started to unravel a bit. With the economic situation, the natural disasters, the political climate, and wars etc, we are being inundated with images of catastrophe.

Edible Cactus

Can you explain to us exactly what is happening in the photographs?

Each photograph in the series presents a different skill, experiment, vision, or demonstration of something that might be done in an unknowable situation. I know that sounds vague. But to tell you the truth I’m not sure what is happening in the some of the pictures, that’s one of the main reasons why I make the pictures: I want to see what things look like in photographs.

Figure 11, Evasion Studies

Did you have some idea of what the unspecified apocalyptic event was when you shot the series?

Nope. It would be boring if you answered your own question.

Do you have a particular photo that really stands out for you?

I think the Evasion Studies Series is some of the stronger work in the project. I like the one of the guy in the ocean. It looks like the waves are exploding around him. It feels very intense and real to me. Serendipity is something I think about a lot and I think that image works.

Crossing Muck

In your eyes, what makes a good photograph?

That’s a really good question. It’s a feeling to me, like when you here good music or good poetry or taste something amazing, when I see a good photograph I get a feeling. It has nothing to do with subject matter.

Working as a photo editor for Bloomberg you must have come across so many other photographers – who inspires you?

I have been helping a friend make a documentary about the artist Raymond Pettibon, I find his work massively inspiring.


Any new projects in the pipeline?

Yeah, I have a couple things in the works. I just released the Evasion Studies Limited edition box set. It’s now available at Dashwood Books in New York City.

And I just finished shooting a new series of pictures that fit in the continued framework of The Survival Project, involving sketchy characters with handguns, so be on the look out.


See more of Steven's work at

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.