IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW: Henry Hargreaves

Henry Hargreaves' path into photography was anything but ordinary. His introduction to the medium started in front of the camera as a fashion model for the likes of YSL and Prada, working alongside some of the top photographers in the game. Envious of their creative input, he decided to take advantage of his surroundings and learn the craft.

Soon after, Hargreaves quit modelling and went on to establish himself as a leading photographer with clients including Sagmeister, Ralph Lauren, NY magazine and GQ.

In this exclusive interview, Hargreaves explains why he got fed up with fashion, what it's like working with some of the world's leading designers and that Sagmeister mailer. Check it out...

QUESTION: You started your creative career as a model. What initiated the move to behind the camera?

"I didn't have any control over my life and income. Every job I got was because I had the right look, not because I could offer something unique. This feeling doesn't give you much security for your future.

"I always envied the photographer: they got to make the decisions and direct the shoots. So I bought a medium format camera while in Tokyo and started shooting the other models.

I always envied the photographer, they got to make the decisions and direct the shoots.

"When I stopped modelling full-time I moved to New York, as I just love the city. But I'd never done that much modelling there so got a job bartending to keep my head above water financially. Through this and my modelling network I began to get commercial jobs and after a few years of doing both, I was finally able to stand on my own by just shooting."

QUESTION: The Starn twins work influenced you from an early age. What about their work had such an impact on you?

"I really liked the way they rearranged a photo by cutting it to pieces. It made me realise that what was in the picture didn't have to be the conclusion; it could be what you did with it that made it impressive."

Doug and Mike Starn are primarily known for their conceptual work with photography. The image above forms part of the twins' Attracted to Light series

QUESTION: What was your first job as a professional photographer?

"It was for Christie’s Auction House. I shot promotional pictures of the auction preview for their Post Impressionism exhibition. That sale went on to be the biggest-ever art auction in history, bringing in over half a billion dollars!

"I got the job mostly through word of mouth; ironically through the bar connections more than the modelling ones. When I was bartending, people would see me as someone who had another passion but was working in the bar to make money until the other career took off. Whereas people tend to see a model as just that: you're put in a box and it's hard to get out of that in people's minds.

The job was a good stepping stone for my new career.

Also, when you're bartending you're the keeper of alcohol, you're empowered. People want to impress that guy and are willing to make introductions for him. The job was a good stepping stone for my photography career and a nice client as it was a regular gig, which you need for financial independence."

QUESTION: How has your style developed over the years?

"I started out trying to be a fashion photographer because that's what I knew from my modelling days. But I began getting more still-life assignments and realised I was better at it and didn’t really care too much about fashion anyway.

"Slowly I began to realise it was more important to shoot pictures I wanted to see instead of images I though others would like. I think your own voice and aesthetic needs to come through your work for it to stand out."

QUESTION: Why do you prefer working with still-life?

"With still-life, I can have an image in my head, achieve it and then start pushing the envelope. Whereas with fashion, you have to compromise with so many variables – model, clothing, grooming and products you need to show because they took an ad out in the magazine!

I got fed up with fashion.

"I got fed up with fashion. It's perceived as 'oh so creative' but all anyone really cares about is pampering to the advertisers and showing their brands. There is so little room for experimentation and it was not what I wanted to be doing."

Hargreaves moved from fashion photography to still-life, due to the amount of artistic freedom the latter allowed him