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High Hopes – An Interview with Hester Brodie

Hester Brodie

Hester Brodie

Photography can often be used to tackle or reflect the mundane and the ordinary into something more powerful and compelling. Hester Brodie is no stranger to this technique, and over the course of time has used her past to create a collection of striking photo essays. Brodie is Bristol based, and had a collection of her stunning work exhibited at Hamilton House in January this year, of which,  people from all walks of life came to support and admire.

Her collection High Hopes is a photo essay that tells the story behind Brodie’s past, including addiction and her bitter-sweet relationship with social housing. The origin of these pieces reflects back on Brodie as a teenager, breaking into an abandoned warehouse in Bristol to sit and reflect on the decay and beauty. She called it her “Safe place.” Her life eventually came full circle, and with the warehouse being turned into social housing flats, she was offered a chance to live in the place that was once her sanctuary – and took it.

Photo by Hester Brodie.

Photo by Hester Brodie.

However, she told me that whilst social housing is a positive movement, the feeling of being trapped was more overwhelming than ever. She told me that living in the flat that she does now is a constant reminder of the past: “The whole thing was like an organic journey with being settled and all the ways I’ve tried to escape, because I couldn’t cope with just staying here.”

Brodie specialises in documentary photography and ‘High Hopes’ showcases the people she met whilst going through the Homeswapper scheme (which allowed her to trade homes with other people in social housing). Some of the people captured in these photographs are now dead, and this particular photo essay is part of a moving tribute to the people with whom she shared this part of her life with.

“This particular project is the one I felt most personally attached to, because I was photographing people who I know, who are or were in my life. I know the other people I photograph have also had those struggles.”

The exhibition was a huge success and the personal emotion behind Brodie’s work both moved, and had a true impact on the people who viewed it: “I had one woman, who I am going to photograph, who had to leave the gallery because she found it so overwhelming, because it made her think about how she was when she first moved in. In that way it’s been a success.”

A photograph from the High Hopes exhibition. Photo by Hester Brodie.

A photograph from the High Hopes exhibition. Photo by Hester Brodie.

Her photographs are raw and natural, unmarred by Photoshop and filters, simply portraying the reality of  situations. Through her work with this project she hopes to move forward and create a book with more portraits which will undoubtedly continue to empower and inspire those who find it: “I sort of opened up something for other people and I was able to do that in a non-judgemental way. I‘m excited about where it’s going to go.”

You can see more of Brodie’s work by visiting her website here.

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