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Traveller, Storyteller, Photographer: From Alice with Love, Wit and Hair

Posted on 23 Jul 2017

Alice Hawkins is a photographer: fashion is just part of what she does, combining it with other elements to produce something different, a celebration of her subjects that gives them ‘a platform to speak to the world’. Armed with wit and her remarkable blonde hair, Alice shoots for publications including 'POP', 'LOVE', 'i-D', 'Ponystep', 'Garage' and 'Vogue'.

Sunday best: ‘Life in Death Valley’ [Credit: Alice Hawkins, POP magazine (Death Valley, 2006)]

Half travel journal, half work log, Alice’s Adventures is a record of trips to Cuba, Hawaii, India, the USA, Italy, Jamaica, Nairobi and Russia, odysseys born from a sense of adventure and her relationship with stylist extraordinaire Katie Grand, who commissions Alice in a ‘super loose’ way. Off goes Alice to say, Cuba, with an assistant, a stylist, and bags of clothes and from there anything can happen. With no model agencies, a casting call is a hit and miss affair and Alice can end up choosing models from the street, using car park toilets as makeshift changing rooms.

It works because of Alice’s respect for her subjects and her knack of turning the shoot into something special for them. Katie Grand says that Alice makes it look easy, but this is a mark of her skill and professionalism – in reality, the Cuba trip was so stressful that she ended up in hospital with a burst blood vessel.

Don’t miss the body on the steps: Lidiesky and her son Ricardo Gunzalez, [Credit: Alice Hawkins, Unpublished (Cuba 2012)]

The book is the final version of Alice’s diary, which she keeps as she goes, stuffing it with Polaroids and thoughts. On set the work is all her own; sometimes she gets the chance to talk over the results with her assistant and stylist during evenings on the road, sometimes not.

Alice has ’a love affair with the USA’: she knows it well and loves ‘the landscape, the big skies and the people’. For her trip to Texas she wanted to celebrate its strong characters ‘in their Sunday best’. While finding models in the States is relatively straightforward – Facebook and Instagram help – Alice still approached people in the street. By using local people, her images have a sense of place, a documentary feel, turning the ‘here and now’ into the ‘there and then’.

India was not easy. To be photographed women needed many male permissions and cultural norms could complicate matters – a bare midriff might be OK, but bare arms might not. Russia produced some very strong and independent women. ‘Like a crème brulée’, Alice says, hard on top but warm and friendly underneath. There Alice wanted to photograph women with bodyguards buying jewels.

And what about Britain? Alice likes Essex. The glamour, the boldness and the vigour of it. Women ‘wearing what they want rather than what fashion dictates’. In the book you can see them with their outsize teddy bears. Quite a few of them are blondes, and Alice’s hero is Dolly Parton.

What next? Alice was off to Las Vegas with her then one-year-old twins. She said they are becoming personalities. I bet they are. And in ten years’ time? ‘Oh you know, big hair, a few gallery shows, being happy – the usual.’

Bill Knight

Alice's Adventures

Alice Hawkins Out of stock