“I will always seek the golden hour": Harry Cooke on his dreamlike photography

Harry Cooke is a Devon-based photographer who’s been on our radar for quite some time. Having worked with titles such as Hunger Magazine, No Substance Magazine and Just Magazine, his portfolio conveys a pure vision of technical skill and creativity, mixed with an eye for romantic colours and lighting. A soft palette, warm tones and considered composition are fundamental throughout his work, creating dreamlike images filled with tender nostalgia. Seeking out the “golden hour” is crucial; each image, whether it’s from a personal or fashion project, portrays a sense of warmth and photographic determination. His latest venture has led to the release of a new publication, titled Sigh Journal, that launched over the weekend, and we caught up with Harry to find out more about this journey into publishing and how he got to where he is today.

Tell us about your background: how did you get into photography and what’s your main source for inspiration?

After deciding that the academic route wasn’t for me, I then delved into the world of art. Initially working with paint and sculpture, my practice soon developed into using a camera and the dark room. It seemed to be an extremely natural transition and a way in which I could effectively showcase my creativity.

Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, I find it everywhere really; the outside world, aesthetically pleasing films, stories from friends — it’s all around! I just love to work with really talented creative people that are lovely to each other, both in the build up to a shoot and on the shoot. When that happens, everything seems to work out really well. That ideology seems to work in most aspects of life.

How do you think growing up in Devon influenced or affected your photography work?

It’s beautiful down here in Devon. I think, as a location, it can help channel your creativity into making some really interesting work. A lot of the most talented creative individuals I know, and still work with, are from the South West. Shooting on location is always a priority of mine and I think growing up next door to luscious woodland, mixed with an urban city landscape, has helped to gain a healthy perspective of two kinds of worlds.

The disadvantage of being in Devon is that everybody does move away eventually, so creating fashion work in particular can be very challenging. But with time it is becoming easier, it just pushes you to work incredibly hard.

What’s been your favourite project so far?

The latest projects I have been working on have all been great: Hunger Magazine, No Substance Magazine and Just Magazine. Each project was filled with really talented creatives — something that is super key to all fashion work — and everyone worked together to create the final images.

I’ll run you through one of the images from the one of these shoots. This image needed eight people to make it happen and, without any of them, it wouldn’t have looked the same. Titled The World Made Flesh, the shoot was inspired by an essay written by Jack Lenton, where myself and my assistant created a backdrop made up of 150 sheets of A3 paper (it took a while). Then, using a mixture of natural and continuous lighting, we were able to create an image that was exactly what was in my head, plus the whole team were really happy!

Are there any running themes throughout your work?

Across both my fashion work and personal work, I believe there are two key aspects that continually cross over: colour and composition. The colour of a photographic image is so important and helps to determine your photographic voice. I’m a huge fan of warm tones and I will always seek the golden hour to shoot my work if possible — for both fashion and personal projects. Regarding the composition to my work, every fashion image I take consists of two photos. From both the portrait and also the backdrop, I aim to create an image that could stand alone without a subject… but also with subject. The same applies to my personal work, I hope that you’d be able to place a subject and it instantly blends into a singular image.

What do you look for in an image? What catches your eye?

If it’s beautiful, it will catch my eye. Photographic imagery that has been carefully considered really stands out to me: framing, light and composition of the shot all play a part in creating a photograph that is so much more than your average day-to-day image. Also, imagery shot on film will continually fascinate my mind; the negative is imprinted onto by light, the chemical reaction locks on as a negative image, in turn creating a visual representation that retains a nearly complete level of accuracy and realness. Amazing!

Tell us about your new publication Sigh Journal. What’s the ethos?

Over the past three years I have been wanting to start a creative platform of my own, and when the idea of Sigh Journal came to me it seemed like the perfect time to go ahead with it as I have just finished at university. Our ethos states: “Sigh Journal is an independent online publication with an undying love for the medium of photography. We aim to provide a contemporary space on the ever expanding internet for visual artists, photographers, and creatives to showcase their work, in a new and innovative way. Our editors, talent scouts, social media team and designers are dotted around various locations in both the UK and Europe, with an aim to collect beautiful photographic work from creatives based across the globe."