Q&A with Henry Hargreaves

One of six talented presenters whose work we shared at the last GPP Slidefest on May 25, Henry Hargreaves is a professional photographer currently living and working out of New York.  You might already be familiar with Henry's work, his series "No Seconds" which visually explores the final meals requested by inmates on death row gained international attention all over the web.  If you missed GPP Slidefest you can view Henry's TEDx Manhattan talk here.  We didn't get a chance to chat with Henry at the event, so we thought we would share a brief Q&A below.                      
We love your unique approach to portraying people through the food they eat.  How did you find out the details that you used to recreate the last meals, rock star requests and so forth, was the information publicly accessible?

So the information is publicly accessible, all the prisoners on death row, their last hours are notated down to the minute of what actually happens and it's totally public record.  So you can literally Google any of those guys and then find out what happen the minute they were pronounced dead, the minute they were taken out of their cell, what they requested when they finished the meal. Also a lot of this has been put into Wikipedia pages, so it became much easier to find out all of this stuff.  

With the Band Riders, there is a website called The Smoking Gun, and the smoking gun people have scanned in all the riders and emailed them to them and put them up, and so that's how I found out what the musicians wanted.  With them I just wanted to show the interesting things that kind of jumped out as being particularly relevant to their character, either what it said about them or didn't say about them.  
You have mentioned elsewhere that you often collaborate to create your projects, how much input did you have in terms of styling the food for the projects in your talk?
Some projects I do, like "No Seconds" I did that by myself so I totally have carte blanche.  Things like the Food Maps or Band Riders, both of which I did with Caitlin Levin, I think that's a pure collaboration.  You know, we both have strengths, where mine's based more on the photography and her on the styling, but when it comes down to the shot we both respect each other's opinions equally, so I don't like to say that either of us has any more say in what happens to the other.  We give each other the respect of (our own) opinions, and figuring out what we like the best. In the end, fortunately, we usually both     like the same thing.
Your talk is titled "We Are What we Eat", if you were to create a self portrait using food what do you think it would include?
I've actually done a self portrait out of food, and I made it out of jello (right).  It's not just made out of jello, it's a self portrait of me as a homage to Bob Dylan, looking like Bob Dylan in the 1960's with his RayBan's and his messy hair, and then it's made out of jello.
Is there anything new you are working on at the moment that you would like to share?
Right at the the moment I am in Italy, I have an opening of a show at the MAXXI last night which is a big museum here.  While I am here I have been doing a whole series on staff meals, so I have been going around restaurants not just in Rome, I did some in France and New Zealand New York and I'm about to do some in the UK, and it's looking at how the staff are fed at restaurants and places like that, vineyards, institutions, and you know the people who prepare the food, for the customer and how they are fed.  So it's kind of like a privileged glimpse behind the scenes.  So that's one thing I am working on at the moment, and there is a lot of other fun creative things but you will just have to keep an eye out on my website and my blog and see what comes up!
We have plenty of budding food photographers that are part of our community and are just starting to explore the genre, do you have any guidance or advice to share?
Any guidance for anything, I would say this to any artist, the biggest challenge is actually doing anything.  Plenty of people have talent, plenty of people have great ideas but an idea is worth nothing until you have actually gone and done something about it.  So just get out there and do it and you won't know if it's any good or bad until you have done it, so just make it happen.
Check out more work by Henry Hargreaves on his website here.

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