I first came across Rosie Hardy about eight years ago and fell in love with her hair and her honesty. I had never seen someone so unashamedly showcasing manipulated photographs and be applauded for it. She blurred the lines expertly between capturing and creating a moment to help display emotions for the world to see. Rosie was doing all this whilst still a teenager. Now with a lot more experience under her belt Rosie has a huge following and runs workshops to teach others how to express themselves through their photography. She has also captured Maroon 5, Geri Halliwell, The 1975, Millie Mackintosh, Fiona Wade and Charlotte Crosby to name a few.
Who are you?
My name is Rosie Hardy, I'm a 27 year old photographer who lives in the hills of the Peak District with a white cat who has a freckle on his nose.
I grew up in the countryside, born to Beverley and Phil. I had a rather magical childhood - albeit quite a sheltered one! I lived on a farm, had sheep and chickens and the all bucolic rest. I think that's where my affinity for the outdoors was born. When I was a teenager, we moved into the local town, I joined secondary school, and went from being a happy, weird country kid to an uncool, super enthusiastic geeky kid! The internet had come about in recent years, so at the first chance I had (I was about 15) I buried myself deep into websites like myspace, xanga and deviantart. I realised how much I connected to people more when they weren't attached to a body, when they were a variety of ages and backgrounds, and I also got to read and learn in a very unfiltered way - which was very different to my upbringing. So, as all teenagers do, I "created myself" via my online thoughts and ramblings, and this led to taking up photography and "creating myself" in a visual sense!
What was your inspiration behind starting 365?
I did my first 365 at 17 years old, as a way of practising photography every day and improving my skill set, connecting with people online, and making new friends who understood me better. It was a monumental undertaking, which I didn't realise at the time - but since I wasn't a professional photographer, nor did I have intentions to become one, I took it with a pinch of salt and just tried to create entertaining pictures and accompany them with interesting thoughts!
I decided to take up another 365 project last June when my boyfriend passed away suddenly. It had been six weeks since he'd died, and I was in a terrible state.
I took up a 365 because it I needed a direction - I was waking up each day and not knowing what to do with myself, how to cope or how to think or feel. A 365 was (what I saw) a great way to allow myself to feel whatever I felt without judgement, and give myself something to do each day based on that feeling - essentially turning a horrible horrible situation into something that could comfort others, comfort myself, give me a focus back and get me moving again. It was inevitable I was going to create some pretty sad art after it happened, and I didn't want to disregard the good, happy days that came with grief - it seemed important to create something that reflected all sides to loss, because there are so many.
I'd also received a little bit of online shaming when I'd written about my grief, being told I should "grieve privately", which was hard to swallow - all my life I've fervently believed that acknowledging your feelings, feeling them, expressing them and then reflecting on them and the experience was the healthiest way to deal with hard times. And here I was - the hardest time in my life, feeling like I was being judged for trying to get through them in the only way I knew how. So I decided that the one thing people couldn't stop me doing was taking pictures, so I fought for my right to grieve and simultaneously used my 365 project as my vehicle between the days and between my emotions amidst such an awful time.
You have been very honest about your life from the beginning, was this a conscious choice?
Yes - absolutely. I learned early on as a teenager that you are going to be judged in this life (and I could talk for days on whether that's "right" or "wrong" and the implications of caring at all), but I thought if I was going to be judged, then at least I'd be judged for who I really was as much as possible. I mean, at least get my character kind of right here! :P I've always shared my opinions, my feelings, my highs and lows - asked questions and changed my mindset many times, grown and learned from being open. In recent times this "authenticity" thing has become a trend on social media, with more and more people being transparent in the thoughts they share online. Brands are exploiting this cleverly (don't they with everything good?!) so I try and limit how much work I do with brands, as I do think it's a very sacred thing to share yourself, and it's a strange blurring of lines when you cross art and money, or trying to earn a living from something which is quite delicate. I shoot weddings, I shoot portraits, bands, teach workshops - I earn the majority of my money this way, so my art and thoughts and self portraits can stay kind of pure.
Is there a connection for you between creating and your mental health?
Oh absolutely - Jason Silva once described creating art as being a form of exorcism for the emotionally possessed, and that definitely resonates with me! I studied psychology in school and in my free time on the interwebs, and it was glaringly obvious to me that suppressing your emotions and shaming yourself for feeling something human is just a terrible idea all around. I think a lot of people resist the idea that they are human - and thus feel and experience a range of human emotions. It's a shame, because society leads us to believe that being in some sort of permanent state of happiness is an achievable goal - whether through materialism, or religion, or spiritual detachment, or SMOTHERING LIFE WITH POSITIVE THOUGHTS AND JOY - we're led to believe that this is not just a normal place to be, but it's the default position - and if you're not in it, something's wrong with you. I couldn't disagree more. The human experience is fulfilled in many ways - I don't intend to run away from my darkness and sadness. I intend to sit in them long enough that my eyes nearly adjust to the lack of light, then when I feel ready to, I will go outside and feel myself lift up up and off somewhere! Sadness and struggle can teach you far more than constant joy. I like people who have complexity and depth, and aren't afraid of themselves. But then again, I like lots of kinds of people, too :-)
What are your stress buster?
Muttering "fuck off" repeatedly under my breath quietly until I feel better!
But seriously, that's my stress buster. My key to handling any emotion is to handle the reactive part on my own - I try not to put my "crazy" onto anyone else, because my emotions are mine to deal with. Reflecting with friends later is fun and helpful support wise, but I try and deal with the actual emotional parts myself. It's interesting to see which genders are told which emotions are acceptable. For me, sadness is a very "acceptable" thing to feel and share - as a woman, it's OK because society says "women are emotional and sensitive", so if I say I'm sad, I don't need to feel shame about it. Men are told anger is acceptable, "manly" almost. But I don't usually share my anger and frustration, because it's not as accepted, as men don't commonly share their sadness. It's very interesting, I'd like to be part of a shift in that societal dynamic.
What is one book that has changed your opinion on something?
It's a book of poems, but all of Mary Oliver's poetry books really spoke to me. They didn't necessarily "change my mind" per se - but they reignited a part of me which was dying off quietly. Finding peace in nature and peace in knowing the world turns without you, in perspective, in paying attention and listening. I've always had that in me, but it's so easy to listen to the chorus of voices telling you happiness is more important to chase.
What's the biggest misconception about creativity?
That artists are crazy!!! We're ALL crazy, artists are just honest and articulate about it. It's why breakup-comic pages on instagram get millions of followers and meme-culture is A Thing, because we all relate to the same experiences and emotions, it just takes an artist with balls to be shamed and laughed at to turn it into something.
Do you ever feel vulnerable showing your art? If yes, how do you overcome this?
Absolutely - especially when I did my recent 365. There were days I loathed it, I loathed myself for signing myself up to a project where I was forced to share how I felt every day - sometimes I just wanted a week of privacy, a week of reflection. I actually started dating a guy at one point in the project, and he ghosted me - I had to put that into a friggin photo and write a poem, because it was honestly how I felt that day and part of the experience of grief (dating again). I hated that he might see it and think I was a nutter. But the one thing I'll ALWAYS have is my art, no matter what terrible events come my way, it's the most valuable thing I own and therefore should be prioritised, and I feel no shame in that!
What advice do you have for people who say they aren’t creative?
I'd say, start with feeling emotions first. A lot lot loottttt of people in the world are disconnected in somewhat way - there's no shame in it, but there's a whole spectrum of new life to experience on the other side. Stand outside on a cold autumnal day and smell the air, notice the mix of colours in front of you at any given time, combine that with a sense of perspective - know where you are in your life; imagine in 40 years looking back on that very moment and wishing you could smell the autumnal air of your 27 year old self again, that you could go and kiss your parents again, or your boyfriend before they leave the world. Realise all you have. Then take it in, pay attention. Sometimes doing this moves me to tears. "Life should be lived to the point of tears."
This is a great way to connect with feelings again. Start good, then when you have a bad experience, try and sit with the negative feelings and put words or imagery to how they feel. Listen to music, write a few words, draw a picture, these are all creative ways of turning the sword on the opponent.
What is one thing you hope the human race discovers in your lifetime?
Ooh, great question. I'd love to live in a more emotion-accepting world. I'd love for people to search for common ground instead of differences.
Do you practice gratitude?
Of course, but not in a "take 10-mins every day to feel grateful kind of way." For me it's a constant whirr and heartbeat beneath daily life, piqued with beautiful moments of clarity where it overwhelms me - right now I'm sat in a coffee shop in London, and there's a pile of leaves swirling up in a leaf tornado, trying to dance with the people walking past. It's beautiful, and me looking up from writing this email and watching it every few minutes is me practising gratitude.
Do you like capturing or creating a moment more?
Capturing is the story, creating is the storytelling ;) So, both equally! Sorry! ;)
How do you tap into your creativity?
Usually whenever I'm feeling "more" - I just try and roll with it!
Why do you think people are so reluctant to express themselves?
Shame. We need to be accepted and connected in this world - pretending we don't (or worse, forcing yourself to believe we don't for fear of having a need) is damaging and silly. It's easier to be accepted when you fit the status quo, connecting with others on an average but commonly shared level - i.e, small talk. But it's far more rewarding to connect to fewer on a deeper level, to me, anyway!
Has your art brought you more connection or isolation?
Connection connection connection! It makes me value my solidarity, and has isolated me from a few people who feel very uncomfortable with openness, but this is something I'm OK with and they need to surround themselves with what works for them - preferring to be quiet about how you feel is a preference and doesn't reflect on your value as a human being.
Do you practice yoga?
No, but I find I "meditate" while driving :-)
Why do you think people who have mental ill health don’t seek help?
I think it's a mix of reasons, and part of it is that moving forward is a gradual process. When you're in a very very low state of thinking and feeling - "despair" is a good word for it - it's going to be impossible to wake up one day and go "Oh, this one way of thinking will solve everything and now I'm fine and I'll go get help."
Just like I couldn't wake up the day my lovely boyfriend died and say "Well, we all have to die, he had a great life and I was so lucky to have him and now I've realised this I'm OK" - it doesn't work like that. I realised all those things, but I didn't FEEL them. It's taken me 18 months to get to the point where I can say that and mean it, and even now I still cry most days, though more with gratitude for having him than sadness I am without. When people need help, they also need to make gradual changes. Like getting to a place where the fear turns into sadness -
".....sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey, a terrible journey, but sorrow is at least an arriving."
And then turn your sadness into anger, that's actually an improvement! Then turn the anger into humour, reflection, improvement. Then acceptance, enjoyment, love. Repeat repeat repeat. The process is not linear. You will go back and forth and back and forth and there's no shame in that!
Why do you think your photography resonates with so many people?
Because people have feelings and people need connection and I'm just a source of it, that's what I like to think! I use the guise of pretty hair to lure people into my web of emotional honesty and then everything ends up better :-) Yay! Hehe.
Find Rosie at: