Psychological diggings and photography adventures: Creative meditations from Jamie Hawkesworth and Hannah Buckman
Jamie Hawkesworth and Hannah Buckman take to the online stage for July’s Nicer Tuesdays. Read more about our key learnings below.
At July’s Nicer Tuesdays Online, we were lucky enough to hear from acclaimed photographer Jamie Hawkesworth and the truly original illustrator Hannah Buckman. Exploring notions of Home on the last Tuesday evening of the summer month, we kicked off the evening with an insightful 10 minute talk from Hannah followed by an inspiring Q&A with Jamie. Both artists delved into the theme in their own way; Hannah discussing issues of identity and the domestic setting that infiltrate the undercurrents of her beautiful editorial illustration. On the other hand, Jamie took us through his new book The British Isles published by Mack; a project that’s been 13 years in the making, taking us on a tour of the London-based photographer’s home country in a ravishing display of portrait and documentary photography.
In an engrossing hour of creative talks diving into the practice of two of the best names in the business, July’s Nicer Tuesdays provided us with two fascinating creative evolutions. Hannah took us through her illustrative investigations thus far, touching on commissions from some of the biggest names in publishing and a stylistic foray from digital to analogue. Next up was Jamie who provided a comprehensive overview of his practice as well as his latest release. Telling us about his unusual path into photography (which all started as a student of forensic science) he explained the importance of spontaneity in his practice and why he doesn’t like to have a particular agenda when taking photos. Read more about what we learnt at July’s Nicer Tuesdays below.
Jamie Hawkesworth: Image from The British Isles (Mack, 2021). Courtesy of the artist and Mack.
Copyright © Hannah Buckman, 2021
A whistle stop tour from the digital to physical with illustrator Hannah Buckman
You may know Hannah Buckman from her editorial work featured by some of the biggest names in publishing from The Guardian to gal-dem and The New York Times. At July’s Nicer Tuesdays, we went behind the scenes of her original practice, where Hannah discussed the challenges of being a freelance illustrator as well as the underlying themes in her figurative work. Having graduated from Camberwell College of Arts in 2015, Hannah didn’t feel that confident in her work at the time, leading her to take a break from drawing for about a year.
But when she saw an open call for women of colour illustrators on gal-dem, she swiftly applied and, in turn, gained a boost of confidence. The acclaimed publication took her under its wing, allowing Hannah to flourish and creatively develop over the next year with the flurry of live briefs. During her talk, the illustrator navigated us through a couple of notable projects while working closely with gal-dem – a commission for the Home issue, for example – and explained her thought process behind her thoughtful compositions. Looking to film for inspiration in this particular project, Hannah reinterpreted scenes as a way of “subvert[ing] the idea that only white people in TV and film are allowed to have nuanced or developed storylines.”
Taking us on a whistle stop tour of other commissions to date and the concept feeding into the visuals, Hannah then opened up a new chapter of her creative journey which began in 2019 after enrolling in The Royal Drawing School. “I wanted to learn how to use physical materials again,” she said, reflecting on how her practice had become immersed in digital media and Photoshop, causing her to “churn things out a bit.” Resultantly questioning the value and integrity of what she was doing (“why am I drawn to creating more of this stuff?”), Hannah told us how she’s been pushing her practice further both technically and conceptually, while also commenting on pressing societal issues at the same time.
To conclude her talk, Hannah answered several questions from the audience, digging into her artistic inspirations; the psychological root of some of her ideas; the mediums she’d like to investigate in the future; how she knows something is finished; and how she illustrates themes or topics that aren’t necessarily visual or tangible.
Jamie Hawkesworth on the importance of spontaneity in his photography practice
Having come to photography in rather unusual circumstances – through forensic science – Jamie Hawkesworth has developed a truly unique photographic point of view. It’s a topic that the photographer dove in head first during July’s Nicer Tuesdays. In a comprehensive Q&A with our editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah, Jamie explained how photography first captured his attentions (“I realised that if I just hit the streets I could quickly learn about photography and how to use my camera”), indulging in the spirit of getting out the house and really learning how to take photos back in 2007.
Taking us back to the very beginning of his creative journey, and how he discovered photography through capturing forensic evidence in mock scenarios while studying, Jamie revealed his fascination with the art form and how it quickly came to occupy his life. His love for photography developed out of the tactile joy of making something with his hands, giving Jamie an excuse to be curious as well as an excuse to go to places and “do things you wouldn’t normally be able to do.”
With a distinctly spontaneous approach to photography, Jamie talked us through why he prefers to practice spontaneity in his photography and why, for him, researching a subject too much can actually be a bad thing. “There’s such a lightness to not having an idea [about a place],” he said on the night. Preferring to document a location without having a preconception behind it, Jamie absorbs himself in the excitement of ‘the journey’ and what he might come across when there is no particular agenda. This is the fundamental ethos underlying The British Isles, exploring what’s on our doorstep through a photographic adventure full of endless possibilities.
Taking pictures of subjects and people he never thought he would come across, Jamie’s new book is testament to his spontaneous creative ideology, where he would literally go down to a train station, arbitrarily pick a random location and make his way there. “I was so surprised how little I knew about the British Isles,” Jamie reveals. The project put a fire in his belly to explore the country he calls home. Directing us through some of the most spectacular locations he documented in the 13-year-long documentary project – from the Outer Hebrides to Newcastle and Bridge End in Wales – Jamie discussed the value of stepping out of a train station and discovering a compositional wonder. Whether it’s a boy with a cool haircut or a group of girls with incredible outfits standing on a pier.
Jamie went on to talk about how the 13-year project culminated in this new book, which involved “a natural process” of examining the portraits he’d taken and realising it was a body of work on the British Isles. “If you’re curious in the now, themes will naturally come about as the portraits taken will be in the moment,” he said. Rounding up his fascinating Nicer Tuesdays talk with a few questions from the audience delving into Jamie’s repertoire of greatest hits thus far, Jamie then concluded with a tribute to the people he chooses to photograph, and how their portraits age over the years: “The most ordinary person, given a bit of time, can become extraordinary.”
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