Literary Orphans

Interview with Sarah Hardy

1. What sparked your interest in photography, and when did you know you would pursue being an artist?

Photography started off as a bi-product of travel for me really- I photographed my experiences of new places and found out it was something that I loved to do. The feedback I got from posting these photos on Facebook was what spurred me on to pursue it more seriously and it gradually grew from there. I’m not at a place where I can make a living from it right now, but I’m hoping eventually that’s where it’ll end up.

2. What other artists and art forms have influenced you and your work?

Artists I admire are the likes of Mucha and Schiele, who I guess were complete opposites in their work- Mucha with his intricately detailed prettiness and Schiele’s gritty and sometimes (somehow) ugly beauty. It’s the same with photographers I admire- it varies so much. Like right now I’m following the Humans of New York blog, I’m sure you’ve heard of it- Brandon Stanton takes photos of people he meets in the city and asks them a couple of questions which he records alongside their picture. It’s such a simple idea but it’s brilliant- I’ve been brought close to tears reading these people’s advice many a time! And then I love the work of Thomas Devaux- I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful his images are- check him out!

3. Can you describe your current artistic process, habits, techniques you have formed?

I can’t say I’ve noticed any process or habits that I’ve formed yet, although I’m sure they’re there. When I travel and photograph people, I try to notice when I back away from taking a photograph out of shyness or fear- then I try to force myself to do it anyway, and these often become my favourite photos- the ‘out of my comfort zone ones’.
I also really enjoy the editing side of photography- I use Lightroom for the moment as I haven’t had the gumption to face learning the ins and outs of Photoshop just yet. I’m moving to Texas later this year and once the hurdles of getting there are behind me I intend to focus on the areas like Photoshop that I haven’t delved into so far. I’d also really like to start shooting with analogue and processing my own film. Future projects!

4. Is storytelling important in your photography?

I’d like it to be, yes- but I find I can’t force it. Sometimes people seem to get something out of a photograph I’ve taken that I couldn’t have anticipated – for example, a good friend of mine recently contacted me to thank me for sending her a photo I had taken of her and her dad. She said she cried (a happy cry) when she first saw it and that it was like I had captured his life in his face. I feel that he deserves credit for this more than I do, but those kind of reactions are what convince me that I’m on the right track.

5. What are some of your favorite books, poems, authors?

My favourite book is probably Le Grand Meaulnes (The Wanderer or The End of Youth) by French author Alain-Fournier. I recently read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts for the first time and it became a contender for the title too. The author that I go back to all the time and re-read is Haruki Murakami- especially Norweigan Wood and Kafka on the Shore. His effortless style of writing is pure magic to me. I also can’t get enough of Charles Bukowski (there’s that grit and ugly beauty again).

6. Can you put into words the way you have evolved over time as a photographer?

I never studied photography, it’s just something that I slowly started to learn and practise with the help of friends and the internet. I still have an outrageous amount to learn, which can be quite intimidating but also exciting. When I started I think a lot of my successful shots were moreso lucky shots- whereas now I feel that I know more of what I wsih to achieve in a shot, and set it up accordingly rather than hope for the best. And my confidence is also something I’ve noticed evolve. There’s always still a wee bit of doubt and fear hiding in the background, but I think that helps to keep me on my toes.

7. Where do you turn for motivation and new sources of inspiration?

Travel would be my main source of inspiration and I haven’t been doing a lot of that lately, but plans are being brewed so hopefully soon. Some days I manage to find the same motivation at home in Ireland as I do when abroad and I’ll wander around with my camera as if I’m a visitor. I love them days and they give me a refreshed appreciation of how beautiful home really is.
I also spend a lot of time looking at other people’s work on the likes of Pinterest and Instagram and find these very inspirational.

8. Discuss the role of community and gallery showings, etc to your growth as an artist.

I haven’t had any gallery showings, but oddly enough 5 of my photos were featured in a travelling exhibition in Bulgaria last year. I’m a member of the Couch Surfing community and stayed with this lovely couple in Sofia a few years ago. The lady later went on to organise this exhibition all over Bulgaria and asked me if I wouldn’t mind being featured…sure why not!
Then last year a photo I had taken in Cuba (of two wonderfully wrinkly ladies) won The Irish Times Travel Photographer of the Year as part of the amateur awards- that was a great boost for me and got me a nice bit of publicity.

9. What do you think is more important for your craft: passion, dedication, or raw talent and can you elaborate on why?

I think a combination of all three, but passion foremost. Mostly because I can see the lack of passion in some of my photographs on days when I’m not fully feeling it- and no amount of determination or talent can compensate for that lack, for me anyway.

10. What is a project, or theme you are currently working on, or something that is currently taking your attention, that you are aiming to explore in your work?

After the success of the Cuban ladies photo, I was half toying with the idea of doing a series to do with elderly friends, but it’s just an idea. I really prefer candid shooting and I guess my interests right now aren’t very structured, but that could just be me staying in that comfort zone again… I’m planning on a short trip to South East Asia this summer so that might create some project opportunities…we’ll see!