For once the camera lens’ focal point, portrait photographer CHARLOTTE HADDEN reveals how she turns mundane stares into intimate moments captured in every frame.
It was sifting through her grandmother’s photographs as a child that bore Charlotte Hadden’s love for portrait photography. From a young age, she admits to obsessing and marvelling over unconventional images of her mother and her friends clad under the fascinating circus life as its owners and performers.
To Charlotte, a perfect photo “makes you feel something,” and perhaps it was this feeling of fascination that kick-started the rest of her career as she ultimately took her captivation and went out to create sublime moments out of her own lens. It was a found passion ostensibly blessed from the start as she received her first proper camera from her grandmother. Graduating from her disposable cameras to a Nikon 35mm, Charlotte eventually blossomed from the weird kid enthusiastically taking pictures of her friends, to a sought after portrait photographer who has found her niche in the pages of fashion editorials and high-end brands like Wonderland Magazine, Tatler U.K., Topshop, and Chanel.
A graduate from the Arts Institute of Bournemouth, the accomplished London native isn’t afraid to take risks in her shoots as she frequently exchanges tight structure for the uncertainty of discovery. “I like to keep things quite spontaneous, which pretty much sums me up in general!” she quips. “I’m having to meet and photograph complete strangers, so initially I like to move around them and give general direction when I feel it’s needed. I think I’m really curious with my approach, like I’m getting to know them through taking their photo, that’s what I enjoy the most.” Charlotte’s penchant for spontaneity allows for authenticity in her portraits, unveiling a quiet intimacy with her models as she gradually discovers them frame by frame. In carving images equally bold and personal with her camera, Charlotte allowed us a peek into her artistic workings, and her thoughts both in the industries of fashion and art.
“Create honest work, as this will be your best work.”
Tell us about your creative process. Do you do your own post-processing?
Charlotte: I overlook everything, but I have a team of people who do my post-processing. I mainly shoot on medium format film, so I have a photography lab that processes that all for me and a retoucher to prepare the images for the client. I’m quite old school in my approach. I believe that if you’re going to shoot on film you should do very little work to the image, so most of the post work involves just getting the colours looking how they should, with little or no manipulation.
Since you work with models most of the time, what do you think about Photoshop being used to edit a model’s physique to fit society’s “standards”?
C: I’ve never requested to change the physique of a model in one of my shoots, and honestly it wouldn’t even cross my mind to do that. I’ve seen markups of images from some editors and its weird to me- I’ve had requests to change the shape of someone’s face, to extend legs. I’m not saying these editors/clients are awful people, I believe its bad habit and unnecessary. Unfortunately, I can’t see it changing.
In your opinion, do photographers take photographs or do they make them?
C: I think a lot of the time photography is overlooked as being art because it’s so accessible, anyone can pick up a camera and take a photo, but you are still creating something through choice- light, framing, a moment and so on. No single image will look the same, you are making something totally unique.
“No single image will look the same, you are making something totally unique.”
Art as a profession is often perceived as unstable, making it hard for young artists to gain support from their families. Did you have familial support throughout your studies? Would you recommend the need for higher education to young artists?
C: Working in the arts is definitely not easy, especially in the fashion industry where trends come and go- what’s ‘cool’ one minute might not be the next, so you just have to stick at it and be honest with your work. I was really lucky to have parents who never questioned my decision to work as a photographer, I know that support isn’t always easy to come by. I’m not sure about the need for higher education. It’s difficult for me to say as it’s a really different system now in terms of student fees etc, its crazy expensive, and so to come out with that much debt, I dunno if that’s worth it. If you can afford it, great, it’s a worthy experience, but I believe you could learn a lot through gaining experience firsthand in the industry, and by just creating constantly!
What’s your advice to aspiring photographers who want to make their hobby into a profession?
C: Don’t get distracted by what other photographers are doing – create honest work, as this will be your best work. You just have to remain patient and stick at it!