Meet Harris Elliott, visual story teller, creative director, stylist and one half of the phenomenally successful photographic exhibition Return of The Rude Boy. His 10 second elevator pitch would read something like this “I develop concepts and curate art/photographic gallery shows and help brands develop narratives to create and deliver mega interesting advertising campaigns and installations”.
Born and raised in London, Harris calls himself a Visual Storyteller. Inspired by travelling , films, music and theatre dance performances, his career began with studying Interior Architecture & Design but later gravitated to telling visual fashion stories when he found his talent for realising ideas into beautiful visual delights.
Harris in Paris
Do you remember the first time you found someone ‘beautiful’?
Watching Lisa Bonet on the Cosby Show.
Can you describe why you found them ‘beautiful’?
It was Lisa Bonet..I don’t think that needs explaining.
Lisa Bonet in the Cosby Show
How important is physical beauty important to you and why?
I would love to say that physical beauty isn’t important to me – fundamentally speaking it has no real bearing on your strength of character or your soul. If you are ill and in need of medical care, physical beauty does not entitle you to a rapid recovery nor does it in anyway aid a person’s access to common sense.
What do you find beautiful about your mother?
My mother is beautiful because she is strong. She raised me and my siblings single-handed, a black woman navigating her way single-handed in the UK, that is beautiful and that is strength.
Harris aged 12 with his Mum
What do you find beautiful about women now that you are an adult?
Conversation, confidence and an independent mind and lifestyle.
Zoe Bedeaux in part of the Rudeboy series
Have women’s looks become more or less important in our society?
A woman’s look, still determines how she is perceived in society. I know plenty of women who choose to not wear make up or keep it minimal. Alicia Keys has taken the pledge to be bare faced. Not that she’s started a movement or anything. She’s appearing in public without make up and that help’s to push the discussion on natural beauty. She raises the question, “How many industries would collapse if women loved themselves for who they are?”
If you had a daughter who did not possess what society perceives as beauty and felt insecure about this, what would you say to her?
If your daughter attracted unwarranted attention from men because she was perceived as beautiful, what would you say to her?
I would tell my daughter to let no one live rent free in your head.
Would you like to see a wider variety of women in the media (age, ethnicity physicality) or do you like it just the way it is?
The media is failing. Without a wider representation of age, physicality and ethnicity. The east is becoming increasingly more powerful, so we will soon see a time where the largest continents in the world, Africa and Asia, don’t need to continue to promote the western Caucasian skinny ideals as the sole barometer of beauty.
Does the media represent women in the way that you see them? If not, how?
Of course it doesn’t!! Annually within the media we have the black model debate, ie how women of colour are not represented within fashion comparative to society. It’s boring that this is still a topic of conversation. Sadly, due to the prevailing archaic racist notions within media we are still in debate on such matters. We also still have size zero nonsense debates. Can they all just get a clue and move on.
Part of the Rudeboy series
When did you first become aware of what real beauty is in your work?
It was the first style initiative that I became aware of that would cast beauiful people from the clubs and streets. Buffalo would often champion black models which was unique in this country.
How does your work embody your ideas around how beauty and aesthetics are defined?
I often street cast real models and regular folk who aren’t signed to model agencies, this way of working challenges the standard process of booking models perceived as having industry standard beauty. I meet people all the time, recently I cast Manami a girl I met serving in a bar in Tokyo. Many people who have seen her have made comments on how striking she looks, unbeknown to them she isn’t with an agency. Similarly I cast Bevan Agyemang
for a shoot for The Photographers Gallery. This shoot was all about the perceptions of black male identity and beauty that are paraded via Trap artists in the media, the piece will be featured in Loose Associations a publication produced by The Photographers Gallery. The exhibition Made You Look; Dandyism and Black Masculinity
is curated by Ekow Eshun and is on from the 15th July – 25th September 2016
‘Thats not me’ The Photographers Gallery