Success is Ageless
At only 23, photographer Owen Harvey has already begun a prosperous career, winning the Magnum Showcase in 2012. He was also shortlisted for the Magnum Photos 2013 award, Cream graduate showcase, and the Athens Photo Festival. Harvey’s early success has created a path that will surely lead him to great things in the photography world and beyond. I spoke with the London-based photographer about his life and his passion for documentary and fashion photography.
At what age did you become interested in photography? How did you become interested in photography and how did that interest develop?
I became interested in photography at around the age of 17, after seeing Trent Parke and Eugene Smith’s work. I was playing music beforehand, and I felt that I wanted to do something new but still creative. I felt photography was exciting, as it was just me and my camera, and if things weren’t going the way I wanted I only had myself to blame. I guess I became interested in photography really from being a bit of a control freak.
What is your inspiration?
Music a lot of the time and a range of photographers that I think produce amazing work. I could list a lot of photographers, but my all time favourite would be Trent Parke.
What is your favourite subject matter to photograph?
Young people and the idea of identity.
What photographers have influenced your work?
Trent Parke, Eugene Richards, Larry Clarke, Antoine D’Agata, and also a lot of fashion work that I find exciting. I’m very much into both documentary and fashion work.
What do you hope to convey through photography to viewers?
That depends on the subject that I am shooting really. As long as I feel something from the images and believe it will make the viewer feel an emotion and educate to some extent, then I am happy.
What does a typical day on the job entail?
Waking up, having a few cups of tea so my brain starts working, then making sure I have all my equipment and then going out and getting stuck in. I’m a people person, and I like talking to other people and learning about them, so it’s mainly about doing that and then finding places that I feel are relevant to photograph them in.
What is the greatest challenge of being a photographer? What do you most enjoy?
The greatest challenge I usually face is gaining access to things in which I am interested. I most enjoy meeting new people and being educated about why they do the things they do and the things that excite or upset them. I guess I enjoy being inquisitive. Also, I can imagine it’s very satisfying when you complete something and see it as a finished product, something I’m still waiting to do, as I work on long-term projects.
What is your greatest achievement thus far in your career?
Two nights ago I won a grant from IdeasTap/Magnum Photos to produce a new body of work. I am very honoured and happy to receive it. Also, having my work hosted on the British Journal of Photography’s website was very special, as I always viewed so much great work in BJP when I was younger and still do.
What future projects are you currently working toward?
I’m shooting a new project currently that is a different approach for me. It’s still quite personal, but it’s more conceptual based. I don’t want to spill the beans too much as it’s not yet complete, but I’m very excited about it and it’s a collaboration with another photographer.
Where do you strive to be in five years?
Still doing what I’m doing now, but earning a comfortable living from it and also combining it with being able to play music. That would be amazing!
What barriers do you and young photographers in general today face? What is your advice for young photographers?
I guess one issue is being perceived as a young photographer. There are lots of young photographers making equally exciting, often better, work than people who are 40+. I personally don’t think it matters how old you are; what matters is your pictures as a photographer. My advice would be not only to young photographers, but to any photographer: if you want to be a photographer, then pick up your camera and go and make work that you are passionate about and people will take notice.