Simon Harsent is a commercial and fine art photographer based in New York and Australia. Originally from London, he is represented by Monaco Reps in the US and POOL Collective (which he co-founded) in Australia. A highly awarded photographer, Harsent’s images are included in private collections, exhibited widely (including an upcoming show of The Beautiful Game at Sydney’s Black Eye Gallery on Oct. 3rd), and published in a 2009 monograph Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg. In addition to a successful fine-art career, Simon shoots landscape, portraits, and conceptual work for a commercial client list that includes BMW, Emirates, Sony, Singapore Airlines, Subaru, Canon, Mastercard, Citibank, Levi’s, Range Rover, Hyatt Hotels, and United Airlines among many others.

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

On our first call I immediately sensed the openness, warmth and humor of so many portrait photographers. We spoke for two-hours and Simon was humble, funny and deeply passionate about his work. And grateful for a long successful career that began when he was 21 and that he is just now shooting some of the best work of his life.

Harsent has a foundation in classical painting and the heart and soul of a true artist, allowing himself to build a career without preconceived limitations and to always stay open and moving, guided by his passions and themes that surface whether he is shooting football stadiums or a portrait of a poet. In his personal work he explores themes of contrast, irony, stillness, passion, and personal journeys. There is a visceral power and beauty in his work and he brings this same passion and curiosity to his commercial imagery with a dramatic use of lighting and a fine-tuned ability to capture a mood.

Much of his work is inspired by the calm below the surface, the depth beneath the surface and this very human, soulful exploration is what draws one in. He has the generosity of an artist as well having co-founded POOL Collective in Australia that both represents himself and several other photographers while nurturing and supporting young talent.

I really enjoyed getting to know Simon and his work and am very happy to share it on POP. Thank you to Simon for his time both on the phone and for putting in the hours of editing and pulling images in the middle of getting ready for a show and shooting commercial work.

Nobel Laureate Poet Seamus Heaney

Nobel Laureate Poet Seamus Heaney

NoFight

POP: Early creative influences?

My earliest influence would have to be my father, he is a poet, quite a well respected one, so I grew up with that being my introduction to the arts. The environment I grew up in shaped me into having the sensibilities I have now and  I can quite honestly say I wouldn’t be a photographer if it weren’t for him.

I have a son and he’s at university studying music production.  I think if you are raised around the arts and creative people, it’s hard not to be influenced by it. He didn’t have a chance of not being an artist—he was born into the family business. You are the sum of what you are surrounded by and you don’t have a choice because that’s what you see. Like my father did with me I took my son to see a lot of art when he was growing up:  live music, theater, opera, museum exhibitions. If a child is born to an athlete, they’ll be out playing sports.

I guess the hard thing is that it’s not an easy life being in the arts. The life of an artist is challenging, not that it is or has to be full of turmoil, but you have incredible highs and incredible lows and quite often it can mean self-doubt and constantly questioning what you are doing. It’s not a normal job. It’s actually not even a job. It’s just who you are. You have an incredible attachment to what you do for a living.

As a kid I used to sit with my father in his study while he was writing. When I was really young he worked in a bookstore and we had tons of books. I literally grew up around books. I didn’t read a lot at the time—I could never hold concentration and would always end up getting frustrated. I didn’t realize why, but later in life I found out I’m dyslexic so reading was always difficult for me. I guess that’s why I was drawn to photography. I used to look through the art books we had, coffee table books of Gaugin, Rembrandt, and Turner. This is when I became fascinated with art.

My first love was painting. My parents were instrumental in encouraging me to paint—they’ve always just encouraged me with whatever I wanted to do. Something I’m very grateful for. It sounds so simple, but now that I’m a parent I realize how difficult it is to just let go.

A lot of my work is inspired by paintings. It’s often a starting point for me. I spent a lot of time looking at Rothko before going out on Melt, the Iceberg project.

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

POP: You started out as a still life photographer but early on moved to shooting ‘off the tripod.’

I really just fell into still life. After college I went to work with a couple of still life photographers as an assistant and I started shooting this because that was what I was learning at the studios. I really loved one of the guys work. His name was Andy Moran and his work had a real edge to it, it was very different to what a lot of other people were shooting, a lot looser and more abstract. I’d always been a fan of Edward Weston. I loved that he just did pictures, that he didn’t really seem to have a specific area in which he specialized. He just took pictures, I guess that’s how I’ve always seen photography, but when you work commercially you get pigeon holed, people want to put you in a category.

One of the first things I shot was a 35 mm project titled Street Kids. I was 21 or 22 when I shot that. It was very different for me at the time. I was shooting a lot of commercial still-life work and this project was instead was very loose.  I hadn’t picked up a 35mm camera since college and when I shot the project I found the freedom that had drawn me to photography in the first place. For me it is about the emotion in the image, not whether it is a still life a landscape or a portrait.

Street Kids

When I met these kids, I was dumbfounded by the self-inflicted scars. The tattoos that were self-deprecating, the trackmarks. I was the same age as them and I found it quite disturbing and concentrated on that. I didn’t see it at the time, but they are very much like Caravaggios in a way that they focus on the self-inflicted wounds. The wounds of Christ.

It was more about the fact that I veered away from still life that loosened my work up. I still like to construct images—you have to when you work commercially, but what I try to do is not make them look that way. For my personal work it’s more about just photographing what I see. One of the great things about earning a living doing commercial work is the freedom that this brings to my personal work. I just did a project photographing the informal settlers in the slums of Manila. I spent four days walking around the slums.

Street Kids

Street Kids

Street Kids

POP: How do you approach a portrait and what do you love about shooting people? You recently photographed Seamus Heaney, the nobel laureate poet who passed away this past month.

First of all I just love shooting. It doesn’t matter if it’s a portrait, landscape, nude or a still life, I just love taking pictures. I’ve never lost the love for it. Photography gives me access and a purpose, a reason to get out of bed. I’m not the type of person who could work for a boss, who could turn up at 9 and work until 5 every day. And portraiture brings another dimension to my work.

People are just fascinating—they really are.  Everybody has an interesting story if you just take time, some more interesting than others granted. I went to Ireland recently to photograph Seamus Heaney, who is one of the best poets of his generation, not to mention winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in ‘95. I had met him in Toronto at the Griffin Poetry Prize. My Father had been nominated for the Prize and Seamus was receiving the lifetime achievement award. He was a gracious human being—I knew that I had to photograph him. So about nine months later I managed to lock in a date and flew to Dublin to shoot his portrait. I spent two hours with him, talking and hanging out. It was an amazing experience, one that being a photographer allows me.

Nobel Laureate Poet Seamus Heaney

Nobel Laureate Poet Seamus Heaney

I had quite a strong idea of how I wanted the portrait of Seamus to be shot. I wanted it to be black and white just because that felt right. I knew I just wanted it to be a sitting in the traditional sense. No gimmicks. No tricks. Just a simple portrait of an extraordinary man. I’m a big fan of renaissance painting and a lot of my lighting is replicated from that.  I’ve always said I like the shadows. It’s not what we see—it’s the mystery in what we don’t see or the suggestion that it brings.

I love the portrait but the most rewarding thing was, not long after sending him prints I received the most wonderful handwritten letter from him praising the work. That in itself was worth the price of a plane ticket to Dublin.

I’ve always been fascinated by portaits whether they are paintings or photography. I love the work of photographers like Karsh, Irving Penn, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Avedon, Bailey—the list is endless. I love people and faces and what you can see in a portrait. I’m not saying they are truths. I don’t think you can get a sense of a person from even several portraits. You get a representation of that moment in time. And nine times out of 10 you get what the photographer wants. As a photographer you’re very much in control of the imagery. Most of my portraits I do in the studio because I like to construct the lighting.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney

Barnaby

Barnaby

POP: Do you think people respond differently to a carefully lit portrait than they do the flash-on-camera style of portraiture?

Yes very much so. It also has to do with where the portrait is viewed—it’s as much about context as it is technique. I think there has been a trend away from more traditional portraiture and a lot of stuff these days is constructed to look like it is a lot more casual in it’s approach. But it is still a very considered approach. A lot of portraiture in the commercial editorial world tends to have a quirky idea behind it mainly because they are there to serve a purpose, either support an article or promoting whatever the sitter has to sell (mostly themselves). So sometimes the portrait only needs to have a short lifetime—specific to what it was created for. The snapshot effect helps with that because it’s saying “It’s now. It’s instant. It’s current.”

Having said that, look at Nan Goldin’s and Larry Fink’s work. That stuff will just get stronger and stronger the more it ages. I think it’s like the difference between wine and liquor. It’s alcohol but completely different.

Hugo Race

POP: Your work spans conceptual, portraits, and landscape. What would you say you’re most known and hired for?

I’m hired for my style: the natural approach vs. the overly produced retouched look. For both my commercial and personal work, I try to do as much in-camera as possible. The campaign for Canon was all shot in camera with no retouching. I had to show what the camera could do.

CA4CAN-P20132_Base_v9.indd

I’m also known for understanding and knowing how to shoot for an idea, a simple thing you might think. But to do good advertising work, you need to appreciate the craft of advertising and I like to collaborate with good people. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed doing advertising for so long. I actually like the collaboration process.

More recently I’m known for the icebergs (Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg) – published in 2009. That really changed what a lot of people thought about me and me of myself if I’m honest. I started getting a lot more landscape work after it was published. David Monaco, my agent in the States, said I’m one of the few photographers he knows who still gets booked to shoot landscape work because so much of it is stock.

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POP: Is the value of this coming back now that we have cycled through everything Photoshop can do? Do you see the demand for more realistic images growing? And in what areas/for what types of clients?

I don’t really see a greater demand for realistic images and even when clients think they want something like that it’s very rare to be able to pull it off. Images created for commercial purposes have to accommodate so many different media sizes these days, it’s impossible to create a single image that can do all that. So even when I do get the chance to do stuff like that, it ends up being manipulated anyway. Like I said, the trick for me is not to make it look like it’s made on a computer screen.

And these days you could hand an art director a perfect image and they would still find a reason to retouch something on it. Most of them just can’t help themselves. It’s just the way it is.

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POP: One of the advantages to having a long career is that you get to try new things, take risks and evolve. What has that process been like for you? How do you keep it fresh?

By constantly evolving and moving forward, sometimes you will make mistakes but it’s only by trying new things that you progress from where you are. I’ve never considered myself a risk taker because the riskiest thing for me would be to sit still and do the same picture over and over again.

I knew when I was shooting still life I was coming to an end with it because I was getting bored and frustrated. Now that I think about it, I think my constant transition is because I get bored doing the same thing over and over.

I’m fortunate to shoot so many different subjects and to have such variety in my assignments. I’m working on an exhibit right now called “The Beautiful Game” shooting soccer grounds. I spent a week driving around England and Scotland and was in my element. At the beginning of the week, I felt that I could do this forever. But by the end of the week I felt like I really needed to shoot a portrait.

Irving Penn crossed all those genres and even Horst went off and shot still life’s of flowers. Photographers are so pigeonholed these days. People who commission photography want to be able to know exactly what they are getting and galleries want photographers to be commercially viable – they need to make money. So they need their photographers to fit into a certain profile.

I’ve always been of the thought you should be able to shoot whatever you want and that subject matter isn’t important. What is important is the way you are responding to the world around you.

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POP: The job you shot for Schweppervescence is a great example of a personal project inspiring a commercial assignment and your ability to bring a tremendous amount of feeing to your images, whether you are shooting people or landscape.

It’s great when a personal project inspires a commissioned project. Although not a direct reference this was the case with the shoot for Schweppes.

I had been working on a series of underwater images called “Into the Abyss.” It consisted of photographs a video installation and a poem written by my father. It was initially done for Blow-Up which was a three-day Exhibition by The POOL Collective at the bottom of Fleet Steps opposite the Sydney Opera House in Sydney to mark the publication of the magazine of the same name.

The agency in Melbourne saw it and it fit the brief for Effervescence, so I was commissioned to go to Hawaii for 10 days to shoot waves and waterfalls, which was incredible. But I don’t shoot personal work with the idea for it to generate commercial work. I think that’s a big mistake. You have to shoot your personal work for yourself. It’s only then that it truly reflects who you are and how you see the world. Showing it once it’s done is great, but thinking that it is a going to be used to promote you when you are shooting it will bring a completely different premise to the work. Getting a booking because someone has seen a personal project is just a bonus.

Into the Abyss

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POP: What has changed in the time you have been shooting commercial work? For better and worse?

So much has changed and again so little. It’s harder for agencies to get good creative work through. So you have to understand that by the time it gets to you, it has been through so many rounds of concepts and revisions it’s almost like they are handing you their baby. You have to treat it that way and go off with it and make it as brilliant as you can. Commercial work is about working within a team. It means to listen to what people want and to help them get to where they need to be.

On the other side, with time constraints, agencies are not spending enough time educating the young art directors. The younger ADs send over heavily mocked up comps with everything mapped out—this can kill a lot of the spontaneity that is needed to create great images. That’s why when you look at editorial and advertising, there is a freedom that exists in editorial work that is very hard to replicate in advertising work. A lot of the agency’s clients don’t realize this and it can stifle good creative work. But to a certain extent, this has always been the case.

The key to being a good advertising shooter is working around all these obstacles and still being able to get a great image that acts as a fantastic piece of communication. That is of course when it’s done right. Some advertising work is just outright rubbish as a photograph but serves a purpose and shifts a ton of product.

If I could change one thing back to how it was it would be the lead-time and the amount of time allowed to craft a project, not after but before. Pre-production just seams to be an endless streak of meaningless conference calls rather than having time to sit and think and talk about the job. I miss one-on-one time with art directors in their office throwing ideas back and forth. I believe that’s when great work happens, when you are in the process of creating and collaboration.

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POP: What do you think is lost in the images that are being created?

I think that the due to the fact agencies are not taking the time to teach and nurture young art directors, they don’t always understand sensibility and mood. I see a lot of work that is so over-retouched and it all ends up looking the same. There’s not a real signature on it. Sometimes the only thing I can bring to a commissioned piece is the mood and the emotion.

But if someone is going to cut it up and take one head from one body and put it on another because they are micro managing an image, the overall feeling is lost. It just becomes generic.

It’s like high-end car photography. Very few photographers shooting cars have their signature—automotive ads all look the same. They are shot on 20 – 30 plates and thrown together in retouching. They used to be shot on one sheet of film in the perfect light, the eccentricities that that way of working brings to an image are what gives it it’s character. It’s why an Aston Martin is desirable, because it is hand made. But ironically, car photography looks like is mass produced in a factory. It’s rare that someone is a real master any more.

Great photography is about putting yourself in a position where the magic can happen—spontaneity happens by engaging your surroundings, not by controlling them in a predetermined manner. There are a lot of good candid photographers whose imagery really evokes emotion. But there’s a lot of throw away stuff. It’s not really going to last like a Horst or an Avedon or an Irving Penn.

There are a few today shooting at that level: Nadav Kander, Mark Seliger. Albert Watson. I’m still a massive fan of David Bailey. His work is still sublime and timeless. Annie Leibovitz is an incredible photographer—that constant repetition and nailing it every single time. The expectations that people have on her to deliver would break most people and she does it time after time. And recently her work has taken a massive shift with the way she uses retouching. But the craft is still there, the retouching is a tool she chooses to use, not a necessity.

The democratization of photography has demystified it for a lot of people and changed our audience. You used to be considered almost a magician, pulling a rabbit out of a hat. We’re not looking at photographs in the same way, sometimes we look too deeply at an image, analyzing every nook and cranny taking hair off of models arms, perfecting skin to the point it looks like porcelain. And other times we look at an image for a fraction of a second as you are scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. I don’t think it will never hold the same impact as it did when I started out.

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POP: In Australia, you have a production company, POOL Collective.

I traveled to Australia when I was 21 and spent 11 years there before moving to the states in ’97. I still spend quite a bit of time in Australia because my son is there. And I work there quite a bit.

I co founded The POOL Collective with long-time friend and photographer Sean Izzard. I joke that Sean is my brother from another mother. We were born on the same day in the same year. We met when I had only been in Australia for about six months.

In 2008, I was spending a lot more time in Australia due to my son’s school commitments. At the same time, a lot of advertising people I knew form NY and other places had moved there and I’d get asked to shoot for them while I was in town.

White Water

White Water

White Water

White Water

Sean’s studio became my base while I was there and it made sense for us to create something that would facilitate not only commercial work, but also personal projects. Neither of us were interested in having a traditional rep style agency. And to be honest, the Australian market is so small it doesn’t work in this way. Sean and I are both very well established so it made sense to us to have a model that was based on a collective and run by the photographers for the photographers. The emphasis at POOL is to share and inspire each other, with a concentration to bringing new talent on.

All the profit goes into running the business and creating things like the POOL Collective App (available via the iTunes store), group shows, individual exhibitions and publishing. We also run The POOL Grant that gives an annual grant of $10K to a young photographer, to enable them to complete a project.

We are currently six photographers: myself and Sean Izzard along with Ingvar Kenne, Danny Eastwood, Chris Ireland and the latest addition Juliet Taylor.

Along side the photographers is our Executive Producer who’s name is Cameron Grey who is basically the magician that makes everything tick.

It’s something I’m very proud to be a part of and when I’m in Australia it’s a fantastic resource of information, support and friendship.

The Beautiful Game

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POP: What inspired Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg and how long did it take you to shoot it? What was the process?

I’m interested in journeys and the decisions we make in life, the moments when we choose a path that unravels a future for us that we could never have fully imagined. What today brings us might be something that changes our life forever. Whatever path we’re on, there’s always another one and choices to make. For example, when I chose to move to Australia at 21, I couldn’t have seen what was ahead of me. I had the most incredible child because of a decision I made when I was 21. I could never have imagined it or planned that any better than I did, but how things unravel in life is a sum of the choices we make.

The Icebergs are a metaphor for my own journey. How I got to the icebergs as a subject matter was because of one of the most important paths I chose. After doing a painting when I was very young of the Titanic hitting an Iceberg, I decided to take up painting (to be honest I was encouraged to do this by my father) and everything else that has followed since then is due to that choice. It was a definitive moment in my life. So the Icebergs represent my journey of travel and at the end they are consumed back into the ocean. I felt it was quite a poetic story.

I first had the idea for the project in 2004 or 5. I can’t quite remember. But it took years for me to plan it. Things are a lot easier now than they were even then. There is so much more information on the internet, it’s strange to think it’s only a few years ago. But the wealth of information available online now is so much more than in 2005.

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

So it was a lot of ringing around and talking to people while trying to organize it around shooting commercial work and traveling to Australia to see my son.

In 2008 I figured it was now or never and I went to Newfoundland and spent some time there shooting the Icebergs at the end of their journey through what is called Iceberg Alley.

It was then that I knew how important this project was for me personally, but also for my development as a photographer. That August I went to Greenland to complete the project.

I spent a lot of time looking at Rothko paintings before I went and shot them. I was interested in the separation of color and how less is more. I knew I wanted to break them down into three components: sea, iceberg and sky. I didn’t want any land in sight—the only thing I wanted on the horizon was the Icebergs. For the composition to work I needed to be at sea level with them so I shot everything from small speedboats.

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg

POP: Melt can’t be seen outside of the context of ecological situation that can be traced to our putting profits over the care and protection of our natural environment that sustains us. Do you feel conflicted when shooting commercial jobs for corporate clients?

No, because if it was something that would make me feel that way I wouldn’t do the job. That’s not to say that it’s not something I don’t think about.  Ethically, there are some companies I wouldn’t work for. There are constant dilemmas. I might say I’m not going to work for oil companies, but then I drive a car. It depends on the premise of the project as well. And some oil companies spend a lot of money on replenishing the environments they drill in and we need oil. I think it needs to be judged on a job-by-job basis. It comes down to ethics.

It’s funny I get asked that question a lot and the truth is there is no simple answer.

POP: Have you ever turned down a job?

Quite often if I don’t think it’s right for me. There are a couple of agencies that put you through the ringer or don’t pay on time and I don’t work for them anymore.

Or the ideas aren’t right. Or I have a bad feeling about a job that starts out with a premise that is good but you know the clients are going to get involved and a circle is going to become a square. And as before, there are the moments when you have to look at a job from an ethical standpoint. I look at everything and don’t often say no, but I have.

If you’re going to work in the commercial world, you’re going to be connected to something. If I felt it was imminently connected to pulling a trigger, I wouldn’t do it.

This is why I do the WWF stuff. It makes me feel better for doing stuff for big corporations. And it’s a way to use my talent in a way that gives back. WWF and Greenpeace have to do with my mother. She worked in a Friends of the Earth shop and spent many years assisting in a handicapped school for children with Down’s Syndrome. She is an incredible woman. And I guess a tiny bit of being conscious of the world around you rubbed off.

It’s strange when I think about it now, but really my parents were really hippies from the 60’s and, as I mentioned, my mum was always involved with helping charities like Friends of the Earth, Shelter, CND and WWF. Most of these were considered liberal, left-wing ideas then.

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POP: You’ve said you have three great loves: your son, photography and football. The common conception is that one appreciates either art or sports.

Right. And I think this belief is rubbish because it’s all about passion. These teams are a form of religion for some people, and the Stadiums their Temples. I’ll fly half way around the world just to watch Chelsea play a game of football.

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved football (soccer). I got my first Chelsea kit when I was five and have supported them ever since. It’s not just the football. When I was a kid it had a lot to do with the sense of belonging. It was also my dream when I was a kid to be a professional player (I think this is true for most kids in England). But I wasn’t good enough. It was also a big part of my relationship with my father and brother and now is a big part of my relationship with my son.

Now I’ve come to appreciate it on an entirely different level. It’s far more than a game—everything that surrounds it is quite amazing and I find it fascinating. As I said, the stadiums are like theaters where the audience participates. The cultures and sub cultures that surround it I find endlessly fascinating.

Which is why my new exhibition is titled “The Beautiful Game.”

The Beautiful Game

The Beautiful Game

POP: The Beautiful Game has many layers of irony. Because they are shot in a documentary rather than heroic style, they carry the echoes of the games—an absence suggests the passion. And some of the greatest games in the world are played in very modest and impoverished locations.

The stadiums in The Beautiful Game live in the middle of normality. People go by them everyday. Liverpool’s team is famous, yet the stadium is in the middle of  a very run down and poor area of Liverpool. You watch the game on TV—it’s beamed around the world. And what you are looking it is really polished and it’s glitz and glamour. And when all that is gone, all that is left is this empty building sitting in the middle of the slums. It’s that sort of irony I’m interested in.

Chelsea has a cemetery right next door to the ground. The day I shot the picture that is in the exhibition was two days after we had won the European Champions League, a trophy that had eluded Chelsea for years. Some could say that day the team laid some ghosts to rest.

I love also the contrast of a set of goal posts in the middle of nowhere. It could be an amateur ground or just a village pitch. To think that some of the best goals in the world could have been scored on these grounds and only live in the memories of those who where there, it’s kind of like if the goal posts could talk…

There’s a lot going on in this project. There’s an irony, A Bleakness. A beautiful game played in the middle of the slums. But really it has to do with my fascination with football.

It’s bizarre. Every time I go somewhere I Google where the football pitch is. I’ll shoot this project for the rest of my life.

The Beautiful Game

The Beautiful Game

POP: You were on the East Coast during Hurricane Irene. You chose to photograph the waves rather than the devastation on land.  

Shooting the waves during Katrina seemed like the natural thing for me to do. There wasn’t a thought of how I would tackle Irene.

The reason I did the waves was to do with my fascination with the ocean. Growing up I lived far away from the ocean. I went to Australia when I was 21 and it blew my mind. Just the sight of water I find incredibly relaxing. I could spend hours walking down the beach.

The ocean also holds symbolic interest for me. When I think about the ocean, I always think about how still it is beneath the surface. I’ve been scuba diving since ’96 and being under the waves is just incredible. It’s one of the most amazing experiences. There’s this tranquility. Everything gets blocked out. What’s gong on underneath is not reflective of what is going on the surface. There can be a current on top and underneath there is stillness. I find that dichotomy an interesting concept.

People judge things on the surface quite rightly. It’s what people see but not necessarily what’s going on inside. What people are projecting is not always the way it is. There’s always context for other things and a reason for the way things are the way they are. There is always a reason. I have always been fascinated with who we are as human beings, how we react to what we see and where that takes us.

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POP: What do you think this essential truth tells us about life? What about this interests you?

Things are not always as they seem. Some people are quick to judge. I guess in a way it’s a reflective thing, and a statement that you might think you know me because of how you see me, but there is a lot more going on under the surface. But that really is thinking hard in a post rational way mostly it’s a simple truth I’m interested in.

POP: Your Salt Moon project is again about the ocean. This time you photographed the surface. They really do suggest ultrasounds and have a quality of depth rather than surface. What were you thinking about with this series?

It really stemmed from a fascination that the camera can be fixed but the other element can be a catalyst for change. But in this case the moon was really controlling everything, it was responsible for the light and for the tide.  Each time I took a picture, it was a unique picture although I personally had done nothing to change it. It was really as simple as that. And the fact I could stare at the ocean forever, I’m quite obsessed with it.

POP: You’ve said your goal is to make people feel something with your work.

I think most artists want people to love their work in the same way we all want to be loved, as it brings to you or the work a sense of worth.

I want them to look at it and feel or question something as well.  In the same way one would with a fantastic piece of music. I feel there needs to be something beautiful on the surface and be attracted to it and really look at the work and see something deeper in it and evoke some emotion. I’d like people to think about the work, but I’d like them to take something with them. I want people to contemplate it and remember it, not always love it, sometimes hate it but at least feel something.

That’s what I set out to do when I do a project. I’d like to think there is a something in my work that people are drawn to and stirs some kind of emotion. That said the person I’m trying to impress most is myself.

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To see more of Simon’s work please visit his website here.

To keep up with his personal work and shows and commercial work, you can follow his blog here.

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  1. Bobbi Wendt December 14, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    I’ve always been a huge fan of Simon Harsent since I first met him…I think it was sometime in the 90′s…it’s all a blur to me now. : ) His photographs are flat out gorgeous/amazing, and he is a so smart and charming too. Thanks for showcasing this work and the interview Alison…the entire interview was a pleasure to read…well done!

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