I remember the first time I saw one of Harper Smith’s photos; it was one of those images that I saved from my tumblr feed and found myself going back to time and again, including it in inspiration boards for upcoming shoots. I didn’t even know it was one of Harper’s until several months after my initial hoarding when I came across it again on tumblr properly credited. From that moment on, I’ve found myself going to her website and tumblr regularly to peruse.
I recently had the pleasure of working with Harper on our Fall Lookbook STAR FROM MARS (coming soon), and picked her brain about photography, inspiration, and pigs. I would also like to add that she is freakin’ hilarious!
AB: So, ﬁrst off, can I just say that we are MAJOR Harper fans around the ofﬁce! We are beyond stoked to have worked with you on this project!
HS: YAY! Thats so crazy….cause I’m a MAJOR Solestruck fan!
AB: So let’s start out with the basics…
How did you get into photography? Did you go to school for it?
HS: Kind-of. My mom is an artist and taught ceramics at my highschool (i only got one detention from her)….she inﬂuenced me creatively while my father, a journalist-turned-marketing consultant, pushed me to study journalism in college…thus I studied photojournalism. Even though it is a different kind of photography from what I do now – I truly believe that studying this medium is one of the most important things I did to get me to where I am now.
AB: What most inspires your photography style? What is your vision or goal when you approach a project? What’s your process?
HS: The element of journalism and spontaneity is deﬁnitely important in my work. Most of my favorite editorials (stories) were derived from an epic movie or period of time. I recently shot a love story between two models which was originally inspired by ‘Boys Dont Cry’….but I felt like it was a bit too obvious… I started (randomly) watching ‘Days Of Heaven’ later that night and decided I wanted my shoot to take place during the dustbowl era….so I pulled lots of inspiration from the incredible Dorthea Lang. My brain never turns off….I’m always looking for something to inspire me. One time I did a shoot that was based on a cheesy advertisement from the 80’s I found when packing up my parents house during a move.
AB: Favorite locations?
HS: MONUMENT VALLEY, UT – hands down
AB: What would you say was the moment or shoot that you felt really solidiﬁed your presence and aesthetic as a photographer?
HS: There were a few (each for their own special reason)….but my ﬁrst take at a proper editorial was scary as shit….and so important. I was a photojournalism major…I literally thought CHANEL was pronounced CHANNEL (like a TV channel). The idea of failing ate away at me….cause deep down shooting editorial and fashion is what I REALLY wanted to do. I spent 2 months saving up all the money I had to hire stylists, models, pay for a location, etc….I had to go completely out of pocket. The shoot turned out great (in retrospect I wouldn’t want it on my site now – but it gave me the conﬁdence I really needed at that time). In addition, the shoot I feel really changed the game for me was “LONG BLACK VEIL”….styled by my good friend and creative muse, Coryn Madley. It was where bohemian styling, witchcraft, nudity, and desert vibes all meshed for the ﬁrst time = HEAVEN.
AB: Do you have a favorite photographer or someone in the ﬁeld that inspires you and/or your work?
HS: Dorthea Lang, Walker Evans, Richard Avedon, and Nan Goldin.
AB: Do you have a favorite shoot that you’ve done?
HS: I recently shot my husband, Cameron, for Spectacle Magazine…just me and him. Its always crazy to shoot someone you love or are really close to…sometimes more awkward and intimate than the obvious stuff.
AB: If you could shoot anyone in the world alive or dead who would it be?
H.S: Dalai Lama
AB: In a former life you were probably…?
HS: Calamity Jane… or her horse.
AB: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
HS: Cheese. All the way. Any kind. The stinkier the better.
AB: So I have to admit that I had a few moments of, “Holy shit…I get to work with Harper Smith!”, before meeting you. Who is the one person you’d go all “fan girl” over if you met them?
HS: Mmmm. Probably Jane Goodall. I also have a huge crush on Tom Hardy…so I’d prob get real “fanny-creeper” in that situation too… but sometimes just admitting your excitement while shooting people is the best way to be.
AB: Do you have a mantra or catchphrase?
HS: “DO THE DEAD DOLL”. If you have shot with me you know what that means!
I also try to loosen up the stiff subjects by making fart noises when I bend down to pick
something up. That works like a charm. (real classy too).
AB: I think there may be some video recordings floating around of her amazing commentary on set. *wink wink*
HS: I am so scared of the shit you recorded me saying on set. I’m sure it’s rediculous hahahah.
AB: So tell me about your adorable little pig. How did she come about?
HS: She turned 1 yesterday! I have been obsessed with pigs since I was 10. I am from Iowa so I have to believe that has something to do with it. They are such incredible animals….a bit misunderstood and definitely under-appreciated, underdogs of the animal world. Our little girl, Pepper is a REAL piece of work, but I am completely obsessed with her. When Cameron proposed to me…I said YES but only if I could get a pig – and he obliged! Although it took some time to get used to having a pig snuggle up with us in bed, we are both in love with our fat, stinky, polka-dotted little girl.
AB: What’s your favorite shoe on the site right now and why?
HS: Maybe it stems from my inability to pronounce designer names correctly, but I love your collaboration with MADE IN HELL-A – speciﬁcally the ‘Pra-duh’ shoes. Definitely rocking those soon. Also – been following the designer Miista for a while now….and love almost every shoe from that line. My new favorite is the ETHEL. It is a perfect mix between a fun chunky boot and a feminine bootie. I love it in bronze.
AB: I like to think that we’re all a little strange in our own way which is what makes us individuals. Do you have any weird phobias, likes, habits, or fun facts?
HS: I am scared to DEATH of the dark.
I am completely, creepily obsessed with pigs.
I was born without a roof to my mouth (cleft palate)….and now that I have one – I don’t shut up.
Stay tuned for our Fall 2013 lookbook, STAR FROM MARS, shot by Harper Smith, and to shop her fav shoes from the site!