Photographer, founder of Brick magazine and one of It’s Nice That’s 2016 Ones to Watch, Hayley Louisa Brown has had what might just be — in work terms — her strongest year yet. As 2016 slides to an end, Ace & Tate have announced her as the second recipient of their Creative Fund, a scheme through which emerging creatives are given the means to pursue projects which might otherwise remain in the realm of pipe dreams. It’s Nice That met up with Hayley in Amsterdam during a day of creative talks hosted by Ace & Tate in a white-walled canal-side gallery to chat about where the Ace & Tate Creative Fund has taken her so far.
Working as a commercial photographer, a few years ago, Hayley found that what she had once imagined would be her “dream” job was slowly becoming as monotonous as the most mundane desk job. “It wasn’t really what I wanted to do anymore,” she admits. “I felt really ungrateful for being miserable when I was doing this job that I’ve wanted to do since I was younger. I was just getting up in the morning, having to shoot and dreading it so much. I was going [to shoots] like it was my office job and taking all these pictures that meant nothing to me.” Hayley ended up feeling so detached from her photography work that she almost gave it up altogether, instead focusing on her personal project turned full-time job Brick, 2016’s answer to iconic hip hop magazine The Source.
“I basically didn’t touch my camera for almost a year from when I decided not to do commercial stuff anymore. I didn’t have the urge to take pictures apart from taking them for Brick when I couldn’t find another photographer in time to do it,” she says. But after completing the first issue, something brought her back. “After I finished the first issue of Brick my friend Andrew and I went to LA for a week. I’ve always shot on medium format, and I borrowed a 35mm Nikon from my friend Ben. I was just taking pictures and not thinking about it, and then I got the contacts back and I was like ‘Oh, I like these!’ And I hadn’t had that feeling of happiness and excitement looking at pictures I’ve taken for such a long time and getting that love for it back was a real turning point for me.”
“I was shooting personal work for the first time in forever. Now that I wasn’t having to take pictures any more [for commercial work], I found a whole new way of shooting.” That borrowed Nikon changed how Hayley saw medium format photography, taking it from something “very considered and heavy, something you needed to do on a tripod”, to something easy and accessible. “It made me realise that there were other ways of taking pictures”, she says.
In June of this year, Hayley read about the Ace & Tate Creative Fund on It’s Nice That and one project sprung to mind immediately. ”I’d wanted to go to Graceland and Memphis forever, and it was always one of those things where I’d thought I was going to save up a bunch of money and go for a few months and take a load of pictures of people at Graceland. But life gets in the way, and all the money that I had went into doing Brick. After reading about the fund it seemed serendipitous.” Ace & Tate liked the idea, and set to work in helping Hayley realise the project.
“It’s one of those places that I’ve always put on a pedestal. I’ve always had a real interest in Elvis as a figure of popular culture and how he’s still a thing now.” Hayley wanted to revisit how people saw both Graceland, and to explore Elvis’ legacy, particularly among a new generation of young fans. “The only pictures that you ever see of it are pictures from auction catalogues or really staged beautiful pictures that they’ve had taken for the website. Being there was like adding a third dimension to this 2-D idea of what I thought it would be like.”
Since she got back to the UK, Hayley has been editing the pictures and looking at ways to build the project. Now, she wants to do a book, an exhibition — and, naturally, return to Graceland.
The Ace & Tate Creative Fund continues to look out for interesting projects to fund in the future, you can apply here.
About the Author
Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.