From an obscure Tumblr page, Harley Weir rose to become the UK fashion industry’s most in-demand young photographer. How did she do it?
“I discovered Harley on a blog shortly after she’d left university,” says Chris McGuigan, who founded photography agency Mini Title three years ago. “She hadn’t been commissioned much and her portfolio was still quite raw, but I could tell she’d be a star.”
He’s talking about 26-year-old Harley Weir, one of the agency’s earliest signings and now fashion photography’s hottest new talent.
Weir graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2010 but really broke through in 2014, with back-to-back commissions from big names such as AnOther, i-D, Pop, Arena Homme+, Dazed & Confused, Bottega Veneta, Armani and Maison Martin Margiela.
She’s been working so hard, in fact, she’s thinking about taking time out to “get back to what I first fell in love with”.
“It can be difficult to keep sight of yourself when so many other people come in to play on commercial jobs,” she says.
London-born Weir studied Fine Art and taught herself photography, using Flickr to showcase her work and initially dipping her toe into music photography before the fashion world came calling.
She still uploads personal work onto the social media platform, as well as via Tumblr. “Many, many things drive me but I often feel quite simply that photography is one of the very few paths that can keep my attention,” she says. “I find it pretty damn difficult to wake up in the morning for anything else.”
Intimate and effortlessly sexy, her images often feature glimpses of naked body parts or pubic hair, ruby red lips and cascading auburn hair. But, while erotic, they stop short of crude pornography, perhaps because of the art references that underpin the work.
“I have quite an old fashioned sense of art and it’s very much about emotion, about that unexplainable joy you might feel when looking at something you find sublime,” she says. “It could be as subtle as morning light on a compost bin or an array of colours working harmoniously together in a sunset. To move someone or to make them think for a just a split second is enough for me.”
As such, although she might reference Pre-Raphelite paintings, the work is unmistakeably hers. “I try to be inspired by what’s going on in my own life as much as possible, as I feel that’s the only way to have a unique point of view on things that everyone has seen so many times before,” she says. “Photography gives me a chance to have a stab at understanding the world – but I’m still figuring things out, so who knows what’s next.”
See more of Harley’s work here.