The feted photographer reveals the stories behind his striking new book, a celebration of Preston bus station and its idiosyncratic visitors
Suffolk-born Jamie Hawkesworth has been making waves over the past two years with his distinct brand of documentary-style photography. From his beguiling campaign for Miu Miu Cruise 2015, which synched fashion shots with complementing landscapes, to his dreamy, lo-fi fashion stories for the likes of Vogue and Fantastic Man, the 27-year-old is fast becoming one of fashion's most sought-after image makers. Interestingly, however, his photographic roots are far from satorially focused.
Hawkesworth first picked up a camera while studying forensic science at Preston University in Lancashire, with the aim of documenting reconstructed crime scenes. This ignited a passion for the medium, and before long he had ditched fingerprints for photographs, switching courses and embarking on a mission to capture the everyday characters and scenes that surrounded him. It was while living in Preston that the city’s imposing Brutalist bus station – built by Ove Arup and Partners in 1969 – first caught Hawkesworth’s eye. “About four years ago, I did a project with an ex-tutor of mine, where we spent the weekend at the bus station and produced a little newspaper filled with portraits of the teenagers we saw there," he explains.
It was the resulting pamphlet – published in 2010 and titled Preston is my Paris – that would secure Hawkesworth representation at London’s MAP agency, kickstarting his career. He had just moved to the capital when photo agent Julie Brown tried to buy a copy of the pamphlet online, only to find it had sold out. Brown invited Hawkesworth down to her studio to show it to her in person, and the rest was history.
Two years later, however, Hawkesworth caught wind of plans to knock down the iconic station that had played such a big role in his success. "The demolition was imminent," he expands, "so I thought it was important to move back to Preston for a month and spend every day in the bus station taking photographs." The ensuing pictures read like timeless stills from a mesmerising film, brimming with fascinating characters, unusual angles and delectable colours. Here, as Hawksworth prepares to release the series in a covetable book format, he shares the stories behind his bus station adventures.
"To capture the series, I spent every day in the bus station from around 8am until 8pm. The station is one big loop, and I just walked around it all day every day, just waiting for people to pop out at me. I tried not to think about it any more than that, it was just whoever would catch my eye in a particular moment. It was a centre for Megabus so if a bus comes from up North, it goes through Preston to go South, so there was always an influx of really interesting people coming through the station. When I found someone, I’d ask to take their portrait and that was it. To a certain extent, I was trying to be spontaneous about it; whether it was an old man, a kid with a funny haircut or interesting shoes – I just let anything be photographed."
"There’s been an awful lot of talk about Preston bus station as a piece of Brutalist architecture – that's the reason it was saved from demolition eventually, after I'd taken all the photographs – but there wasn’t any particular project on the people. I first touched on that with the newspaper I did with my tutor, but this book is just developing that a little bit and celebrating the people that use it, instead of the architecture."
"At the the bus station at that particular time of the year, the sun rises on one side and then sets on the other in the evening, so if you wait at the right time, you always get people walking through the sunlight."
"I also love this photograph of a family – a girl, her little brother and an old man who's their grandad. It was a particularly nice moment. Sometimes, after walking around the whole bus station, I would just stop and wait to see if anybody would come to me and this family just stood alongside me, waiting for the bus."
"I did an exhibition at the bus station where I printed the pictures on a huge scale and pasted them onto the bus station walls. I don’t know how they let me do that but they’re still there now – all peeling off. The original plan was that they’d stick to the wall and when the station was demolished, they’d all be churned up in the rubble and it would be a good end to the project. But it was all saved and the posters are still there – they’ll probably just end up going in the bin. I had put up a huge print of the woman clutching the black bag and it was funny because she came to the opening of the exhibition and she couldn’t believe it that that was her on the wall, she hadn’t seen the picture before! When I’m anywhere taking people’s portraits, I never really get into an in-depth conversation with them. Normally I ask, take their portrait, say thank you very much and then we’re both on our way."
"Sometimes I'll be walking around and someone will be doing something so incredible that I can’t believe my eyes. The boy making goggles with his hands was one of those moments – I couldn't believe I'd seen something so normal but as brilliant as that. In this instance, by the time I'd I plucked up the courage to ask to photograph him, he'd stopped doing it so I had to ask him to do it again. A lot of the time, it’s stopping someone and saying, 'Stop there, don’t move, you look amazing!' With him, it was a different way of doing things but it worked."