Harley Weir is an extraordinary talent. Her work is bold and unreserved, whether it be part of a personal project investigating the border between Israel and Palestine, a vibrant fashion editorial for the likes of British Vogue, or a series of ethereal portraits capturing redheads with all of the eerie stillness of Millais’ Ophelia.
She might be at her best however when she is given an ambiguous concept and allowed to run riot with it, as was the case for i-D magazine’s Beautiful Issue, in a shoot styled by the wonderfully talented Julia Sarr-Jamois. ”It was vague,” Harley explained when we asked her about her brief, “but to explore snogging.” And explore snogging she did.
Beauty comes into play in unexpected ways in the series, although “it’s really integral” to her practice, Harley explains. “A lot of my work is about exaggerating those mundane elements in life, making them beautiful and so allowing people to take notice. In this story I wanted to hold up a mirror to the grotesqueness of young desire. Trends are so evident in fashion and I find it interesting to think about what people find appealing. Piercings, hairstyles, make up, and then those cryptic things that we don’t understand, like the wrongness of want.”
It came as a given, then, that her pursuit of beauty in unexpected places led the team to unexpected models too. “Most of the subjects are people I know that I find interesting, and who are game enough to be cheeky on camera,” Harley explains. With one exception though – “Lorna was found on the day. I’m so glad I met her, she’s my Dutch painting.”
"A lot of my work is about exaggerating those mundane elements in life, making them beautiful and so allowing people to take notice. In this story I wanted to hold up a mirror to the grotesqueness of young desire."Harley Weir
“My favourite image is the pierced orchid,” Harley continues. “Firstly because I like how it relates to the shoot, the hideousness and beauty of piercings, in some ways destroying the flower, and in other ways heightening its sex. Secondly, because I had a moment when I went in search of the ring in deepest dankest Scotland. A guy in a tattoo parlour gave it to me for for free as he was a fan of the band Psychic TV and their song Orchids. The shot is an homage to their album cover, and it was so lovely to meet someone so far away that knew exactly what I was on about.”
The resulting feature involves some startlingly beautiful subjects, a whole bunch of saliva and a selection of those almost tangible textures that Harley has made her trademark. It’s an enticing combination, and one that’s right at home in i-D.