Photographer Paris Hawken
Photographer Paris Hawken has just taken out the 2014 AIPP Western Australian Student Photographer of the Year Award. In her final year of studies and with a return to Margaret River in mind, we had a few questions for her…
Congrats on your win! Tell us a little about the images you submitted.
The image of the girl with the stick wreath (below) is based on the goddess Demeter, and is from a series I’m currently working on about Greek mythology. Demeter presides over the fertility of the earth and the cycle of life and death, and I’ve represented this in my image through the contrast of dead and alive leaves. We had this old stick wreath lying around in the house which my dad made years ago, and for me it was the perfect way to represent the cycle of life and death of the earth. I wanted a model who looked very pure and natural, and luckily my friend Jessie is just that. She is the most beautiful creature and brought the photo to life for me.
The image of the little girl in front of the door (below) is based on the character Mary Lennox from one of my favourite novels, The Secret Garden, a British novel from the 19th century. I wanted to lay out the clues with this image, which to me are the key around her neck and the doorknob. So at first when you look at it you see a beautiful little girl and this old, weathered door, but if you dig a little deeper you can put together the story.
I got the idea for the ghost image (above) when I was reading Game of Thrones a couple of months ago. In one particular scene one of the characters is imagining all of the ghosts of the dead kings he has served floating beside him in the dark, and the scene I conjured up in my head really caught me so I had to translate it into a photo. I spent a couple of weeks developing the idea further, and then I decided to make it an image about a mother and daughter and the relationship they share, in particular the relationship I share with my mum. To me, the photo represents the fact that whilst I currently live three hours away from mum so she’s not physically next to me, she is still there for me. I put my little dog in the image (with some bribery) to keep the ‘ghost’ aspect of the image alive for the viewers, and the horse shoe represents a horse that we lost earlier in the year. As this was a self portrait, I shot myself first using a remote control, then shot my mum separately and then my dog, to create a composite image.
Where are you studying?
I’m studying my Advanced Diploma in Photography, a three year course at the Central Institute of Technology in Perth. The course covers a range of topics like business, studio, products etc. Our big project for the year is to produce a series of images that showcase our style as photographers, which will be exhibited in November. My series is conceptual portraiture based on Greek gods and goddesses.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about your background.
I was brought up in Margaret River and was always outside growing up, either at the beach, riding our horses or just going on bush walks. My parents are very creative people so as a little girl I was always making something or drawing. My upbringing has really influenced my style of photography as an adult, I definitely base a lot of my photos around nature or the ocean.
How did you become interested in photography?
I discovered my love for photography when I took it as a subject at Margaret River Senior High School a few years ago. For one of the assessments I decided to take a portrait of my dad, who is a pretty out there kind of guy. I sat down with him at the time, and he just started telling me these stories and I just kept snapping away (had no idea what I was doing with the camera back then) but ended up getting some really engaging shots of him that just drew you in and made you want to know more about who he was and what his story was. I thought that was really cool, being able to visually engage people like that and it’s just snowballed from there.
Do you have a favourite type of photography?
Definitely people and portraits. I love faces and the stories you can bring out of them by playing around with the light and engaging with the subject. I shoot a few conceptual portraits to challenge myself, so creating a portrait based around an idea and then communicating that idea through symbolism, etc… I like shooting these in studio as the lighting is so crucial to the mood so I find I want to completely control it. I also love just getting an interesting or beautiful friend and going for a wander with them at the beach or in the bush. This is the ultimate creative outlet for me, I don’t go out with any plans or shot lists or pressure, I just see shots as I go, getting my inspiration from the environment I’m in. Because I’m a very visual person I know that all of the work I produce will be very aesthetically beautiful, so I like to give my images depth by having a story to the image, whether that’s through a character or an idea as I don’t want to just make pretty pictures. I like making the viewers think about what they’re looking at.
Any fun or interesting anecdotes from your photography work or studies so far?
Lots of people have been asking me lately how I got my little model Willow from my Secret Garden image to have such a sad and deep expression, as it really kicked them in the gut. Willow was genuinely that sad in the moment I captured that image, because she had to stay with me and take photos and have her hair blown around her face and lights flashing at her, when her brother got to go to the park instead… When you’re five years old that’s a pretty huge deal. It always makes me laugh when they ask how I got her to act like that, because it was just a 100% real expression.
What other interests do you have? Do these influence your photography?
I couldn’t live without the ocean or nature, and so these definitely play a big part in the images I create. I also have a deep interest in history, particularly 17th/18th century England and Ancient Greece. I love the old clothing, the settings, the lighting and the stories and so these factors have a big influence on my photography. Most of all I think it’s the feelings that can be evoked from creating such old wordly images, and the mysterious stories.
Tell us about the gear you use.
I shoot with Canon gear. My go to kit would be my EOS 5D MkIII and my 50mm f1.4L lens. That lens allows me to create really intimate portraits, because of it’s field of view and it’s sharpness. I used to always shoot with natural light only, but in the last couple of years I’ve pushed myself to learn other lighting techniques so I could do some different work. Now I will often use my Speedlites for off camera flash on location, subtly blending the two or more light sources. It suits a lot of the more old worldly style I like. I still shoot with natural light a lot, but it’s great to be able to utilise a specific lighting technique to compliment a mood I want to create.
What’s in the future for Paris Hawken Photography?
After I graduate, my goal is to head home to Margaret River to start creatively shooting people in one capacity or another. I’ll be hoping to hold some small exhibitions of my work in Margaret River in 2015 as well, so watch this space.
Best place to find your work?
You can check out some more of my work at www.parishawkenphotography.com.au, follow my work on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/parishawkenphotography or see my little photo stories on my blog at http://www.parishawkenphotography.blogspot.com.au.