The 15 year old’s interest in photography began by taking simple pictures of her dolls and has quickly grown into work that seems to be years beyond her age. A refreshing change from the Nan Goldin / Terry Richardson imitators that plague modern photography, the beautifully innocent subject matter and the stunning quality of her photos create an impressive high watermark for other aspiring 15 year old photographers to live up to.
Interview with Dazed Digital:
Dazed Digital: When did you first start taking photographs?
Eleanor Hardwick: In early 2006 I became interested in collecting Japanese fashion dolls. I discovered a number of fellow collectors of these dolls online who took photos of them, and then I discovered Flickr.com. From then onwards a doll and a camera were attached to my side wherever I went. I took photos of my dolls in situations, which included anything from a little set up in the garden to taking them to see the sights in different cities and countries. Throughout this time, I also took photos of myself, or of the little things I noticed in the world around me, but otherwise it was not until autumn 2007 when I became specifically interested in portraiture. I found particular joy in capturing something alive, and I found that the more effort I put into taking photos, the more I enjoyed it.
DD: Why photography?
EH: When I was younger, I had always thought that drawing would be my direction in life. Whenever there was paper near by I would scribble away, and I still do, however I never really knew where I wanted to take my art. I still was not sure where life would take me when I first became interested in photography, yet when I discovered the thrill I got from working in portraiture, I knew it was something I really enjoyed. Something I love about photography is that you can arrange a set up in front of you, and the set up is real, however, when you have taken a photo of this set up, you realise that the photo has created a whole different world. Unlike drawing, photos can create things that aren’t real, yet they tell things exactly how they are, and I love that.
DD: You seem to use a variety of digital/analogue equipment to take your pictures – what cameras do you use and what sort of digital retouching techniques do you use?
EH: When I first started taking photos, I used a 4-megapixel point and shoot, but in Christmas 2007 I knew that if I wanted my photography to improve, I had to purchase a digital SLR. A lot of extremely talented members on Flickr owned the Canon EOS 400d, and so I thought it a good choice. It may not be the most expensive DSLR on the shelf, but my camera follows me everywhere. I have since bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens for my camera, and I refuse to take it off of the camera! However, in addition to using the 400D, I also enjoy using my Polaroid land camera and Fujifilm Instax. Since I was young, I had always wanted an instant film camera – and I in fact own five now, but only use two due to lack of funds for the film! In terms of editing techniques, I use Photoshop CS3 to edit my photos. I often use selective colour, curve and contrast techniques to create a soft, vintage feel to my photos. For my more surreal work, I have learnt to use layer masks to add and remove people and objects.
DD: How do you come up with concepts for your shoots?
EH: I think the main thing that inspires my shoots is what most would call “household junk.” I love to buy bizarre props from Charity Sales to use for my shoots – these props can vary from motorcycle helmets, to typewriters to bridesmaid’s dresses. I have recently grown fond of using furniture people throw out. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a discarded bath outside a home, perfect for a shoot, and approached the owner to ask if I could have it for a shoot, and they were thrilled that the old bath would be of some use. Aside from these objects and furniture pieces, I often feel inspired by various concepts including literature, gravity and puns. I have done several shoots based on Alice in Wonderland and Shakespeare.
DD: When did you start uploading your photos onto Flickr?
EH: I joined Flickr when I started my doll collecting so that I could upload my doll photos and holiday snapshots. Most of the contacts I met on there were fellow doll collectors, although I did meet a number of portraiture photographers in my early days too. I love flickr because I have met so many close friends on there, and without the support everyone has given me, I’m certain I would have lost interest in photography and dropped the camera in a dusty corner years ago.
DD: You have a lot of commentors – how did that build up?
EH: I would say that since the beginning of 2008 I have certainly gained much more popularity on flickr than I had in the past. This year my interest in portraiture photography grew more than ever, and I learned to put the effort in to create the ideas bursting in my head. I take photos the same as I wake up in the morning or brush my teeth, it is just something that comes naturally to me, as if my whole life is one photo shoot. I know that to make it in the photography industry, I have to be dedicated and passionate about the subject, and I think my increase in these factors this year is what has increased my popularity too.
DD: Who/what/where would you most like to shoot?
EH: My dream shoot would be in abandoned hospital or in a huge Marie-Antoinette palace with a model like Gemma Ward, Natasha Galkina, Twiggy or Scarlet Johansson. I love dreamy, feminine shoots, but at the same time I have a love for moody, cinematic photography. I think if I had the money and the reputation, I would be as outrageous as I could possibly be. I’ve always wanted to do elaborate set ups of houses in swimming pools, though obviously, a fourteen year old girl would struggle to get hold of a pool to fill with furniture and willing models, not to mention the underwater camera equipment.
DD: What is your ultimate ambition?
EH: My ultimate ambition would be able to walk down the street and notice my photography on a billboard, or to open an issue of Vogue and stumble upon a shoot of mine amongst its glossy pages. I would love to be able to show my work in exhibitions around the world and share my passion with everyone. I am ambitious, but I am also prepared to work for it. I cannot imagine my future without photography in it.