That Eleanor Hardwick is a female photographer of twenty is perhaps all you know about the woman of the long brown locks and ethereal tainted style.
Snapping since she was a tween, her portrait has graced as many pages as her work, with the obvious details filling column space aplenty. But as she readily remarks, “It's just a part of who I am. People should stop talking about it by now and let the work speak for itself. “
She continues, “It upsets me. I once had an assistant talk to me at the end of the shoot for an hour about all the reasons why teenagers should go to university. I decided to work full time and ignore his advice, which is one of the best decisions of my life.”
Though it’s not without its plus points, as Eleanor confirms, “It (youth and gender) gives you a fresh perspective, especially if you are a commercial photographer. You know what the target market of young brands want.”
While it’s photography for which she is predominantly known, her full creative force covers film, music, illustration, writing and styling, many outlets of which she pours into her staff role at Rookie Mag, Tavi Gevinson’s monthly themed online platform for teenage girls.
With Gevinson the poster girl for the Rookie brand (her initial blog of the same name dealt primarily with fashion but matched the tone and ethos of the latter), Hardwick’s work is equally consumed by similar ideologies. Hardly surprising, given the two swapped emails from the beginning of their respective paths, that there was a natural inclination to collaborate.
“I always get a bit overwhelmed when I remember how excited I am to be part of Rookie,” Eleanor lets on. It’s a sense one assumes all those who contribute must feel, especially if you were ever a teenage girl yourself.
That same celebration of youth – both the perils and the positives – are part of what prompted Eleanor’s Twenty Thirteen exhibition in Dalston last December, for which she curated a group of 42 international female photographers work.
“I couldn't have been more thrilled with how the exhibition went,” she says of the group love in. “I really wanted to just have this celebration of girl love, this documentation of teen hood by real young artists. The thing that made me happiest was the hope of just inspiring more young girls to do it, and opening the eyes of the industry, whose pace I feel is slower than the speed at which these young artists are developing.”
While she’s all for round two, her attention today is focused on the first: “I'm still running on the hype from the last one. I want the afterglow of that to have its moment for a little longer before I think about the next one.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t have another event in the pipeline, hardly, our interview falls just weeks prior to the third Chapel Perilous, the latest in a series of multimedia events put on by Hardwick and her frequent collaborator, Alex Moon-Age.
Taking place in Peckham (check out the Facebook page here), Eleanor tells, “We wanted to make an event that was sensitive to sound artists' intentions for how they present their work. The idea is that the performers are in control of their environment, by combining different mediums and senses (or alternatively, numbing all senses except sound) to create a world that the audience can become a part of, rather than the audience being a voyeur, looking on at a song being performed with no context.”
Her own band, Moonbow, are on the line up, set to perform a piece called ‘Evaporation/Equilibrium’; “It deals with the concept of the set list literally sounding like water evaporating as it develops. The idea deals a lot with the transformation of one opposite into another: water into air, female into male, audience into performer, and exploring the unknown space between those opposites to find some sort of balance and equality. I'd say it's a feminist multimedia piece.”
Unlike her other projects, music was the first that made her doubt herself, as she specifies, “The fear I had that crippled me from wanting to take up music is nothing I have ever experienced in other mediums. I felt like you had to be good and knowledgeable before you even began to do it, whereas all other forms of art I had made up as I went along.”
She pinpoints the gender imbalance of the industry as a focal point for these feelings, and is proud of the perfectly inclusive line up for Chapel Perilous, while she identifies Kate Bush as the catalyst for her having a go.
“Did you know that Bush was only 19 years old when she wrote ‘Wuthering Heights’? AND she was the first female solo artist to get a number one in the UK that she had written herself... It was the late seventies. It shocks me how slow the industry can be on representing gender, age and race properly.”
As International Women’s Day falls tomorrow, why does she think that today, in 2014, it’s so important such an event exists?
“Because there is still inequality (even if it is whitewashed) and the right to vote is not the be all and end all of women's rights. I think it is positive to have a day to celebrate, but also to remember that that there is still an unbalance of male versus female power.”
2013 saw Eleanor pour her thoughts into a collage of women who inspire her, this year’s additions? Malala Yousafzai, Dylan Farrow, Lorde, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Saoirse Ronan, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Tracey Emin and Ana Mendieta.
As for her portfolio, she’d love to work with Grimes and FKA Twigs, plus any labels spelt ‘Topshop’, ‘Miu Miu’, ‘Comme des Garcons’ or ‘Dr. Martens’; “Creative fashion brands aimed at a young audience.”
But it’s not (quite) all girl power, Eleanor is a consistent collaborator of Meadham Kirchhoff, whose two male designers she describes thus: “They ignore what they ‘should’ be doing and approach with complete lack of inhibition, and to me that is pure and creates something really special, and also both timeless and relevant, which is the ultimate achievement in creating art and fashion.”
Not far off from her own course then.
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Tracks picked by Eleanor.