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Graduates 2013: Owen Harvey’s Mod Scene

Owen Harvey's on-going project Mod UK, winner of the Magnum Showcase in October last year, looks at the UK's ‘Mod scene', a vibrant and dynamic subculture. He speaks with Gemma Padley

“I’ve always had an interest in subcultures and socioeconomics,” says 23-year-old Owen Harvey, who graduated from Newport, University of Wales this summer. “I knew some friends from school who were into the Mod scene and after talking to them about my interest they suggested I go to a few events. From there my interest in photographing this particular subculture began.”

Harvey, who is based in London, began his project eight months ago while studying documentary photography at Newport. Although initially attracted to the style and music of the so-called “Mod scene” he became interested in what the term Mod means for the people who adopt that culture. He travelled around the UK to various events, funding the project by selling limited edition prints of images from the series.

“Mod is an abbreviation for Modernism yet these devotees are influenced through the music and fashion of a subculture that began in the late 1950s,” he says. “I made connections with those attending the events and asked if I could photograph them. I was keen to photograph the younger crowd but as the project went on the age range started to vary. As the age group became broader I chose people to photograph by their style and dedication to the scene.”

Using a single Metz flashgun to light both his images, Harvey waited until an individual was “lost in their enjoyment for the music” before photographing them. “I’d try to highlight the person’s emotion through their dance moves and expressions. The portraits were a way for the individuals to show their most treasured clothes, which is a huge part of it. I often scouted for locations that held no indication to a period of time,” he adds. “This helped to keep the timeless quality of the images.”

Since graduating from Newport, Harvey has been working at IdeasTap, an arts charity for young creatives. Yet, he plans on continuing to work on long-term personal projects and commercial commissions. Most recently, Harvey has been commissioned by the Financial Times. “I had an amazing time at Newport. My tutor Ken Grant has been a huge inspiration and given invaluable guidance. I want my images to create an atmosphere and to be honest,” he adds. “If they entice emotion from the viewer then I am happy.”

Visit cargocollective.com/owenharvey for more information.