20 February 2017

Beauty in the Mundane

Beyond Amsterdam's seedy side streets lays Foam Museum; the destination playing giddy host to Harley Weir's first solo exhibition. Although categorised as a fashion photographer shooting campaigns for Margiela, Balenciaga, Céline and the 'My Calvins' CK ads that had everyone talking last year, 'Boundaries' is an exhibition with an altogether different subject matter. The images were captured on-and-off over several trips to Abkhazia and Israel with a result that has a bit of a double-take effect. In theory, it's documentary photography that we've seen a million times over but in reality, it boasts the romanticism of a very well-executed editorial shoot. Punctuated with quite the favourable colour palette and the modern quirk that is so identifiable as Weir's imagery, the photos thankfully aren't oozing a sense of revolutionary intention or new-found "seriousness" as though a permanent departure from fashion.

Harley Weir graduated from Central St Martins College of Art and Design with a BA in Fine Art in 2010. It was during her time at the ever-so-prestigious school that Weir started experimenting with film and collage as an interest in photography and its principles manifested. The London-based photographer has shot covers for POP, Self Service and Wallpaper magazines. Despite being a relative newbie to the scene, Weir’s fashion editorials have been featured in AnOther Magazine, British Vogue, CR Fashion Book, Dazed and Confused and i-D. With her primary goal being to move people, Weird mused “It doesn’t really matter what emotion it is really... It’s so difficult to move people”.


Three years ago, Weir visited Israel for the first time for a fashion shoot in Tel Aviv and became engrossed in both the setting she found herself in and the people she found herself surrounded by. She embarked on two further trips following this, making her way to Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and then Jordan. The images on show in 'Boundaries' are the result of a personal project to capture the beauty that she could so prominently see in everything around her. “I wanted to turn war reportage on its head,” she explains. “It’s very much a male-dominated field and people usually take pictures from a distance. That’s not my point of view.”


With a focus extending far beyond decaying landscapes and overexposed urbanism, the exhibition boasts intimate portrayals of the individuals she came across on her travels. The up close and personal imagery is populated by adults and children whose expressions range from animated smiles to glares riddled with uneasy intent. “Obviously I’m a very visual person,” Weir says. “I like to see things with my own eyes and get involved in what’s going on. In this sense it was an intuitive project, I didn’t plan much but I wanted to take a stance by making these photos very personal.”


Relieving documentary photography of a sense of persistent vacancy that isn't easy to shrug off, Weir's Pre-Raphaelites style meets modern photography in a setting of political unrest. The tender awkwardness of her aesthetic and youth culture references penetrate the hesitancy of the models and allow them to share part of their story, even if through something as simple as a loaded stare.


See my full gallery of images from the exhibition here.