Jamie Hawkesworth’s portrait of modern Britain

A new book documents Jamie Hawkesworth’s 13-year journey around Britain photographing strangers, revealing a warm, humane approach to portraiture

Eve Watling
Saturday 10 July 2021 00:02
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<p>Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)</p>

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

Jamie Hawkesworth is one of Britain’s most in-demand fashion photographers. Some of his recent commissions include shooting Kate Winslet for The New York Times, Gigi Hadid and Kate Moss for covers of i-D and campaigns for Alexander McQueen and Prada.

But outside of his fashion and editorial work, away from PR teams and makeup artists, Suffolk-born Hawkesworth has a second photographic life. For the last 13 years, he has been hopping on trains and travelling across Britain, photographing strangers he meets on the street, or at bus stops and parks.

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

The fruits of this project, which started while Hawkesworth was a University of Central Lancashire student, are collected in his new photo book The British Isles, published by Mack. Presented without dates or locations, the portraits come together to show a nation seen through a gentle and humane gaze.

Hawkesworth shoots on film with a Mamiya RB67, the format deepening the rich, jewel-like colours and burnished skin tones of his subjects – as well as shooting on analogue film, he develops his own prints. His signature golden light and rich yellow tones intensify the intimate nature of his work.

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

His Britain is an optimistic, democratic one. Everyone is encountered with the same warmth, without the portraits ever tipping over into cloying predictability. It’s not surprising he too manages to capture celebrities with an unusual amount of vulnerability, preferring to shoot at unusual times, without teams of people and in personal spaces, like Kate Moss fresh off the plane or a sleepy, just-woken-up Giselle.

“I would never want to see them as different,” he told The New York Times in 2017 of his documentary and fashion work. “I treat things in the same way – there’s no distinction between me shooting nude ladies on a beach to crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway or photographing my girlfriend. It’s just one way of seeing.”

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from ‘The British Isles’ (Mack, 2021)

‘The British Isles’ (2021) by Jamie Hawkesworth is published by Mack

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