Two Cultures, One Shot: Representation through pictures with Abi Ponce Hardy
“I want to be a platform where people can see all the different types of people and beauty that there is, and to be able to find themselves in my photographs.”
Abi Ponce Hardy, photographed by Lea Luiz de Oliveira
Abi Ponce Hardy, 26, has the ability to see the beauty in people’s emotions, style, aura, and capture it all through a lens. The Mexican/Scottish photographer has travelled between her two native countries since youth, and this mix shines through her portrait-style images. Her style of photography is important today, making sure to celebrate female energy and represent individuals from all backgrounds.
In this Q&A, Abi takes us through her photography journey, the importance of representation and her favourite lockdown activities:
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY IN THREE WORDS?
Colourful, honest, direct
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER? DID YOU ALWAYS HAVE AN INTEREST?
I have always been interested in all forms of art, and I have always created, whether that is drawing or making things. I started playing with cameras when I was quite young and definitely enjoyed trying different perspectives, like taking close up photos of different things. When I went to college to study Art & Design foundation, I did my final major project using paint on people’s bodies and photographing them. This was the beginning of what sparked my photographic journey. Later, I travelled for a while, exploring photography in more depth. When I returned to Edinburgh, I began photographing friends for their yoga businesses, this is where the business aspect came in. I then began photographing professionally.
DOES YOUR UPBRINGING HAVE ANY INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK TODAY?
I think so, growing up I moved around a lot due to my mum’s job which was, of course, difficult, but it gave me a lot of skills with meeting and talking to new people. Also, being comfortable around people I didn’t know well. There was never any pressure to study or go to university which allowed me to explore different avenues and end up finding joy in what I do now. Also growing up in between Scotland and Mexico showed me two very different cultures which I think reflects in my work. I hope that I can show both of them together.
Hanis, Scotland / Photographed by Abi Ponce Hardy
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE IMPORTANCE IN CHANNELING YOUR MEXICAN ROOTS WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR WORK?
I don’t think I consciously channel my Mexican roots through my photography, but I think that from being Mexican, living there and learning more about my second culture it does come through. I think mainly in the colours that I use. As for it being important to bring it into my work, although it is not conscious, it is important to me to show that I am from two different places. I would like that to be seen, as my photography is representing me as much as it is others.
PORTRAITS ARE A COMMON THEME IN YOUR PIECES, IS THIS YOUR MAIN STYLE? IF YES, HOW COME?
Yes, I love portraits! I love to capture a person, their emotions, their style, who they are. I think that people are interesting and everyone has a different background and story. I also just love meeting new people and getting to know them, and photographing someone is pretty intimate. You can get to know someone quite well and quite quickly.
MANY OF YOUR PORTRAITS ARE PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT ETHNICITIES, WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF REPRESENTING PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY?
Growing up as a queer, mixed person in a very rural part of Scotland, it definitely impacted how I viewed myself. When I was young, I wanted to change the way I looked - which I am sure came from looking different to my peers. I didn’t really have access to the internet, and the TV that I did watch did not represent me. So, I think that I want to represent those that aren’t represented in mainstream media as much. I want to be a platform where people can see all the different types of people and beauty that there is, and to be able to find themselves in my photographs.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE PROJECT TO WORK ON?
Damn, difficult question. I don’t think that I have one favourite project or photoshoot that I have done. The ones that stand out for me are when I walk around with the person or people; finding different places to shoot them, getting to know them and forming a bond. A couple that really stand out for me was shooting Hitomi in Tulum, Laura in Glencoe and Sabelle and Roxy near Tynningham. All of these have in common a very casual take on the photoshoot, while getting to know them all on a deeper level.
Hitomi, Tulum / Photographed by Abi Ponce Hardy
A LOT OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY TAKES PLACE IN EDINBURGH, AND SCOTLAND ITSELF. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE, OR SOMEWHERE YOU ARE REALLY DRAWN TO PHOTOGRAPHICALLY?
In Scotland, I think my favourite place will always be Edinburgh, as it feels like one of my homes. On top of Edinburgh, I love a little place called Glenelg, which is on the west coast - close to Skye. I have spent quite a lot of time there and love the peace and solitude of it. I would love to do more photography in the countryside of Scotland, the highlands and all the cute little rivers that I always imagined fairies lived!
DID YOU HAVE ANY MISCONCEPTIONS AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR JOURNEY THAT ARE DIFFERENT TODAY?
I guess they’re not really misconceptions, but I began my photography career shooting wellness, which has changed and grown into what I photograph today. I think that such as with anything, it is always changing and moulding with me and my ideals. That’s something I had to learn, to not only allow, but embrace.
WHAT MAKES PHOTOGRAPHY IN EDINBURGH SPECIAL?
Edinburgh is such a magical city. I have lived in several different cities and countries, and however much I fall in love with a place, I always come back to Edinburgh. I appreciate it constantly for it’s old architecture, green spaces and ease to get into nature. Also, the closeness of friends and family, being such a small city. So, I think because of this it makes photographing here special! It’s also just a very unique place, with the cobbled streets, Arthurs seat and the sea being all in close proximity to one another.
Naomi, Mexico City / Photographed by Abi Ponce Hardy
DO YOU THINK MINORITY CREATIVES ARE UNDERREPRESENTED IN THE CITY?
To be completely honest, I’m not sure. After living and working in Mexico mainly for the past couple of years, I am a little out of the loop here. I think that the circle I am in within Edinburgh represents and celebrates minorities, however, I think that on a larger scale, not so much. In saying that, I love the Fringe as it brings about so many different people, cultures and social issues, and obviously the Fringe is pretty mainstream!
ARE YOU OPEN TO COLLABORATIONS WITH OTHER CREATIVES?
Yes! I’m always down to collaborate with people if it is in line with my values and is something that benefits us both. I don’t have any solid ideas at the moment, however, I’m always open to hearing other’s ideas and seeing what we can do together.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO CHANNEL YOUR CREATIVE SPIRIT DURING THIS LOCKDOWN PERIOD? ANY COOL PHOTOGRAPHY IDEAS?
I have been going more into painting, drawing and making things out of clay. This has been the outlet for my creativity as photography has been put on a bit of a standstill. However, I have been playing with web shoots which are a really fun way to photograph people remotely and still get a similar feeling. More than this, there has been a lot of thinking. I have a few projects in the pipeline for when this is over, such as ‘Queer Love’, a project showcasing all the queerness and all the love.