Meet Student Category Winner, Rose Hartley

Photos by Rose Hartley

It was a Polaroid 600 camera that first got Rose Hartley obsessed with photography.

Rose—whose photo of a young Indian boy peering through a cracked car window won the Student category in the 2018 MC Photo Comp—was in awe of the colours it produced, but quickly traded the camera for a medium-format Canon A-1. The 23-year-old psychology grad has spent the past year travelling through the Middle East (Iran, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan), with stops in Asia along the way to shoot short documentaries. When we caught up with Rose, she was on the move again, packing her worldly belongings into a few cardboard boxes, en route to her new life in Melbourne. Here’s what she had to say.

Can you tell us the story behind your winning photo?

I was walking along in the Muslim quarter of Jaipur, India, and saw a dilapidated car that someone had thrown a rock at. It made the perfect frame, and as I was checking it out, this gorgeous kid in his traditional robe walked in the direction of the car. I just snapped the photo instinctively, almost without even thinking about it. It felt a bit weird and non-consensual, so I asked him afterward if it was okay to use the photo. He was a bit confused that he couldn’t see a preview, as it was shot on film. Finally, he smiled, nodded and walked away. I guess that’s what constitutes the grey area of street photography: there is an inherent power dynamic that exists when you hold up a camera to shoot. I think it’s always really important to get some sort of consent where possible.

A moment you regret not having your camera handy?

I always regret not having my camera on me because I always see something I want to take a photo of. A recent moment that comes to mind was when I was visiting a city called Hebron, which is known by many as an important microcosm for the current situation in Israel-Palestine. We were walking through a checkpoint and some of the Israeli soldiers, who must’ve been 18, were begging us to take photos of them. Usually, you’re not allowed to take photos, but here they were posing in their uniforms and weaponry. Alas, I had run out of film.

Which of your photos would you save from a burning building?

Definitely a Polaroid of my mum when she was in her early twenties. The look on her face encompasses her most endearing qualities: dignity, resilience, and compassion.

If you could steal talent from a photographer you admire, who and what would it be?

Kate Geraghty is an award-winning photojournalist for Fairfax and has this incredible ability to put human faces on the vast and impersonal conflicts that flash by on our TV or phone screens. Particularly in times of political, social, economic, or cultural upheaval, her photos provide an important medium to communicate significant stories that are impossible to put into words. Kate’s ability to cover such diverse but complex conflicts all over the world and then to translate them through a photo is something I admire and completely aspire to do as a photographer.

What are you shooting at the moment?

I love shooting portraits of people in spaces or environments that are natural to them because they tell a story about that person or place. While that’s a relatively vague answer, I think the power of photography is that it encourages you to see the world from different angles and perspectives and subsequently translate that to others. Photos that tell a story are so important.

What do you like to do when you’re not shooting photos?

I read a lot of books and listen to music, so you’ll probably find me at the beach or a nice park doing one of those things. I’m also really into gardening at the moment, so you also might find me potting some geraniums or pruning some lavender.

Plans for 2019 that include your camera?

I’ve been interested in photography and film my entire life, but up until the past few years I mistakenly dismissed it as a hobby. This year I’m dedicating as much time as possible to shooting as much as I can, and always remembering to take my camera with me no matter what. I have a few personal projects I want to pursue, so I will definitely be starting them as soon as possible.

See more from Rose on her website or Instagram @apertureadjustment

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