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Interview | Hilary Upton


New Zealand photographer and artist Hilary Upton is most definitely one to watch. Having been introduced recently through a friend, I'm very excited to be sharing her beautiful fine art photography with you.

After graduating from Elam and spending time overseas, Hilary returned home to continue her already established career. I'm completely captivated by her photography of our stunning New Zealand landscapes, and in awe of the vintage style she so cleverly creates. As I look through her work I'm transported back to childhood summers spent at the beach. Her still life photography of kitchen wares and vintage toys are delightful and her flower series is stunning. Oh, those peonies!

Hilary's work is sold here and overseas. She has been featured on Decor8 by the highly successful American blogger and author Holly Becker and has even had her work published on the cover of a New York novel.

Not only is Hilary super talented she is also an incredibly lovely lady and has very kindly shared her story and photographs with us today. Thank you Hilary!

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey so far - where did you grow up, what did you study, what path led you to becoming a photographer and artist?

I grew up on the Coromandel which meant I was always close to the seaside and surrounded by beautiful scenery. My family moved to Auckland when I was a teenager and I took photography as a subject at Westlake Girls and awarded ‘top’ for both years. From there I went on to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Elam and felt compelled to major in photography there also. Learning photography with art in mind has kept me in the art realm.

You live in the beautiful beach town of Ohope in New Zealand. Is this where you settled after your time spent living and working in London? How has the change of pace influenced your work?

I have been based in Ohope for over a year now. Moving here from Auckland after returning home in 2008. There is definitely a lot of inspiration on my doorstep here and I have been able to set up a studio space which is great for my still life work. Living in London I found I was taking photos of NZ scenery on fleeting trips back home and focusing more on still life. Moving back has helped me establish a bigger collection of NZ scenery I have entitled Sand, Sea, Sky.

Photography can be a hard career to break into. How did you approach this challenge and/or what advice would you give to aspiring photographers?

I think the main challenge is being inspired to carry on creating work. It is often quite easy to stop once you finish uni or your course as the projects are not handed to you with deadlines. I found opening my etsy shop, filling this up along with keeping it fresh, has helped me to continue creating new works and collections and also gain inspiration from all the talented sellers there too, from all sorts of disciplines. I would say find
what motivates you to keep on taking photographs.

Your photographs are described as having a vintage style. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

My photographs are in a way like memories and I like them to have a timeless quality. I often use a technique called Through the Viewfinder (TTV) using a combination of antique and digital cameras to create a photograph that celebrates the dust, scratches and colouring that is true to old film and Polaroid photography.

You have your own blog Love Sugar Snaps. Are there any blogs or websites that you visit regularly for creative inspiration, or just to stay in the loop?

I lately came across the San Fransisco blog SF Girl By Bay showcasing a mix of vintage and bohemian design and art. I am also a regular visitor at Decor8 and Design*Sponge and local blogs like Studio Home and more recently The Design Chaser.

What else inspires you - places, travel, books, magazines, nature.. etc?

I love New York and am always inspired after a trip there. I have not been for a few years so would love go back someday soon. Barcelona is another favourite place of mine and of course London. I find inspiration in a city like London where you can head out for the day and never know what you might find. I was over there recently and spent an afternoon just musing around Shoreditch. However living there I did find myself yearning for the NZ coastline, and especially for our Kiwi summers.

Are there any designers, artists or creative people that are inspiring you right now?

I am really inspired by Illustrator Kris Tate right now. Her work has a sort of 80's vibe and is a mix of geometry, colour and animals from the forest.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I sell mostly online however my stockists are increasing. Like any shop front you have to keep this fresh and new so I spend time updating the shop at, etsy and society6 as well as working on new collections. I also like to ship orders as fast as possible so any given day I can be preparing and packaging up orders. I also mount my photo blocks by hand which I prepare regularly for stockists.

What are you working on right now?

Stay tuned, I post updates and new work at my Facebook page

What are you most proud of professionally?

To date I am most proud of having my photograph 'Find Me in New York' used on the book cover for novel 'Other Words for Love' produced by Random House New York. It was a year in the making and I was pretty overwhelmed when the finished product arrived in the post.

Where would you like to take your career - what are your dreams for the future?

I would love to have Hilary Upton Photography available in art & design stores across the country and extend my range of products for my online shop also. It would be great to work with Interior Designers on residential and commercial projects producing larger size works. Perhaps look at exhibiting gallery collections also.

All images: source

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