Interview by Aroosa, Collage by Logan Jones
India Hartford Davis is an Australian photographer and stylist who has worked with brands such as Ralph Lauren and Kookai. One glance at her website and Instagram, titled Backstreet by India, and it’s clear that her shots go beyond merely capturing a moment – there is a thoughtfulness, quiet creativity and an authenticity that creeps in to pull your focus. Having completed her studies of Politics and History at university, she is now pursuing her passion of fashion photography as a career and building her ever-growing portfolio. Basically, she has an eye for fashion that would leave even Cher Horowitz nodding in approval. I interviewed her about her greatest influences, fashion shoots versus fashion week, and what challenges she has faced as well as conquered.
When did you first develop an interest in fashion photography?
I have always been obsessed with fashion from a very young age – I used to dream of the smell of new clothes! And having grown up on a film set, I have always been exposed to film and photography and the art of telling a story. But I guess it wasn’t until I had finished my first degree that I got the urge to start playing around with my first film camera. I then started my first blog about 3 years ago, which explored styling vintage fashion with contemporary trends, and I guess things just took off from there!
You are a stylist as well as a photographer. How do you find both those areas as informing one another when it comes to your work?
I think the two skills fit perfectly together. I originally began with just styling and would hire a photographer to shoot for me. I quickly learnt that the photographer would never see the shot quite like I did, so I started shooting my own work. I found balancing the two [to be] a lot more dynamic because you’re constantly thinking about both the overall composition of the image [and] whether the clashing prints are too ambitious. At the risk of sounding like a complete control freak, I love to curate the whole image from pulling looks and styling them, to framing and lighting, and am critical enough of my own work to know when one aspect is lacking. I think being able to perform both roles keeps me on my toes, but also helps in developing how I shoot, and more specifically, how one style can completely change the way a look is shot. I think if you are able to adapt your style of photography to complement the style of clothing, your work continues to evolve.
You’ve captured moments at busy shows and fashion weeks. How is that process different from a more formal shoot with a model?
I think the most obviously element is time! At a fashion show and while you’re backstage, everything is so fast paced, with models running around and designers running on nothing but adrenaline and coffee. You don’t really get a second chance to get the shot, so you always have to be ready and hope that you nail it. When you’re on set in a more formal setting, you have time to prep the model, time to fiddle with lighting and composition and the general atmosphere is a lot more relaxed.
What photographers or people in the fashion industry have had an influence on you?
One of my favourite backstage photographers is a Canadian photographer, Tommy Ton. His work from backstage at Gucci last year and this year, Proenza SS16, and from Prada AW16 were impeccable. The warmth and vibrance in his shots is perfectly unique. I think he captures the beauty and excitement of backstage, and his work has definitely encouraged me to pay greater attention to the smaller details of garments and hand gestures, as opposed to getting sucked into taking the portraits of all the biggest models during the shows. And although Adam Katz Sinding needs no more praise, he has taught me to be a lot more particular with whom I shoot, and to always push for a shot that hasn’t already been taken. This is extremely difficult when you are fighting with 300 street style photographers during fashion week in Europe, who are all trying to get the best shot. I have a lot of respect for the mood he creates in his images, and for the way he transforms just another street style shot into something much more provocative – he forces you to see an image from his perspective and he doesn’t necessarily care if you don’t like it.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of being a photographer and how have you overcome them?
I am an incredibly ambitious person and I am not interested in being a small time photographer. So for me, its about constantly pushing myself to produce new and better work that is consistent. I need to continue to perfect my style of photography and while I can allow myself to be influenced by other photographers, I need to make sure I am always working on my own signature and never adopting others. I work in an incredibly saturated industry so I need to be promoting a strong point of difference to separate me from the crowd – and this can be very difficult at times!
You have a double major in Politics and History. Are those areas of interest something you’d like to pursue further in the future? And what advice would you have for someone who wants to do something different to their degree?
When I left high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Although both my parents are creative, I come from an academic family, so there was a pressure to go to university. And I am so glad I did. I developed my love of modern history and politics and became very good at arguing! At some point in my career I definitely want to utilize my studies to make documentaries. My father is a film director, as was his father, and I love the idea of following in the family tradition, but right now, fashion has me completely occupied. To those who aren’t sure of attending university: remember, no learning is ever wasted. The years I spent at uni have shaped me, made me more critical, more diligent, and I think, better equipped to deal with the world I find myself in now. My passion for photography and fashion felt a lot more urgent than finishing my masters and the relief I felt when I finally listened to that urge was life changing! So, make sure you are pursuing something you love and something you can see yourself doing in 10 years time!
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m in the process of getting ready to move to London, so I am currently preparing my portfolio to send out to potential clients in Europe as well as here in Australia. I’m also working on a few campaigns and projects with developing Australian designers, which I am very excited about! We have so much home grown talent in this country, and the designers coming through the ranks now are incredible!
Do you have any tips for those interested in photography or how one can up their selfie game?
For those interested in photography: pick up a camera and just start shooting. I loved starting on a film camera because it taught me to be more considerate with the camera. You only have a certain number of shots, so you shouldn’t waste them. The film is precious. I wouldn’t get too caught up in taking too many lessons and tutorials in the beginning – just try and get a feel for a camera and see if you really love it. As for the selfie game, I still struggle to keep my arm out of the shot!
Aroosa can be found quoting Clueless and having political rants whilst most likely craving a Nandos. You can find her new Twitter here.
Logan Jones is a Cinema and Afro Studies student in Minnesota. You can always catch him at some point in the movie making process. Cameras, Coffees, Cycles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @logan_jonez.