Jamie Hawkesworth is defiantly a photographer you need to keep your eyes on. It’s refreshing to see photographs coming out of some of the top fashion magazines that are unique and unafraid to push the boundaries. Somehow he manages to perfectly combine fashion and reportage together to create unusal styling and informal portraits.
We managed to catch up with the film and printing fanatic to find out where his love for photography began and what it’s like working for some of these publications:
Film’s not Dead: Firstly could you start off by telling us a bit more about yourself and where your love for photography began?
Jamie Hawkesworth: So I went to uni, I was quite academic at school, to do a forensic science course which I studied for a year. The course was cut into two halves the practical and law side. On the practical side we got introduced to digital cameras where you would use them in mock crime scene houses, you would dust for finger prints and make foot print moulds and what not. You had to document that using those cameras which was the first time I started using cameras. The other side of the course was the law side which I failed, so I didn’t really know what I was going to do. My best friend at the time was studying Photography at Norwich university, and then that summer after I failed my law degree, I started hanging out with him more and started using cameras a bit more. I decided after that to quit my course and swap to photography.
Luckily there was a photography course at the university I was at so they let me join in the second year. From then on I started taking an awful lot of pictures. Weirdly because I started in the second year I skipped 35mm photography, the first camera they introduce to you in the second year was medium format the Mamiya RB67 which is what I use now.
Towards the end of the second year I realised I hadn’t been taught 35mm photography so I had to go into Jesshops to ask them how to load it. So I’ve never really shot 35mm because of that reason.
Film’s not Dead: You shoot pretty much everything on medium format cameras, but what about your reportage work?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I just literally started shooting 35mm around Wales. I tend to shoot RB or Pentax 67. I remember when I tried taking a picture on a 35mm camera it didn’t feel like I was taking a proper picture. It was the physical thing of taking a picture. You know when your taking a picture on the RB it has a meaty shutter like “Cung Clong” where as on the 35mm it’s like “cling click” its so quick.
Film’s not Dead: Over the years you’ve worked for a number of varied publications. We wanted to find out what it’s like shooting for them and is it something you’ve aimed to do such as shooting fashion/editorial?
Jamie Hawkesworth: When I was at uni I used to spend a lot of time in the library. Obviously they had loads of old magazines both documentary and fashion. So I used to go through them all. Because I had never looked at photography books I just absorbed myself in everything. I kind of liked the idea of shooting for magazines, in one class we were told we should try to go out to assist.
Oddly fashion photographers seemed a lot more readily available than any other photographers to get hold of. You would look at a magazine like Wonderland find the photographer’s name and 9/10 their number would be on their website, I would call them up and ask them if I could assist them.
I started assisting fashion photographers as it seemed like the best way to learn more about photography and the magazines.
Film’s not Dead: It’s interesting because when you look at your work its not overly “glamours” it has a mix of reportage.
Jamie Hawkesworth: It’s always been a mix, I’ve never wanted to do just fashion. When I was at uni I really loved Nigel Shafran‘s work, like I loved his photographs of sinks but at the same time I loved his work of teenagers styled. That mix of simplicity, texture and colour along with fabricated set ups, I always loved that balance. However when I left uni I did start off by shooting fashion with a model in a studio, but you have to start somewhere to find your way.
Film’s not Dead: Last year you were able to photograph artist Ai Weiwei. What was that experience like, how did you prepare yourself for it and how did this opportunity come about?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I have an agent, Julia at M.A.P. I told her that I wanted to do more portraiture. I spend a lot of time hopping on a train and going somewhere without knowing what to expect from the people I meet. I wanted to find a way to do this for publications.
Randomly this assignment came up for an artist called Ai Weiwei, who I didn’t know at first. Another magazine asked do you want to go over to Beijing to photograph him, he’s been under house arrest for the last two years, do you want to go to his studio. I thought that’s sound fucking brilliant.
I didn’t really prepare, I just asked the magazine can I stay there a bit longer so I can photograph around Beijing as I felt it was important not to just document him take his portrait and then come home. I wanted to spend time in the area, and I insisted to stay in the local area. I spent three days in the area close to his studio before I took his portrait to get a sense of the environment around him. Then I spent a day with him in his studio.
At first they had a list of things that I needed to photograph and to me it felt a bit obvious, like photograph his plant pot’s, his painting’s. It was about home that is what the brief was about the artist in his home. I tried to photograph stuff like his food or pieces of string, things that summed up his environment. So I twisted the brief a little bit. I went against it and in the end they where happy.
Ultimately the most important thing is to always take the pictures you want. Obviously I had to come back with portraits of him but it’s just adjusting the brief to fit your way of photographing.
Film’s not Dead: The main portrait you took of him leaning on the dinning table, was that set up or where you just talking?
Jamie Hawkesworth: At first when I went to photograph him he was very dismissive, he didn’t give me much time. I literally took two frames in his garden. He was like right, have you got it? I was like mmmmm not really I am going to need a bit more time. I took a couple more pictures, obviously I couldn’t see what I was doing as it was on film but I knew I didn’t have it. I said to his assist I am going to need more time I’ve come all the way from London I gonna need more than 20 minutes.
Ai Weiwei didn’t even know, he thought I lived in Beijing, he said “oh sorry I didn’t know” and after that he was really nice. I went into his home and I sat down at his table and that’s when I took that picture.
He was moving around a lot, I prefer to let people do what they normally do, through just casually talking to him I saw it and I said ‘stop can you put your hand up where you other hand is’ and that’s when I took the picture.
Film’s not Dead: We’ve noticed that you take quite a liking to the Pentax 67 and Maymia RB67. Why do you choose to shoot with these cameras?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I shoot all the time on the RB but then sometimes I found I would like to shoot on something a bit freer as I am using the RB on a tripod all the time. If you want to have something that is a little bit less composed then I will use the Pentax 67. It’s just a balance between hand held or not.
Film’s not Dead: Out of the different film types that are currently on the market which one would you say is your favourite and why?
Jamie Hawkesworth: Portra 400, I’ve never used Fuji I’ve always been drawn to use Kodak and I used to use Portra NC, I was devastated when they discounted that but when I started using the new Portra 400 I thought it was so much better. It had a nostalgic quality about it NC, or it might have been the way I was printing it. Portra feels very modern, they brought the best qualities of NC and VC, to make Portra and I think it’s a perfect film.
Film’s not Dead: You have an extremely soft colour palette, a lot of your prints are quite yellow. What is the way in which you print, do you treat every negative differently or do you try to print in the same style each time?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I think half the battle is trying to get your print the way you see it, if you’ve got a colour palette your own style then your nearly there, by defining your own work. Particularly with fashion, it is to make something interesting from scratch. Over time I have developed my other way of printing and what colours suit my image best.
Film’s not Dead: Working with so many publications do you think your part of a small handful of people who print their work or do people mostly scan their work?
Jamie Hawkesworth: Not many people print their work for sure. Particularly fashion and shooting for publications.
Film’s not Dead: Well how do you find that because surely it takes you longer to get your work back to the magazine?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I actually think it’s quicker for me, if your not printing your own work then you have someone else working for you to print/edit your pictures. It ultimately takes longer as they won’t only be printing for you they’ll be printing for a number of other people. I have done assignments in the past, particularly portraits where I can shoot in the morning have the film developed by late lunch time and edited, printed by that evening. That’s half the reason I do it is because it’s so quick for me and I have the control.
Also I’ve noticed now more and more people are printing, I started printing at Rapid Eye two years ago and numbers have at least doubled. Printing allows people to slow down but theres no reason why publications need work over to them so quickly, except maybe for a newspaper. With fashion work theres a mentality of now, now, now all it’s just fluff, nobody needs anything that quick. There’s some places that will ask you to do a look book and hours after the shoot they want it on their website. I just say no to that stuff.
Film’s not Dead: Don’t you feel like now, as everyone wants everything so quickly they’ve almost lost the trust in the photographer?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I met up with Tim Walker the other day and he says one of the reasons why he shoots on film is so that he can keep that relationship between just him and the model and nobody else. When there’s a screen involved and theres other people, instead of it being a two way thing it becomes a five/six way thing. It’s so stupid and ridiculous. I have noticed that some people that come in here say they do their personal work on film and their professional work on digital. I think that is silly, if your going to shoot film shoot everything on film as your personal work is always your strongest, then your style is always consistent too.
Film’s not Dead: Your known for photographing people in very natural environments, why do you enjoy shooting in this way?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I have always spent a lot of time going around England shooting people like the Preston Bus station around very normal environments and trying to find something interesting within that, this is a process I have worked on and is a part of my work I really like. Yet with the fashion stuff it’s really not about normal environments. Nothing is normal about it so I try to find the most abnormal environment.
Film’s not Dead: All your work is shot entirely on film, why do you decide to use film in such a fast pace industry?
Jamie Hawkesworth: I’ve always shot film so I know no different. Then when I moved to London to assist the photographer I was assisting he still shot on film and the way that he would pay me is that he would teach me how to colour print. So mainly for that reason I was making the most out of working for him, I wasn’t going to turn round and start shooting digital.
Film’s not Dead: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring photographer what would that advice be?
Jamie Hawkesworth: Just take a lot of pictures to work out what you want to say and do. Just experiment with lots of different styles. The more you take photographs the more you find out about what you want to portray. Have a point of view.