Interview, Georgia Rose Hardy -
The Flowering of Love
Rosie! Do you love yourself?
Hello! Yes, I’d say so! I have my moments of confusion and self-doubt like everyone else, but underneath it all, I do try and take care of my mind, and not berate myself too much for my humanity!
I know that the societies have always been teaching to love others and not one’s own self; to be selfless in a sense that one starts sharing water from an empty well. How has your deepened love towards yourself become a foundation for a radical transformation?
It’s a really interesting to see such a shift towards psychotherapy and self-care in recent years, and it’s a shift I’m very much behind. I’ve always noticed that I perform better in all kinds of ways when I’m peaceful, passionate, inspired, but this is a state that’s impossible to maintain throughout all life’s circumstances. A well-oiled machine does well, and we need to start oiling ourselves better and teaching our children tools for life, as well as teaching them how to embrace and endure suffering. Self-love hasn’t stopped bad things from happening to me, but it has given me the confidence to take risks, be vulnerable, and live a full life, confident my ability to heal from the pain that might occur as a byproduct of this kind of living. That said, it’s so important to maintain a good sense of perspective and humility by paying attention to those around you, being kind in situations where you could be ambivalent (or even unkind)… so I don’t personally think it’s one way or the other, more a good balance and sense of self-awareness and understanding.
Do you feel that there’s a struggle between longing to share at the deepest level with somebody and the fear of exposing yourself entirely towards a stranger? People are never ready to drop their defenses, their falseness - How does that affect your relating?
I used to think quite romantically about this, that I wanted to get to the depths of someone and them with me (and visa versa), but I’ve come to realize that we all understand concepts like love, goodness, justice, evil and pain in a very nuanced way. Only someone with exactly the same life experiences as I had would ever understand me entirely, so therefore only I have the ability to understand myself entirely - and even that seems impossible! So in terms of connection (with lovers, friends, strangers), now I just look for a stepping stone here and a stepping stone there. I think sharing our vulnerabilities is a wonderful thing, but for the sake of a larger, global exhale from shame, rather than anything else…
When I look at your work, no matter how you have set the shot, I always find love in there, sometimes a longing for it too. But what sets it apart for me is that you explore different dimensions of love - not just romance. It’s kindness towards all living beings. Have you known love to be a door to divinity?
I feel like my love for the world starts with nature, and learning to feel apart of this life rather than a viewer to it, or a participant of it. I can extend that very easily to animals, so to humans (although it takes a lot more practice and patience for this!) and that leaves me with romance and deep love for another person to experience… I’d say the truest experience of this for me came very enmeshed with loss (he passed away in April 2016), and since he was terminally ill when I met him, part of the reason my love for him was so pure was because I knew I wasn’t trying to get some future out of him… he wasn’t a doorway into a different life, or ticking “success” boxes like marriage or kids, because he wouldn’t be around for that. Loving him was a true experience of loving for the moment, for exactly who someone is right now because that was all I ever had with him. Having that taken away and made perfect in doing so (it can never be watered down or ruined) makes me very grateful, and makes me feel very full. The love has not diminished although he is no longer here, and that’s the closest I’ve ever been to divinity.
Experience the world and life as you do, how do you remain uncorrupted and retain the child-like innocence that’s your being? Does storytelling or reading help you stay grounded in such moments?
I wouldn’t say I was uncorrupted, to be entirely honest. I carry around enough of cynicism, sadness, horror at the world and disappointment in myself and others to be as warm and cold as anyone else… I’m also not looking to be pure, or perfect, or faulted. Chaos and sadness and despair are important to grow through, to ground you, and I wouldn’t want to swap them for ignorance or a shallow happiness. One of my biggest frustrations with society is that we live in a world which screams, “improve, improve! success, success, success!” and doesn’t allow much in the way of failure, melancholy or being at peace with yourself. I find my peace in knowing I have a healthy moral compass, that I work hard to be emotionally healthy and do what feels honest and authentic. My innocence for the horrors of life was stained over the years, but I don’t find that a sad thing. Like I said to you earlier, your work has a capacity to save a life - just by how expressive and honest you are about all that goes within. You go through the miseries of life and yet you move past them.
Have you ever taken a moment to reflect on what this substance is about? That always takes you beyond?
I think it’s just a very, very strong desire to be frank and honest about my own humanity. Shame accounts for so much unnecessary suffering, and I think if I could change the world in any way, I’d like to help people understand that their pain is theirs to hold, that there is no shame in that, and that they can make something from it if they wish.
Now, can you talk to us about your process of creating visual stories? How much of it is experience, how much of it is fantasy and how you take a photograph as something and present it with something entirely different?
I think it’s a total mix, I try and think less in terms of technicality when I create and more in terms of translating an idea into a concept and making that come to life by using my imagination and tools of a camera, editing software, etc.
How about those times when you get into the woods and pose naked and the times when it rains and you cannot get the right shot - how’s your exploration of nature adding to your art?
Well, it’s a fun memory to have when it all goes wrong! So even if it’s a miserable day, or someone walks past you doing something weird and naked, there’s always a story and a memory to tell. Life is short, I don’t want to spend it inside never doing anything fun ;)
With that, can you tell us about the one poem that always remains with you?
I think my favorite poem ever written is one by Mary Oliver.
“for how many years have you gone through the house
shutting the windows,
while the rain was still five miles away
and veering, o plum-colored clouds, to the north
away from you
and you did not even know enough
to be sorry,
you were glad
those silver sheets, with the occasional golden staple,
were sweeping on, elsewhere,
violent and electric and uncontrollable–
and will you find yourself finally wanting to forget
all enclosures, including
the enclosure of yourself, o lonely leaf, and will you
dash finally, frantically,
to the windows and haul them open and lean out
to the dark, silvered sky, to everything
that is beyond capture, shouting
I’m here, I’m here! now, now, now, now, now.”
To me, this is just so beautiful. The imagery of someone who always wishes away the storm, the feelings, the cacophony of emotions and weather that makes up a mind, who shuts the window when it’s “still five miles away”… finally running and throwing it open, shouting to the skies that “I’m here! I’m here! now, now, now, now, now!” is one of the most powerful images I think anyone could paint for me… it’s all about the awakening, the realization of the moment, the embracing of the storm.
Lastly, what would you share or suggest to other photographers?
Do you want to be rich, successful, more talented than everyone else, or do you want to be fulfilled? Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but to live a life that has to mean to you? I don’t profit from my “art”, but I’ve made peace with that and find a lot of joy in shooting weddings and teaching photography, but if I didn’t make time for my daft, creative arty portraits, then all of that would be meaningless. So my advice would be, forget the money, live small, but live deep.
Interview with Rosie Hardy