HARLEY WEIR CLOSES HER FIRST SOLO EXHIBITION AND CONFIRMS HER POSITION AS ONE OF THE TALENTS SHAPING OUR COLLECTIVE IMAGINATION. WE EXPLORE THE WORK AND SENSIBILITY OF A PHOTOGRAPHER WHO, WITH AN INTIMATE AND PIERCING LOOK, GOES FROM GLOSSY MAGAZINES' COVERS AND FASHION CAMPAIGNS TO PHOTOREPORTAGE IN WAR ZONES, LAYING BARE THE TRUE ESSENCE OF YOUTH.
Lately, the name of Harley Weir can be spotted almost everywhere. Standing behind the campaign for the acceptance of the female body in any form, with imperfections and flaws, last September the photographer was the victim of Instagram’s censorship and saw her account deactivated due to a shot for i-D’s issue The Female Gaze which featured a woman’s inner thigh with red spots to recreate period blood. The profile’s block, which lasted five days, sparked a massive reaction on social media, carried out to the sound of #bringharleyweirback. Months after, the photographer returns to make headlines for being the lens behind one of the best fashion campaigns ever, that for Balenciaga’s fetish-chic SS17 collection, for which the photographer has created a world in color-blocking, marked by the clash of bold colours like red, fuchsia and deep purple.
Lately, the young British photographer also inaugurated her first solo exhibition at Amsterdam’s Foam Gallery, which has been a springboard for many contemporary artists. Entitled “Boundaries”, the show (which just ended) showcased an overview of the photographer’s oeuvre, focusing in particular on Weir’s artistic sensibility and the deep sense of intimacy permeating her photographs, whether it’s a fashion shoot or the shot of a landscape. An intimacy that tickles and becomes palpable, that whispers to the reader, gently yet powerfully, and creates an inextricable sense of emotional identification. The soft yet intense light cross-cuts the photographed subjects’ faces and penetrates their purest essence, laying bare their soul. The one true protagonist of Weir’s shots is the youth, the new generation, of which she captures the boldness and the inadequacy, that magnetic mix of conflicting emotions that turns young people into universes apart, so difficult to interpret.
But who is Harley Weir? Born in London in 1988, Harley Weir is 29 years old and she graduated in Fine Arts at the prestigious Central Saint Martins. It was while attending university that she began to get interested in photography, learning the technique by herself and experimenting with film. Within a few years she has managed to get her own place in fashion photography thanks to her neo-romantic yet raw and clean aesthetics, and now she is among the talents shaping our collective imagination.
Her success explodes in 2014, and it does by following the traditional iter for a young artist of our time, aka starting from a blog. It was, in fact, her Tumblr page to attract the attention of the media and the fashion industry and to bring her to the heights of fashion photography in the space of just two years. In her short but intense career, Weir has signed photo shoots for magazines like Vogue, AnOther Magazine, Dazed & Confused and Pop Magazine, covers for i-D and advertising campaigns for top brands like Proenza Schouler, Maison Martin Margiela, Céline, Stella McCartney, Jacquemus, Calvin Klein and now Balenciaga.
But, digging beyond the veil of glamor magazines and high fashion brands, we discover a sort of parallel Harley Weir who steps into the shoes of a photoreporter and delves into war and conflict zones. More than once the photographer has, in fact, reiterated her need to see things through her own eyes and to get involved in what’s happening in the world. That’s thus the feeling that brought her in Palestine and Jordan with the intent to document through her intimate look a humanity that lives in critical situations, a landscape that’s burned by the sun and by the explosions, a clash of different cultures and lifestyles so far away from ours. The result, again, is incredibly moving and gives a human dimension to photojournalism.