Books: Jamies Hawkesworth Looks at the British Isles

By David Schonauer   Tuesday September 14, 2021

Jamie Hawkesworth is a self-taught photography.

And the way he taught himself was by catching trains to different spots in Britain and asking people on the street if they would pose for him. “I came to photography quite late, and I realized that if I just walk the streets and ask people to take their portraits, there are so many people that I’m going to learn how to use my camera really quickly,” he recently told AnOther, which spotlighted his new book The British Isles. It features images dating from the earliest days of his photography career in 2007 to 2020.

After learning his craft, Hawkesworth went on to have an acclaimed career. “Hawkesworth’s work has permeated the worlds of photography and fashion: his celebrated book Preston Bus Station was published in 2015, he’s held solo exhibitions in London and beyond, and collaborated with brands like Alexander McQueen, JW Anderson, Loewe and Miu Miu,” noted AnOther. He’s also shot for Vogue and The New York Times. But a couple of years ago, he began thinking about the images his earlier work.

 I realized that I’d never really looked at what I’d taken in Great Britain,” he said. “They were all just kept in a box.” While the work in some cases shows his development as a photographer, it “the far-reaching collection is recognizably Hawkesworth, with the hazy warmth and sun-drenched palette he’s known for,” noted AnOther.

The Guardian
recently described Hawkesworth’s fashion photography as “a defiantly traditional merging of documentary and street portraiture.”

“On first glance,,” noted writer Sean O’Hagan, “his pictures can often appear casual, even mundane, but they are informed by an acute attention to light and color, as well as a quietly observant eye. He uses an analogue film camera – a Mamiya RB67 mounted on a tripod – and spends long hours in a darkroom making his own prints. The results tend towards the everyday sublime: ordinary people bathed in warm, natural light; landscapes rendered almost romantic through his fondness for deeply hued reds, greens and browns.”

That sensibility seeps through the work in his new book. “For my personal work, I tend to set myself tasks,” the photographer told O’Hagan. “In this instance, it was simply, let’s see what Hartlepool is about, or Hastings, or South Shields. There was no agenda other than traveling to places I had never been to.”

“Looking through the book in the context of the last year and a half, the compelling portraits and beautiful landscapes take on a new poignancy, as Britain has collectively navigated the pandemic,” noted AnOther.

“I did some key worker portraits in the middle of the pandemic – three of them are in the book – and that gave the project extra energy which I think it really needed to take shape,” Hawkesworth said. But, added The Guardian, he is wary of my suggestion that his book is “a portrait of Britain at a particularly turbulent, self-searching, time,” notes The Guardian.

“I guess it cannot help be that,” he said, “but it is also a book about someone walking around Britain taking pictures. For me, there is really no bigger meaning, which is why I didn’t contextualize the work. There are no captions or names or locations, which leaves a lot of space around the portraits for people to bring their own interpretations to them.”


  1. Carlotta Boettcher commented on: September 14, 2021 at 1:22 p.m.
    Wonderful images, love the photographers thoughts and comments as well. Beautiful!

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