In conversation //

India Hartford Davis x Liz Sunshine

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A regular on the international fashion week scene, India Hartford Davis has established herself as one of the most successful Aussie expats, shooting backstage at some of the most exclusive runway shows in the world. Friend and fellow photographer, Liz Sunshine, took a moment to discuss exactly what it’s like now living in London, shooting on the streets all over Europe and how the industry is changing due to the rise of social media.

Hi India, it's so lovely catching up with you in Paris. We're both here for fashion week, but doing quite different things, can you tell me what you have been photographing this week?

Paris has been pretty crazy for me this season! I have actually been shooting exclusively for Harvey Nichols - shooting backstage and some runway shows for them which has been amazing! On top of that, I have also been shooting with several Australian and international designers - working on building social content for brands with beautiful models who are currently in town for fashion week. I've been shooting one of my favourite brands - Love Shack Fancy (which I have worn quite a bit in our shoot together), as well as Aussie brands Macgraw and Hansen and Gretel which has been amazing!

Moving to London, must have been a big decision, why did you move? What advice would you give to other Australians wanting to move O/S to follow their dreams?

I moved to London because I really wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I was very comfortable in Sydney and didn't feel like I was as hungry enough for amazing work... I had always wanted to move to New York, but the visa process was a lot easier in London because my dad has a British passport. I also knew I wanted to do high fashion and wanted to be in the thick of the action.

I remember my first fashion week in New York and Paris and looking around at hundreds of photographers in the snow, running after the perfect shot - models and influencers, editors and designers…and just knowing that this is where I was meant to be. I also fell in love with a very gorgeous Englishmen which made the move a little easier! In terms of advice for other Aussies wanting to make the move... I would say that it takes AGES to get settled. I feel like it wasn't really until this year that I felt comfortable with the city, with being freelance and with my work. It takes a lot longer to establish a sound business then I had anticipated.

I would also encourage people to work with as many people as possible when you are here... I kept to myself a lot when I first moved but there are so many creatives in the city and everyone is willing to work and test together, so you just have to throw yourself in the mix and get started - you have to keep on testing and building your portfolio even if you aren't necessarily getting work all the time! Also make sure you have an amazing support network because it can get really lonely at times... and that’s something people don't normally tell you!

Known for your romantic clean photographic aesthetic, can you tell me how that influences your personal style? And what are the pieces in your wardrobe you cannot live without, and on the other hand, what would you never be caught wearing?

I think looking the way I do made me feel like I always had to stay away from really feminine styles because I was so terrified of being 'too girly', but I think now that I'm a little older I am fully embracing my more feminine side and getting stuck into my floral dresses! I think somehow now, dressing in a more romantic way has made me feel more confident as a woman and more sure of myself - like it’s cool to be girly again! I worked in fashion retail for about 5 years during uni and working as a photographer (including 2-3 years working with Zimmermann) so I think being around women a lot and helping them feel confident in what they were trying on or buying was really crucial for me. So, I think when I'm working now and shooting models - my goal is to make women feel confident and feel fabulous in what they are wearing or wanting to wear.

I’m certainly not a photographer pushing the boundaries, but I love telling a story with my imagery and I love making women look and feel good. Having said that, the crucial piece in my wardrobe right now is my vintage black cowboy boots I bought in Brooklyn during FW in New York. I love pairing them with my silk Lee Mathews skirts - or my floral love shack fancy dress - I'm all about mixing my feminine and girly wardrobe pieces with a little leather jacket or heavy boot to balance out the look. I would NEVER be caught in a ballet flat shoe.. or a cardigan... I hate fine knit cardigans... they really creep me out.

What is your take on the word ‘Influencer’? Do you consider it to be a real profession?

I have so much respect for those men and women who were influencers or bloggers and have managed to capitalise on their growth, following and their personal style to create their own businesses that operate beyond Instagram. I do think Instagram is going to crash soon and I think that if you are an influencer whose whole life revolves around the app then I think you need to have a little re-think. I don't know if it’s my place to say if it’s a real profession. All I would say is that it becomes pretty self-indulgent sometimes and I think 'influencers' need to be constantly evolving to be able to survive in such a saturated business. There are so many incredible Aussie women who have evolved into entrepreneurs from influencers and that to me is really exciting and what we should be encouraging others to do!

If you could work with one fashion brand for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

I think at this stage, I would love to work with brands like Loewe, Chloe, Isabel Marrant or Simone Rocha.. so if that become a reoccurring pattern I would be pretty high on life...

Who is a woman in history that resonates with you?

A woman in history.... that is a very, very tricky question. I studied a lot of American and European history at Uni but looking back at it now... it was very rare we were encouraged to study women. Our studies were usually dominated by influential and powerful men. I have recently become a lot more interested and inspired by feminism, so I think someone who resonates with me a lot is someone like Emmeline Pankhurst who was a prominent suffragette in Britain in the 1920s. If we are talking about more recent times, I would encourage lots of women to listen to the podcast the Guilty Feminist by Deborah Francis White. She is unbelievably switched on and has totally made me feel like I can say I am a feminist! She has totally changed the way I think about the movement and has reinvigorated me!

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