“Art education still baffles me, but I’m glad I trusted my gut instinct,” says photography graduate Charlie Hitchen, and so are we. It takes a certain kind of eye for a photographer to turn his lens on the iconic and perpetually bustling Coney Island fairground during its rare near-deserted moments, and one of the things we love most about Charlie’s work is how it manages to remain surprisingly human despite being almost exclusively unpeopled. One of our It’s Nice That Graduates, not only has Charlie built a beautiful body of work during his three years at Manchester School of Art, but he’s learned what works and what doesn’t work for him. Here, he talks us through carving out his niche and the new art collective he’s starting with friends.
“I’ve had a good laugh but it’s also been bloody hard work at the same time,” he says of his time at university. “There have been more than a few times where I’ve been sure that I would fail. If you’re coming to art school because you think it’s a doddle then my advice to you would be don’t bother.”
His most recent work, and what he considers his best project to date, England is Mine, It Owes Me a Living, didn’t start as a project at all. In fact, Charlie describes his melancholy photographs of down-at-heel or overlooked corners of Manchester as an anti-project, something that reflects the solitude of his image-making. “I was getting really stressed out and frustrated trying to find a solid, straightforward, clear project to work on when it got to the point where I hadn’t taken a single photograph for months. I realised then that I needed to focus on myself and not some daft project that I’d plucked out of thin air for the sake of my degree,” he explains. “ England Is Mine… is a kind of self-reflection and realisation about the actual way that I make images and the way that I work.”
"There have been more than a few times where I’ve been sure that I would fail. If you’re coming to art school because you think it’s a doddle then my advice to you would be don’t bother.”Charlie Hitchen
Although it has been equally important to finding his feet as a photographer, Charlie describes his dabbling in portraiture as less successful. “My worst project would have to be when I somehow decided I was going to photograph the enthusiast clubs of Britain,” he says. “There have been a few times where I have tried my hand at portraiture and I’ve realised now that it’s not for me. Was I poking fun at these people? Was I jumping on my artist’s high horse and degrading them?”
When we asked him to name the one person he’d like to show his portfolio to, his answer was refreshingly down to earth. “I want to say some acclaimed, high profile artist or photographer but in reality I think I would rather just show it to a likeminded person with a genuine interest and a head full of brilliant ideas.”
For Charlie, the most important lesson he’s learned is to trust his instincts. “Deciding on art school at a young age was what made me realise this,” he tells us. “If I was deciding now I think that the sensibilities that come with getting older (even if it is only three years!) would have set in and I would be studying something far more realistic. Thank you, irrational teenage mind.”
So what does the young photographer dream about for the future? “Some friends and I are starting an art collective as a kind of melting pot for all our ideas, so I’d love to see that be a success and for us to be at the forefront of a new and exciting art scene in Manchester.” Keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground.
We are very pleased that The It’s Nice That Graduates 2015 will once again be supported by Represent Recruitment. The graphic and digital design recruitment specialists have developed a peerless reputation working with designers of all levels and matching them up with the right positions in some of the top agencies around. Represent’s support has helped us grow the Graduate scheme over recent years and we are thrilled they have partnered with us again in 2015.