Since the beginning of 2008 Dazed & Confused's New Photography Search Flickr group has grown rapidly to over 700 members, and from now on Dazed Digital will be regularly showcasing our favourite discoveries. Eleanor Hardwick, or Elle or Leenah as she is known online, immediately stood out: we could hardly believe that such an expansive portfolio (2,044) of such superlative quality could be the work of a girl of only 14 years old. She has since turned 15, and although she hasn't even finished her GCSEs yet, she's already started internships at photography studios.
Dazed Digital: When did you first start taking photographs?
Eleanor Hardwick: In early 2006 I became interested in collecting Japanese fashion dolls. I discovered a number of fellow collectors of these dolls online who took photos of them, and then I discovered Flickr.com. From then onwards a doll and a camera were attached to my side wherever I went. I took photos of my dolls in situations, which included anything from a little set up in the garden to taking them to see the sights in different cities and countries. Throughout this time, I also took photos of myself, or of the little things I noticed in the world around me, but otherwise it was not until autumn 2007 when I became specifically interested in portraiture. I found particular joy in capturing something alive, and I found that the more effort I put into taking photos, the more I enjoyed it.
DD: Why photography?
Eleanor Hardwick: When I was younger, I had always thought that drawing would be my direction in life. Whenever there was paper near by I would scribble away, and I still do, however I never really knew where I wanted to take my art. I still was not sure where life would take me when I first became interested in photography, yet when I discovered the thrill I got from working in portraiture, I knew it was something I really enjoyed. Something I love about photography is that you can arrange a set up in front of you, and the set up is real, however, when you have taken a photo of this set up, you realise that the photo has created a whole different world. Unlike drawing, photos can create things that aren’t real, yet they tell things exactly how they are, and I love that.
DD: You seem to use a variety of digital/analogue equipment to take your pictures - what cameras do you use and what sort of digital retouching techniques do you use?
Eleanor Hardwick: When I first started taking photos, I used a 4-megapixel point and shoot, but in Christmas 2007 I knew that if I wanted my photography to improve, I had to purchase a digital SLR. A lot of extremely talented members on Flickr owned the Canon EOS 400d, and so I thought it a good choice. It may not be the most expensive DSLR on the shelf, but my camera follows me everywhere. I have since bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens for my camera, and I refuse to take it off of the camera! However, in addition to using the 400D, I also enjoy using my Polaroid land camera and Fujifilm Instax. Since I was young, I had always wanted an instant film camera – and I in fact own five now, but only use two due to lack of funds for the film! In terms of editing techniques, I use Photoshop CS3 to edit my photos. I often use selective colour, curve and contrast techniques to create a soft, vintage feel to my photos. For my more surreal work, I have learnt to use layer masks to add and remove people and objects.