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What comes to mind when you think of the 2000s? For me, it’s revealing low-rise jeans, graphic tees and blinged out chunky chains and belts, as well as Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl era – and Pharrell’s music videos. That’s exactly what photographer Holly Rae Jones is all about. She’s obsessed with that look and the music that comes from the noughties. If you’re ready for a throwback to a gloriously trashy pop culture moment – or maybe dark, depending on your taste – this is the interview for you.
Who is Holly Rae Jones?
I am a London-based visual artist working across art direction, curation, photography and brand consultancy.
Although you’ve dipped your toes into many different creative fields, you originally studied photography. How did you stumble upon this discipline?
I was always drawing and painting, but I began taking photos when I was a teenager as well as styling my friends. I took a photography course at A-Level and discovered film. My tutor was very inspiring and really supportive, and it became such a passion, particularly fashion photography. This spurred me on to pursue it, studying Photography BA at the Camberwell College of Arts.
Also, how did you get into fashion?
I’ve wanted to work in fashion and the arts for as long as I can remember. My mum is a fashion designer and she's had a big influence on me. I think it’s because of her that I have been cultivating my personal style and aesthetic literally my whole life. Even though I have no formal fashion training, towards the end of college, I spent months researching what roles I could do. I landed an internship at Liam Hodges, where I am now communications manager.

Talking about your multiple projects, what do you prefer doing, and why? Styling, photography, art direction, curation, fashion branding…
It’s really difficult! What I do could just be defined as ‘image making’. I couldn't choose just one thing that I prefer. I would say that this probably all comes under creative direction. I really love being a part of real-life events though, and bringing a vision to life.
How do you pick people to be in your shoot? What is it that you look for in a person when deciding who to photograph?
People who have a cool look but don’t take themselves too seriously. Humour, versatility and energy are really important and I love shooting with my friends.
Could you describe your style or aesthetic in a few sentences? What does the ‘Holly Rae Jones world’ look like?
Playful and colourful. I like to bring a bit of surrealism to real life. The ‘Holly Rae Jones world’ would include lots of sky, pink and be kind of dreamy and soft, but at the same time, very graphically heavy, slightly post-apocalyptic, and with a harsh camera flash over everything.

Why would you describe your style as post-apocalyptic?
I mean post-apocalyptic in a dreamy and surreal sense. I often try to isolate subjects when shooting on location so they seem like they are the only people in the world, which I think is quite post-apocalyptic.
As you’ve said, you’re currently the communications manager for London-based menswear brand Liam Hodges, what is it about the brand that drew you in? What do you enjoy the most about working for them?
Liam and I approach storytelling in a very similar way. I feel like we have a very ‘I like what I like’ type of approach, which is something that attracted me to the brand. There is a lot of things that I love about my job – the team being one of the best things and how much freedom I have.
How did the Foreign Exchange exhibition – one of your most recent projects, held this past summer at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles – that you co-curated, come about? What motivated you to create it? And what kind of photography, as well as which kind of artists are featured in it?
The Los Angeles exhibition came about as a collaboration between a good friend of mine, artist and writer Undine Markus. We hosted an exhibition back in March at the Axel Arigato flagship in London featuring a line-up of young, international photographers. Foreign Exchange is a development of this first exhibition, and this time, we focused on photographers who use contemporary music as their subject. Photography and music are two things very close to my heart. The photographic styles in the show vary from candid and documentary to editorial, but are commonly all striking, bold and playful. Photographs within the group show include portraits of Tyler, The Creator, Smooky MarGielaa, Princess Nokia, Joey Bada$$ and more, as well as a music video and a mini-documentary.

You’ve stated that your style goes hand in hand with the kind of music that you listen to, so, which artists are you currently vibing to? Also, which would you say are your favourite music videos of all-time, looks-wise, and why?
Most of my favourite and most influential videos for me come from the 2000s. My number one favourite is Frontin, by Pharrell featuring Jay Z; I love all the looks in the video, the indoor skate ramp and Nigo's cameo. Lots of 2000s Pharrell and N.E.R.D videos actually. Gwen Stefani music videos from her Love. Angel. Music. Baby. era are iconic too, particularly Hollaback Girl. Currently, music-wise, I'm into Kids See Ghosts, by Kanye West and Kid Cudi, and Teyana Taylor’s new album. Buddy just released a great album too, Harlan & Alondra, which I’ve been playing a lot. 
How did you meet fellow Londoner, photographer Naomi Wong? Together, you have a collaborative effort, HRJ and Wong, in which you normally are the stylist and she’s the photographer – although you both overlap – seen in your joint Instagram. Why did you decide to create it?
Naomi and I met by mutually following each other on Tumblr when we were sixteen. We finally met when we were both studying in London (although in different schools) after I sent her a direct message in response to her looking for people to collaborate with. We’ve been close ever since and it felt really natural to collaborate. When we work together, I feel like it doesn’t matter which one of us is taking the photographs.
Which artists would you say have influenced your work?
There are a lot, but stand out artists would be Nan Goldin, Daido Moriyama, Juergen Teller, William Eggleston, Lauren Greenfield, Jeff Koons and director Gregg Araki. I would credit pop culture generally, as I’m obsessed with music videos and old fashion campaigns. There are also so many pop personalities, (shout out to Rihanna) that have had an influence on my work and style.
What’s in store for you?
Hopefully, lots of exciting, multi-disciplinary projects. And world travel!

Mercedes Rosés
Naomi Wong

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