London-based photographer Ronan McKenzie was born and raised in Walthamstow. After a brief spell at university which lasted a matter of weeks, Ronan dabbled with styling before finding her feet firmly behind the camera.
As Ronan carved out a reputation for diverse, authentic casting coupled with intimate portraiture, a succession of jobs with Vogue, Wonderland, American Apparel and SHOWStudio followed. Somehow, Ronan still found time for A Black Body — an exhibition at Dalston DIY art space Doomed Gallery — and to release a publication of her own. Titled Hard Ears, the hardback book, which came out earlier this year, totalled a hefty 300 pages with an equally weighty contributors list including fashion world don Nick Knight and brilliant emerging photographers like Ruth Ossai.
Outside the spotlight, Ronan has been quietly working on Girls, an ongoing personal project which stretches back into the days when she started snapping. “Girls are the first people I shot when I started taking photos,” Ronan tells us. “It was my friends getting dragged into it or my Mum never being able to escape a photo. I guess at the beginning it was natural for me to shoot girls, I had clothes to dress them up in and for some reason thought that they’d be easier to connect with. Now, two years on and less gender biased, I’m still so interested in shooting girls because as a young woman myself, there is an instinctive connection that I have to other women and I find it a powerful thing to be able to document them in my own way.”
The series, which is published for the first time on It’s Nice That, features a diverse cast of young women tied together by a near-visible thread of trust in the photographer. “I think within these photos, you can see that it’s important to me that my photos are honest, a true reflection of the person I’m shooting,” Ronan explains. “I hardly direct, I just like the girls to be themselves and take photos of whatever I see.”
“This idea of being natural and relatable is where my personal work connects with Hard Ears,” Ronan continues, tracing lines between the different strands of her work. “I wanted Hard Ears to be something that people feel is recognisable and understandable even within a stylised or curated context.”