Interview: Jeff Hahn

We chat to photographer Jeff Hahn about his latest work, an exploration of his dreamt-up landscape ‘Port Yarin’

Known for his work within the fashion industry, Jeff Hahn has established himself as a first-choice photographer for major editorials, having worked with a plethora of fashion powerhouses, including Nike, Versace and Net-A-Porter. His latest personal project sees him venturing deeper into ethereal portraiture, with a diverse array of models captured in a mythical landscape dreamt up by Hahn himself – Port Yarin.

Hahn’s second offering follows on from his exquisite first photo-book ‘The Next Best Thing To Loving You’, which explored the idea of staged vs. reality in photography. Equally as compelling in regards to it’s subject matter, we sat down with the photographer to discover the thought process around his latest work ‘Port Yarin‘, and how it progresses from his debut.

Tell us about the key themes in ‘Port Yarin’ and why you chose to explore them.

Port Yarin is a fictional place, geographically situated in the grey area between continents. By creating this town, I guess I’m trying to explore ideas around “ethnic identity”, and create a fusional utopian space, meant to serve as a home to the racial anomalies and third culture kids of the world.

Tell us a bit about the creative process you went through creating Port Yarin.

I wanted to do a personal project for a while, and always envied how so many photographers have a ‘hometown’ to return to, where the locals have weird traditions or interesting religious ceremonies, and it’s like this database of potential imagery just waiting to be made. I guess as a third culture kid I’ve never felt like I had a community I felt comfortable in, there’s never been this fixed idea or drop pin for home – which in itself is an interesting idea. I was thinking a lot about the 5 countries that straddle Europe and Asia and how fascinating that grey area is. Eventually I settled on two countries in the Middle East, travelling to these places to photograph the landscapes and cityscapes to piece together a new fictional identity. I was interested in the little things that stylistically hinted at a vague geographic identity: patterned floor tiles, shadows of palm trees on buildings, dust.

I originally started photographing my subjects in London and wanted to cast a range of people who have that racial ambiguity. I ended up shooting people of all races – Carribean/European, Eurasian, Israeli, Mexican, Brazilian, etc. As always with personal projects, I like to work with a mix of models, friends, lovers and internet strangers. In Israel I was casting via Instagram.

How is this work a progression from your last book, ‘Next Best Thing To Loving You’?

I think TNBTLY was very much focused on exploring fantasy vs reality in photography, and the camera as a tool to create memories and alter them. Port Yarin aims to be purely fictional as a place, but very real as a concept. It’s a patchwork collage of influences and ethnicities, formulated to create a new world vision of the future faces of the world.

“By creating this town, I guess I’m trying to explore ideas around “ethnic identity”, and create a fusional utopian space”

In both ‘Port Yarin’ and ‘Next Best Thing To Loving You’, the photography appears to be very intimate and explores the human body in it’s natural state. What appeals to you about photographing people in this way?

I love intimacy, I’m a closet romantic – I love the sensuality of skin, the little nooks of a body where one finds comfort. I guess I also love creating something timeless – removing clothes removes signifiers of time and style, it allows me to morph a story of my own.

How do your personal photographic projects differ from your work within the fashion industry?

I think my visual interests exist in both elements of my work: my intrigue with colour, light, intimacy. Fashion is much more collaborative which can work for or against you; but I guess it’s easy to have your vision watered down or drowned out by everyone. I’m constantly trying to bridge the gap between my personal work and my fashion work.

Looking forward, what can people expect from you in 2017?

I’ve stopped trying to plan the future, but I think people can expect that I’m going to stay truer to my vision – and dedicate more time to personal projects. I loved labouring away on a physical object and hope to make more books in the future.

For more information or direct orders, please visit jeff-hahn.com. You can also pick up the book at the Wonderland pop-up shop, which is open now at 192 Piccadilly, W1J 9ET, 10pm – 7am.

Ryan Cahill
Interview: Jeff Hahn

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