I can become ‘homey’ anywhere: Photographer Henry Hargreaves

Henry Hargreaves is a New Zealander who made the move to New York. Since heading overseas, his career has taken unexpected and interesting routes. Clocking up impressive modeling contracts for Prada, YSL, Hermes and Marc Jacobs, Hargreaves then made the decision to move behind the lens. Today, the photographer makes a living playing with food; playfully approaching the way we view food, consume it and its validity as an art form.

“It’s pretty hard for [my family and friends] to get their head around that I make a living doing food art, so I usually just describe myself as a food photographer.

I think it becomes a bit more simple and you don’t need to open up too much more about it. It is a job that I feel that, unless you are in one of the big cosmopolitan cities in the world, it doesn’t really exist anywhere else. So I’ve got to usually simplify it so there’s not a glazed look over peoples’ eyes…

I finished university and went on my OE [overseas experience]. At the time I’d left I’d completed an arts degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I just assumed I’d go over to Europe for a year, then probably be back. As things unraveled, I fell into the fashion world initially and then ended up behind the camera, then I got out of fashion and into food. So basically everything has happened as I’ve traveled to different places...

On a smaller travel note, I like to take a different route to my studio everyday. While I’m not moving the big differences I used to, where I was living in many different cities in a year, I think that to have a routine where you do exactly the same thing every day really stifles your creativity. So I really try to select different roads and streets and methods of transport to get about during the day, just mix it up and connect with the city in a different way.

I think one of the things that really drew me to New York was the dining, bar and social culture here. Places are open till 4 am every morning and you're never more than a $20 taxi ride from home and there’s a 24 hour subway. There seems to be this life that’s lived in these places which I really responded to. A lot of my favorite places are restaurants. There’s a couple of places that I’ve got a small share in, and I did that because they are my favorite places. One’s called Jack’s Wife Freda and another is called St. Mazie.

Then, beyond the food world, Central Park is just a special place. I really like to go up there into that little oasis. A lot of the museums here are really mind-blowing too, the Met and the MoMa. There’s a good reason they’re all household names and well known institutions, because they are absolutely amazing and mean so much to so many people. There’s also a lot of kooky little things, like there’s a little museum called the City Reliquary which just has collections of this tiny little New York-centric paraphernalia. So there’s also lots of little places like that that I like to hunt out.

At the moment we’re in a pretty interesting time. It’s not a great time to be an expat in America with everything that’s going on. However, New York is kind of the exception to that. I’ve never felt so much love here towards immigrants and outsiders. I think that’s part of the magic of New York.

I also found when I moved here, it was after living in London, living in New York there’s a benefit to be a foreigner. People see you as a novelty, they are quite curious about you. Whereas I felt in London, there was almost a bit of disdain.

Something I’ve slowly learnt is that New York is not a city where many people are born in and die in. It’s a place where people come for a certain amount of time when they’re really trying to do something different and achieve something. Once families or priorities change, they often leave. It’s not like London where I think for a lot of people it’s London or nowhere.

I think it’s a city that judges you on how interesting a person you are as opposed to how wealthy a person you are… When you go out here there’s very little status symbols, no one drives cars, so you never really get to see someone pull up in their car. You seldom know what people’s apartments are like.

People don’t dress too fancy either. So it’s often just about the way you hold yourself, the way you carry yourself and chat. I think you’re often just judged on that, on the things that you are not the things that are on you. So that’s one of the things I really enjoy about here, and also just the spontaneity.

Any night of the week you’ve got so many opportunities in front of you. It could be a quiet night in or it could be the ballet, it could be any of the numerous new restaurants that have opened. Other crazy events that are on. It’s an every night of the week place. Christchurch (in New Zealand) was great to grow up in, but things didn’t really come alive until the weekend. Here it’s like every night is the weekend.

I can become ‘homey’ anywhere. I’m a Cancer... I can’t remember if it’s my star sign, or my name, that means ‘homemaker’, someone who manages to make themselves at home in places, that was supposedly one of my characteristics...That’s one thing I do buy into, I feel very comfortable anywhere. So at the moment this is a place I’m feeling really really at home. I feel home back in New Zealand but I could also feel at home in the middle of continental Asia given a few moments to settle.”