Behind The Lens: James Hartley

James Hartley

Straight outta his new home in Brooklyn, New York, James Hartley recently visited Australia, and in between jobs managed to celebrate his 30th birthday, see friends and family, reunite with Dr Piffle & the Burlap Band to play at Mona Museum in Tasmania, dash to Melbourne, soak in the Adelaide Hills and beaches, and shoot a sneaky editorial for the latest edition of CLIQUE Mag. It’s amazing he had any spare time to sit down, but we found a moment to chat over Americanos about his life since leaving Adelaide.

James Hartley

On his first year in New York City…
I’ve been there a bit over a year, it’s been fucking good. I’ll start with the difficult things. I miss home a lot. You have that safety network and it’s lovely. I mean that’s the reason I did it. To break out of that mould and go out and see the world. But with that comes the excitement side, where everything is fresh and you’re having so many new experiences. So I’m loving that aspect of it. I get to come back to Australia twice a year with work, so that kind of keeps the homesickness at bay. I don’t want to lose that connection with Australia.

On being a photographer in New York…
There’s a big industry there, it’s been happening for a while, so I guess everything’s bigger, there’s more people involved, there’s more people on set, there’s bigger budgets, you have access to a lot more things you probably wouldn’t get here. Which is all part of the appeal.

On learning how to weasel into the industry…
The thing I’ve learnt is that there’s more work, but there’s more people wanting it. And there’s just as many people that are as good as you, if not way better, at taking photos. I’m starting to learn now that it’s more about marketing yourself. There might be 3000 people who can do a job, but why are you going to be the one? I’m seeing it as a bit of a social experiment, trying to work out how to weasel in.

On giving a shit…
I moved to New York with a portfolio of the work I’d done and a couple of people I met with were like, “this is great, you can take photos, but what are you into?”. So I’ve spent the biggest part of my first year there focusing on what I give a shit about.

On his next book…
I put out a book last year and I’m about to release another one. So it’s very much a carry on from the last one. It was my first self-published book, called Everything Led Me To Here, and it was the story of me moving to New York, while the second book is more focused on my life in New York.

On being a tall, skinny, hairy Aussie…
I think the novelty idea of an Australian in America has worn off in New York. Almost everyone in the creative industry there is Australian. I definitely don’t think it’s been a point of difference, which is actually half the fun of it. In terms of how I’m seen, I’m just like everyone else to be honest, and I like that anonymity. There are so many people there. I’m tall and skinny and hairy, and I don’t feel like I stand out as much, you kind of just get away with whatever the fuck you want out there.

On his favourite location to shoot…
It would have to be Jamaica, for sure. A good friend of mine runs a Jamaican themed bar in NY and there’s a lot of crew from Jamaica there that were like “you should come out”, so I just jumped on a flight. It was a blast. It’s really nice out there; it’s on a whole other wave length. Culturally it’s very interesting. I’m going to go back and do some work there this year.

On still being a tourist in his new home…
I still see it through traveller’s eyes. I don’t think I ever will identify as being an American. Not for a while, maybe if you ask me in 10 years I might. For the foreseeable future I’ll be there. I would love to go somewhere else, or come back here or move to another city. But I think I’ll be there for a while.

On living the dream…
This is my work, this is what I like, and I think that’s the ultimate dream – to show exactly what I like taking photos of and to be paid for it.

James Hartley Photography
James Hartley Photography
James Hartley Photography

Photography by James Hartley & hero image by Jason Lowrie




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