All photography by Nirrimi Hakanson.
Hard work and determination are two of the words that first spring to mind when I think of Miss Hakanson: the young photographer known for her soft, dreamy portraits of young doe-eyed girls balancing on that line between childhood and womanhood. It’s Nirrimi’s knack for wistful, other-worldly imagery that grabs my attention; beauty and innocence are captured through skilful light and filtering, but nothing ever seems overdone.
It was some time ago when I first discovered the works of 19-year-old Nirrimi Hakanson, yet each time I find myself clicking through her impressive portfolio of images, I continue to be blown away by her raw talent and keen eye for detail. The daughter of an Aboriginal artist and a Swedish-Australian hippie, Nirrimi has creative blood coursing through her veins. Whilst most teenagers turn to babysitting or Saturday jobs to earn their pocket money, Nirrimi had bigger and better plans: plans involving a Canon 4D and an adventurous imagination.
Nirrimi has been a dab hand with a camera ever since the tender age of 13, photographing anything and everything; finding beauty and wonder where others forget to look. There’s something in her work, both dreamy and poignant at times, that reminds me of fellow Australian Shannon Natasha; another young whippersnapper surely set for big things. Growing up in Townsville on the north-eastern coast of Australia, Nirrmi’s photographic endeavours have taken her across the globe, and in just five small years she has come an impressively long way, with two big name commissions under her belt.
First we have Diesel – the multi-million pound Italian clothing company who in the past has commissioned high flyers such as Sarah Roesink and Laurie Bartley. Nirrimi masterfully shot the brand’s Be Stupid campaign in 2010, creating controversy with her evocative but playful images. Next it’s Billabong – the biggest surfing brand in the world. Both she and her working partner/beau were commissioned to travel across Europe documenting their adventures for the brand’s new campaign set to be released later this year. But is the prodigious Nirrimi fazed by it all? No. She’s as humble as she was at 13, whilst still creating delectable photography that continues to belie her age.
Nirrimi by Matt Caplin.
First and foremost, I hear congratulations are in order! How do you feel being a mother will influence your work?
The pictures that inspire me most are Sally Mann‘s portraits of her children. I always knew one day my most treasured images will be the portraits of my own. I’m only a few months away from meeting my first daughter; I can’t wait to document her life.
What (or who) was it that inspired you to start taking photographs?
The thing that really set my passion alight was falling in love. It was with a young photographer when I was just fourteen. Love at that age is firey and all-consuming. I took pictures in the hope that he’d fall for me through them. One day he did and by then it was so much a part of me that it was me.
Your age is well documented, how do you respond to people who claim that you’re too young?
The only way to respond to that mindset is to continue to live successfully in a way that exists outside of expectation, and to prove that people shouldn’t be characterised by their age.
Your latest editorial, Dead Leaves, is as beautiful as ever. What was the thought process behind it?
It was autumn and I’d come to Queensland to work, shooting model tests and saving money for our soon to be family. I didn’t know what I’d shoot until the model came. I just wandered around the house I was staying in, and the backyard, and we just shot with what was there. She had this naivety about her I wanted to capture. I ended up filling the bath with dead leaves from the garden.
Dead Leaves by Winter.
Where do you find your models?
Sometimes I scout girls from streets, but they are also often my friends or family.
You and your partner Matt work together as a team, how does this relationship work when it comes to taking photographs?
On the last few campaigns we shot he would film while I would photograph. We’re of one mind when we’re shooting, so fluid and connected. I can’t imagine ever working without him.
Is there a particular message that you want to portray through your images?
Beauty shouldn’t be forced.
The internet is a huge platform that plays a big role in showcasing undiscovered talent. What’s your opinion on the impact that social networking has had on yourself and other creatives?
It has given every artist a voice. In a world where only the well-connected or insanely talented could once succeed, now almost anyone has the opportunity to. Technology has bred a society of youth who want things instantly and without effort, but no matter how much easier it is now that photography is digital, you can’t get anywhere without hard work. The internet is an amazing place for recognition and exposure, but just as ever, it doesn’t mean it comes easy.
You just recently travelled across Europe to shoot the latest campaign for Billabong; where was your favourite place?
I really liked all the old beachside towns of Cinque Terre, Italy.
After reading through your blog, I’ve discovered that you’re not only a great photographer, but also a creative writer. What inspires you to write? Is this something you intend to explore further?
I’ve been writing since I can remember, so it is very much a big part of me. The darkest and brightest times of my life inspire me. Even if I one day stop taking pictures, I know I’ll never stop writing.
The campaign you shot for Diesel‘s A/W 2010 campaign was banned was from poster advertisements in the UK. How do you respond to people who claim the imagery was too risqué?
Because it was my first campaign I shot less in my own style and more in the style I thought they’d want, so the images don’t really feel like me. I feel like the risqué thing was sensationalist. It is Diesel, so you can’t really expect anything else.
You’ve started experimenting with video, notably a short film showcased at the opening of Mok Theorem‘s S/S 2011 show during Australia Fashion Week. Is the moving image something you intend to develop further?
I do think film will one day be something I fully embrace. My lover (Matt Caplin) has been shooting the most incredible films (including one across Europe for Billabong), so for now I will leave it to him.
You’ve come such a long way in a short space of time, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I think we’ll own a house by water and wildness and an old campervan and go on adventures with our daughter. I’ll have exhibitions to pay the bills, and travel overseas for campaigns now and then. We’ll all be making music, taking pictures, loving and writing all day long.
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- Exhibition: HIPSTAMATICS at the Orange Dot Gallery, Bloomsbury