Opening the first page of "Adolescent Petals” you give the viewer a brief insight into your personal life, which I think is extremely important these days. It draws a line in the sand that says you have lived an authentic life and that is more important than ever in this society.
1. Mostly I ask people about their upbringing where they were born, what their childhood was like, etc. This was mostly answered above so lets keep it simple. Who are you and what interested you to get involved in photography?
My names Harry Conway and I take photos of real people on the street. I used to write a lot of graff in London. I'd travel across the city at night where you can get into some fun situations and see some wild shit. I’ve always been annoyed at myself for not documenting more of that time, I virtually have no photographs from then. I guess I was just focussed on getting my name up. The police and prison kind of took the fun out of writing for me. It used to be so chilled and in London if you want to be actively painting a lot you have to keep it tight, it’s just not relaxing. I’d been into photography for a while, but I guess I just poured all my energy and time into it from painting. My brother says I took all my aggression from graff and ran with it into my photography. All I know is graffiti is just another escape; some people go to the pub, some people smoke weed, I got up. My photography is something to focus on, something to keep idol hands busy.
2. A lot of times you shoot a darker side of society. "Adolescent Petals” shows a softer side of your photography. What inspired you to make this project?
Life’s about balance. There’s no dark without light. My work is primarily 35mm colour and even though the context is different I still see a familiarity running throughout my work. I’m just trying to show people in their natural state, through portraits on film. With "Adolescent Petals" I just felt nostalgic and the expired film and double exposures really complement that nostalgia. Yet I wanted to try and portray people going through their adolescence with everything that comes with that period in your life. Being 18-25 you are still trying to find who you are and it’s a weird time. There’s a hollow confidence I see at this age and I wanted to show that vulnerability in the portraits.
3. I believe this is your second zine. What is the importance of showing your work in print versus ust having your work live tough social media?
Social media is fickle and within a split second your work has been scrolled past. Of course it has its place, getting exposure for your work, but there’s nothing like looking through a photo book/ zine. Being able to sit there and not staring at a screen, but taking your time to flick through a book at your own pace. The texture of the paper and how the layout affects where your eyes are drawn to. Also judging what images to put alongside one another and how that makes the viewer feel.
4. Do you still feel like you're living in your adolescence?
Simply yes, but I’ll be 28 this year and technically I’m past my adolescence. People my age are so caught up in that adult crash of getting a good career/ mortgage/ marriage. I guess I can get lost in my nostalgia and I know that’s dangerous because everything looks great with rose-tinted glasses. We look back and remember the good things, blocking out the bad to the point of forgetting. "Adolescent Petals" is my goodbye to that time...however it’s difficult to cram that all into 40 pages and might try and expand on that.
5. They used to say a photo is worth a thousand words. Recently I have noticed you making it a point to tell the story behind each subject, bringing a much more intimate connection to the viewer. What's the importance in this?
I don’t feel the need to always put text to a picture and some people would argue great pictures don’t need any text and should be left to be interpreted. Yet I feel in this age of social media and especially Instagram, that sometimes you need to expand upon pictures and allow people to understand a bit more about what’s going on. I think this can be extremely important on the street where you sometimes only get limited time or information. Recording people’s story alongside their portrait is such a crazy interaction for me. To think someone’s just stopped what their doing and allowed you to not only take their picture but also hear about your private and sometimes deeply personal life. That still amazes me.
6. Gaining the trust of your subjects is a job in and of itself. What's your approach?
You’ve got to understand at a basic level that taking someone’s portrait is an interaction. I don’t think most people give that interaction enough respect; they just want to take the photo and keep it moving. I’ve spent entire days with some of the people in "Adolescent Petals" before taking their portrait. Talking to that individual about their life and what they’ve been up to, but also going beyond the surface and working out what they're about or what they’ve been through. I love those moments. It’s about trust and learning what you want from one another. Those seconds looking through the viewfinder knowing you’ve got enough light in the lens to take the shot and you are happy with the focus....but you allow an extra second or two until the subject's face is perfect for how you want to convey them.
7. Doing time in prison can really change your mental outlook on society for the good and the bad. Do you ever find yourself in a struggle to fully adapt?
Yes and no. I wasn’t in long and saw it as a bit of a social experiment. Prison humbles you, or it should. There’s always a bigger fish and anyone with enough brain cells will know to not approach it with a "I’m the maddest fucker in here" mentality. I was someone with little patience before but I believe spending three months in a single cell and only being allowed out for one to two hours a day has definitely helped that in some ways. Coming back into a society where you have responsibilities can be challenging at times and it sounds crazy but I missed it for a while. I understand how easy it is for people to become institutionalized.
8. What's next?
Finishing my first book on one underground line in London, which I’ve been shooting for two years now. So hoping to put that out. Just got to keep shooting, keep documenting people. That’s all I want to do, is portray people with a rawness. Specifically just to show a side of society that the general public doesn’t want to focus on and what isn’t on people's feeds
VIEW MORE OF HARRY'S WORK HERE