Picked up a magazine lately? Consciously or not, you’ll have seen Ronan Mckenzie’s definitive photography gracing its pages. Just a couple of years into her career and this East London creative has already carved out a reputation for fusing authenticity and strength in each intimate portrait.
Delving into the world of work, Mckenzie left her Fashion Communication and Promotion course at Central Saint Martins within a fortnight. After dabbling with styling, she found herself fixed firmly behind the camera and has since gone on to work with the likes of i-D, Marques’Almeida and Vogue US. As if that wasn’t all, she’s exhibited and curated her work “A Black Body” at Doomed Gallery in Dalston, is the sole founder of a 500 page photography publication HARD EARS and has produced collaborative tees with Dickies. We could go on.
Not only do we admire Mckenzie’s original perspective and determination when it comes to work, but the considered approach she takes with her photography. It only seemed right to sit down and discuss the past, the present and what the future holds in store.
We wanted to start out by asking you what the driving force is behind your personal work?
My work is all about capturing what I see now, I love photographing people because I find it so interesting that they will never be in that moment again. I also think it’s a powerful thing to be able to show people how I see the world and what catches my eye, which I get to do most within my personal work.
We know Girls was one of the first projects you started working on, how do you cast your subjects and how has your style of direction and photography evolved over the years?
With Girls, they are either friends, friends of friends, girls I find on Instagram or agency models. I pay so much attention to my casting for this because it’s so important to me to shoot people how they are, I only really shoot people that jump out at me for some reason. I can’t really describe what that reason is, sometimes it could be a physical feature like beautiful eyes or an interesting shape face, or sometimes it could just be the vibe of that person or an energy that comes through. My style of shooting portraits definitely changed once I began shooting medium format as opposed to 35mm, mainly because there is so much more depth when using medium format, textures and details are so much more obvious which is why in the last few months I have become a little obsessed with close ups.
With your commercial work, what is the deciding factor that makes you want to get involved?
It seems most of the commercial clients that I’ve been fortunate to work with like my work for it’s natural feel and the way that I capture people, so I’ve been able to do a few great projects this year which allowed me to really get stuck in to this. The Nike F/W Style Guide was super fun because I shot 6 girls from totally different backgrounds and places, of different shapes and colours all moving and working out and I could go in tight and catch the angles and essences of the girls and their bodies in those moments.
Hypothetically, what other career could you have seen yourself pursuing?
I know at some point in my life I want to study social work and work with rehabilitating homeless people. The struggle at the moment is in rehabilitation and giving people the mental support they need to ensure they stay off the street.
In previous interviews, you have touched on the voluntary work you’ve done to combat the homeless crisis in London and your passion for making a change. How do you feel others in creative fields can pull together to help alleviate the issue?
I think that everyone in creative fields and beyond should be aware of social issues and speak openly about them to make sure that they don’t go unnoticed. I also think it’s so important to step outside of the creative industry and make connections with others to ensure that we don’t stay inside a bubble where things like fashion week parties or when DSM go on sale are the most important events of the year, of course they hold a level of importance to some people but in the grand scheme of things I feel that being aware of and supporting social issues is the most relevant and important thing there is. I try and do my little bit within my work be that shooting more diverse people or trying to link charity work in to what I do, and if everyone in creative fields do that we will be able to make small waves that will in turn create bigger ones.
Having worked in and amongst the fashion industry, what is your stance on sustainability? How do you introduce sustainability into your life?
Sustainability is so important especially when fashion can be so throwaway. This year I’ve been trying to be a more sustainable shopper by spending slightly more on ethically made better quality pieces that will last, or second hand clothes, instead of buying into the fast fashion market.
So, who is your dream style icon?
So tricky! I don’t think I have one! Erykah Badu’s hats, with maybe some of Solange’s tailored looks.
How do you spend your downtime away from the camera?
I love food! I spend a lot of time looking at restaurants and recipes that I want to try and make. Exercise is also a big part of my life, and I love travelling! I’ve just booked a trip to Japan and I’ll hopefully make it to Beirut later this year to see a friend too.
Are you currently working on a sequel to HARD EARS?
I haven’t started working on it as of yet, but it is definitely on my mind and will hopefully make it to fruition towards the end of next year! In the mean time I’m working on a few other personal projects and some fashion work which I’m quite excited about!
Watch this space.
Words: India Blue van Spall
All images: Ronan Mckenzie