Creative meditations from Jamie Hawkesworth and Hannah Buckman

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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