Photographer Jamie Hawkesworth’s latest show reflects on chance and travel
The photographer and filmmaker introduces a body of drawings as he meditates on movement, momentum, and rhythm
Jamie Hawkesworth has just made it through airport security when I reach him on the phone. He’s on route to the Kenyan capital Nairobi to start a new project. Since his debut book in 2015, Preston Bus Station – originally started as a school project years earlier – Hawkesworth has been all across the world, shooting everywhere from New York to Russia, India, as well as back home in the UK. While he was raised in Ipswich, the photographer/filmmaker now resides in London, but his presence in the capital is often fleeting. “I do love London, but I prefer it as a sort of base than fully living there,” he says.
His most recent announcement is an exhibition called A blue painted fence – a visual meditation on these travels. Comprised of more than 50 drawings, a film, and six photographs, the exhibition offers a glimpse into his time spent in cities such as Mombasa, Romania, and Louisiana.
“(The show) is basically exploring the idea of what I always touch on, of getting out there, taking photographs… seeing what you come across,” Hawkesworth reveals. “I feel like when you’re out exploring and open to chance, as a photographer, you build a rhythm, and that takes you through the day. One photograph leads to another and another, and you gain this nice momentum.”
“When you’re out exploring and being open to chance, as a photographer, you build a bit of a rhythm, and that takes you through the day” – Jamie Hawkesworth
A blue painted fence will also unveil his drawings, a medium he naturally gravitated to once back in the UK as a means of processing his experiences. “It’s like I was saying about London – when I’m here, I use it as a bit of a hub. I have all this energy built up from exploring and taking photographs and it’s almost like I don’t know what to do with it, so these drawings explore that.”
“I naturally found myself doing that, and that’s an important part of the show, the natural flow of things, and how something unrelated can happily sit next to something else unrelated. Simply because they’re all in that momentum and rhythm that I have as a photographer.”
Hawkesworth’s discovery of drawing mirrored the awakening he felt when he began photography. “When I first started taking photographs, the idea of using this object as a tool, and the way I could use my hands for the very first time felt extremely exciting and incredibly naive,” he recalls. “It’s the same with drawing and with sculptures.”
He fell into sculpture without any real intentions but rather through boredom. Hawkesworth remembers being in Scotland and how he had begun to collect items on the beach which he would then arrange in “funny ways”. These were then debuted in his June exhibition, the aptly titled, Photographs and Sculptures. “It was not like I was consciously thinking ‘okay, I’m going to make some sculptures’, and that’s exactly the same for these drawings. I just found myself playing around with chalk drawings, and chalk, in particular, holds a lot of energy – you can be sporadic with it and it takes nicely to the paper. I enjoyed taking the energy of walking around and seeing what I came across, and then putting it onto paper.”
He’s also been writing, he says “as a way to transfer energy in a different way”. This includes notes on practical things, such as using a Pentax camera or a tripod, but also the deeper observations he makes while on the go. It’s where his title, A blue painted fence, comes from. “I saw a blue painted fence, and a blue painted door and the house was blue, and the sky was blue,” he remembers. “Again, it’s that idea of, ‘oh, I’ve just come across this and I’m writing it down… it’s another way of experiencing that, so I thought it was lovely to include that as the title.”
Overall, A blue painted fence is a continuation of the ideas which Hawkesworth has long been threading through his career; of momentum and movement. Rather than singular moments, everything is intertwined – whether it’s a campaign for JW Anderson, an editorial for Dazed, or images from the Congo. His show in Amsterdam – which sprawled across 14 rooms – is another example, and one he nods to in A blue painted fence. “Each room was a different theme”, he recalls, “but there were fashion included and landscape pictures (together).. it was all just a continuous thing. I guess this show is carrying on that motion.”
“Something unrelated can happily sit next to something else unrelated… because they’re all in that momentum and rhythm that I have as a photographer” – Jamie Hawkesworth
It’s no surprise then, that A blue painted fence also circles back on the project which arguably broke his career, Preston Bus Station. “The film that I’ve made is in a circular room; a room within the space where the film is projected and you have to walk in circles to watch it. The other day, I was thinking about Preston, and I had spent the whole time walking in circles at this bus stations. At the best of times, walking in circles doesn’t really get you anywhere, but, actually, being in this place did, and I like the spirit of that.”
In a cultural climate where the need to distinguish ourselves greatly from one-another is at an all-time high, Hawksworth’s body of work stands on its own. Instead of jumping through a series of alternating themes and ideas, he has managed to create a lineage – one that doesn’t leave anything behind but instead links it all together.
“It’s just the act of seeing what I’ve come across and what’s really caught my eye in this particular place,” he says. “There’s no big, grand idea or message in each particular place, it’s simply just my joy of exploring and taking photographs.”
A blue painted fence opens 1 December and runs until 19 December (10am – 6pm) at 1-7 Aylesbury Street London, EC1R 0DR