Through the Lens: Fraser Havenhand
After lockdown provided an opportunity to spend more time outdoors on local walks, Sheffield-based photographer Fraser Havenhand started to notice cars that would have previously been overlooked. Sometimes abandoned, left to the mercy of overgrown gardens; sometimes prized possessions, gleaming ahead of a drive to keep them functioning during the long period of confinement bestowed upon its owner.
Sensing a connection between these machines and their owners, the lives they shepherd around and the homes they sit outside, Fraser decided to document his findings in Parked, a self-published photobook that he spoke to Exposed about last month.
Hi Fraser. First of all, could you tell us a bit about your yourself and how you first got into photography?
I’m a freelance photographer living in Sheffield but working all over the UK. I started taking photos at school, where I was offered to study photography as a new option for my GCSEs. I’d always felt like I was better suited to the creative subjects than the academic ones, so straightaway something about photography just clicked for me, even though I had no idea what I was doing. I continued to study it at A-level and subsequently got my degree in photography from Sheffield Hallam. After leaving university and getting my first full time office job, I always had this nagging in the back on my mind that said I should see what it was like working in the creative industry, so I contacted a photographer whose work I love and went and met him at his studio in Sheffield city centre and, as luck would have it, he was looking for new assistant. I assisted for about four years and had an amazing time learning the ins and outs of what commercial photography and working in the creative industry was like. Roughly three years ago I started working with my own clients up and down the UK.
What are your main sources of creative motivation?
My mum has always been a really creative person, and even though she would never admit it, she is an incredible painter. So, I think it’s part of my personality to want to have fun making things. I think being creative in any capacity is good for your mental wellbeing, and I know I’m definitely happiest when I have a camera in my hand, even if I’m just taking a stroll around Sheffield with my girlfriend. I think it’s the mindfulness that photography offers that motivates me to keep doing it. It helps you to take a step back from whatever is going on elsewhere in your life and just look at your surroundings in a different way – I’ve always found that part of the process really enjoyable and rewarding.
That leads onto the Parked photobook, which you began working on during lockdown. Could you give us a bit more background to the project?
In the beginning I never planned to make Parked, it sort of just made itself through circumstance. When the pandemic hit and changed how we all lived and worked, I wanted to keep busy and try to find a way to continue photographing cars. Because I’m used to taking photos of beautiful polished cars in a controlled environment, through work I was out looking at ways to shoot cars from a fresh perspective. Early on in lockdown, I remember looking through some old work and finding a few images of parked cars that I’d stumbled across on my photo walks; I remembered thinking how enjoyable it was to discover these things left on peoples drives or at the side of the road. I always wondered what the story behind them was: what was the connection between them and their owners? How does this home have this car? How does this car warrant that kind of care? I kept asking myself these questions and it motivated me to try and find new cars for the project, turning it into something bigger than a few photos I had on an old hard drive.
What is key to producing engaging documentary photography?
For me, I think it’s finding a project or subject matter that you are really passionate about, however obscure that might be. It’s so much easier to make images that are engaging when you have a deeper understanding of what it is you’re actually making photos about, even if that’s just the city you live in, your friends or your family. Images that have genuine authenticity are the ones that are the most engaging and tell the best stories in my opinion. I think, too, that the simple ideas are often the ones that translate best into great photography; when I’m out on a walk taking photos, I have a small digital camera with me, one lens, and that’s it. I think over-complicating things with different focal lengths or bits of kit can distract from the story being told.
If you could photograph one event or subject, what or who would it be?
This might not sound as glamorous as some answers, but I would really love to shoot an event like the Goodwood Festival of Speed – doing coverage for somebody like Lotus would be really something else. From what I’ve seen online, the cars that attend the event look incredible and I think being in that melting pot of people and having access to shoot some of the big personalities in the UK car scene would be absolutely fantastic.
What do you hope to turn your attention to next?
I’m not sure what’s on the cards next in terms of a personal project, but I would like to make another book at some point. But like Parked, I’d like it to be something that comes naturally rather than something I have to force. I know it’s been done to death but one thing I would like to explore is a project on all the really talented makers and artists that we have in Sheffield; I follow a fair few on Instagram and Twitter and would love to make some portraits of people in their spaces working on the things they love.
Parked is out now and available from fraserhavenhand.co.uk