Henry Hargreaves on Photographing Fashionable Food and Topless Models

Shocking the fashion industry, Henry Hargreaves traded the limelight for a key light when he decided to retire from modeling to pursue photography. Ten years later, he has accumulated enumerable followers who love his maverick style and unusual subject matter: food and females. Now he talks with ADC from his point of view behind the lens.

ADC: You started out as a model; what did you learn in front of the camera?

Henry: There aren’t so many bells and whistles and tricks to the whole game. The successful photographers were the ones who just created really good environments and had good ideas. People use a lot of jargon to make it seem a lot more complicated than it really is.

ADC: How did you finally start shooting?

Henry: In 2002, I bought my first medium format camera, and, basically, I was like, “Let’s do it!” I started shooting other models. We’d run around in these crazy locations in Tokyo, and I’d take pictures. That was the start of it all.

ADC: What was the most difficult thing in the beginning?

Henry: In the fashion world, I was still in that box of being a model and not being seen as a photographer or taken seriously as that.

ADC: I saw that you recently completed a 24-hour project, which was streamed on a Time Square billboard. Could you explain this project?

Henry: I worked with a regular collaborator, Sagmeister & Walsh (Jessica Walsh and Stefan Sagmeister). Their whole thing is often making sculptures out of typography, taking it beyond the page or the computer screen. The project was for the Adobe MAX typography. For some crazy reason, we decided that we wanted to execute all concepts within a 24-hour space.

Walsh brought me in as the photographer of choice. This is a cool project to get hired for because I always find that 99% of things you’re hired for, you never want to put in your portfolio—I personally don’t. I love doing this though.

ADC: Speaking of hired jobs, how do you select projects now?

Henry: For the last few years, I’ve been building towards making the project that I want to shoot and the hobbies that I want to be doing, also financially rewarding—ultimately, to get paid to do these things.

There’s a lot of a latitude in doing interesting things with products or for companies, which currently aren’t being done, and that’s where I’m pushing and starting to get hired for. A lot of that’s in the food category.

ADC: We see a food motif in your work and are stunned by the series No Seconds, a body of work in which you recreate last meals in inmates on death row. Why elevate food as subject matter in photography?

Henry: In the past, wherever I moved, I set myself up financially in restaurants. When I got to New York, I bartendered and managed a restaurant in the Lower East Side for three years, before I was actually able to make enough money taking pictures.

When I started to shoot, I very quickly turned my back on fashion. I liked dealing with food because it was really attainable, really cheap and everyone can kind of relate to it. It becomes a powerful ally to telling a story. I try to create pictures that I wish that I were looking at, too.

ADC: So Boobs in 3D (3DD)…

Henry: Exactly, that’s the perfect example of something that made me say, “Wow! Wouldn’t that be cool? Let’s do it myself.” The book comes with 3D aviators.

What was also cool about 3DD was that it legitimized me as a photographer in a lot of people’s eyes. To be a photographer—especially, a fairly unknown one like I was at that time—and have a publisher bankroll a book for you is a dream come true, and I did all these right before the whole 3D film wave kicked back in.

Actually, as we went around the publishing houses, I remembered having a little introductory sheet about the project, and I would announce, “And James Cameron’s new film is said to be in 3D, and rumor has it that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland will also be in 3D.” It was cool. Then about nine months after 3DD came out, TASCHEN released The Big Book of Breasts 3D. It was awesome to think, “I beat you guys to this by nine months!”

ADC: That leads me to another question, how you used medium, in terms of print versus online, to your advantage?

Henry: When I look at a photographer’s website, I’m often bored because I don’t see their ideas expressed. I decided that I would do the projects that I wished I was being asked to do and just feed them through my social media channels—whether it were presidents set in Jell-O or Damien Hirst paintings made out of M&M’s.

The internet is a level playing field. Things get attention because they are interesting and good, not because some shape-shifters in the industry give this person their papal blessings.

ADC: What are some of your new projects we can look forward to?

Henry: I’ve got a personal project, All of Band Riders, that’s just about to come out.

It depicts quirky request that musicians make. For instance, Axl Rose has a different, very different, relationship with Wonder Bread. I use food items as a common denominator to take your celebrities off these barriers because all Beyoncé really wants is deep-fried chicken with cayenne pepper before a show.

Check out Henry’s most up-to-date portfolio via facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. If his photographs make you hungry, he’s a partner in two restaurants you can check out. One of them is in SoHo; it’s called Jack’s Wife Freda. The other is in Williamsburg, and it’s called Saint Mazie.

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