William Bradford was born and brought up in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Bradford began his professional art career painting ship portraits. In 1861, he obtained financial backing for a journey to sketch and photograph the coast of Labrador. On this and subsequent voyages, he became fascinated with the special qualities of atmospheric light in northern regions. In 1869, Bradford made a notable expedition to the Arctic on the Panther leading to the original publication of The Arctic Regions.