As we enter the photographer's world of heart-shaped Polaroids, teenage bedroom posters, festivals and trailer parks, she traces her obsession with images back to her childhood
“My friend gave me my first camera when I was around eight years old - it was just a red, crappy, snap-happy, compact 35mm but I loved it and took it everywhere. I still use something similar that I always carry with me and snap away at opportune moments…” explains London-based photographer Bella Howard as we talk about her upcoming exhibition, which features images dating back to when she was in her early teens taken at house parties, hangouts, festivals and on road trips.
I would love to shoot Marilyn Manson – he’s incredible. I also have always wanted to meet Macaulay Culkin
Named after Howard’s favourite Nirvana song, 'Love Buzz', the show represents a journey of adolescence: from the large format limited edition prints of subjects that include Lana Del Rey, Salem’s Jack Donoghue and Alice Dellal scattered and taped up like posters on a teenager’s bedroom wall, to Polaroid snapshots shaped into a giant heart and fanzines which she started making at 16. Here we gain a further insight into Howard’s vibrant and pop-infused photographic practice.
Dazed Digital: What’s behind the name of your upcoming exhibition: 'Love Buzz'?
Bella Howard: It’s my favourite Nirvana song and it just came to me because it kind of encompasses the aesthetic of the exhibition that is young, fun and full of the people I love. I don’t take anything too seriously and I hope it shows in my photos: I just want everyone to have a good time, create a memory and not treat work as something that should be boring.
DD: Many of your photographs picture your own experiences – from road trips (the subject of your first exhibition), to festivals and house parties – as well as close friends such as model Anna Brewster who crops up a lot over the span of your work. Is this documentation an important side to your photography?
Bella Howard: Yes, it is the most important side, a lot of my ideas for shoots come from these experiences and things I have seen or done with my friends and the places I have been.
DD: From Lana del Ray to Debbie Harry and Michael Pitt, you have shot a whole host of famous people and celebrities – do you have any dream sitters?
Bella Howard: I would love to shoot Marilyn Manson – he’s incredible. I also have always wanted to meet Macaulay Culkin. To be honest I don’t really care about famous people too much though, it’s mainly about people who I want to meet and talk to and can get a connection with.
DD: Out of the entire exhibition, which is your favourite image and why?
Bella Howard: I guess the image I used for the invite is my favourite. It’s of Anna [Brewster] at the Isle of Wight festival two years ago. My friends and I created a little team of stylist, hair and make-up and had so much fun running around the festival dreaming up scenarios to shoot and making them a reality. We blagged the whole thing: free rides on the Ferris wheel, Anna crowd surfing, her held up by security guards and standing on stage in front of a huge crowd.
Another favourite is one I shot at a trailer park I stayed at in Nevada last September – it was so beautiful, isolated and run down. We arrived at night, swam in the hot springs drinking whiskey whilst stargazing and listening to coyotes.
DD: Part of your exhibition features zines that you started making when you were 16 – tell us a bit about them…
Bella Howard: I made them because I was bored at boarding school in Yorkshire. I was really into music and not many people in my year were into the same thing so it began as a way of communicating with other people who had similar taste as me. I would sneak out of school to do interviews and take pictures of the bands I loved. I could also just put down on paper my thoughts, do photoshoots, get people to write for me and have a speakeasy page where you could contact people before Facebook existed.
The last one I did was a year ago. I did it for my last exhibition – it had stories and more images of my road trip. They’re just silly, cute things that gave me something fun to do at school and beyond. I don’t have as much time to do them now unfortunately but I have a blog instead, although I know it’s by no means as authentic as a zine. And I always keep scrap books…
DD: After the exhibition, what will you be working on next?
Bella Howard: I’m doing a book in collaboration with luv luv luv records, as part of a series with other young London creatives such a Gary Card and Liam Sparkes.
Bella Howard: Love Buzz runs at The Front Room Gallery, St. Martins Lane Hotel, London from February 3 – 18. Sponsored by Luv Luv Luv.