We Are Real

Where are you from?

I was actually born in Denver Colorado, though I left when I was three. But I've gone back to visit quite on long road trips, and I'm so in love with that part of the world. The colours are so vivid and intense there, it's heartbreakingly beautiful. I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario from the age of three. Ottawa is kind of an odd city- more of a town pretending to be a city. But it's home, and I was always able to figure out just enough to do there to have fun– like going to Rocky Horror at the historic movie theatre, or late nights at grimy venus for punk shows with my best friend. I'm currently home in Ottawa for the summer, but will be returning to Toronto for my second year at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto in September.

What inspires you?

I like people who are intensely, uniquely themselves. People with weird personal style. People who don't really care about how they are perceived. I'm also so inspired by the new generation of female photographers just tearing down and rebuilding what it means to photograph women. I'm so sick of older male photographers taking these shots of teenage girls where they all look flawless, yet so vulnerable and sad. I want to take photos of women where they look real and complex. 

What do you love most about photography?

The people I've photographed so far are just friends and people I've met- not professional models. They're regular girls that have insecurities and doubts about their appearances. Now if done right, a photograph is like looking through someone else's eyes, and seeing how they perceive you. So my favourite part is when I get a really great shot of them and I can say here, look: "This is how I see you. This is how wonderful and important and beautiful I think you are." I just love capturing young women like me in a way that feels honest, and comfortable.

When did you start modelling besides working as a photographer?

I started a bit of modelling this year – I actually started because I was in this facebook group for photography in Ontario and posted a self portrait and then had quite a few other photographers asking me to model for them. I ask so many people to donate their time and let me take photos of them – it's only fair that I give back and help out some of my fellow photographers. I'm only 5"4, so I'll never be signed to an agency or anything, but I enjoy doing it to gain some experience of what it's like being on the other side of the camera, which in turn helps my photography. Puting my models at ease, taking away the awkwardness is key to the way I shoot. Most of the time I'll play music we'll chat and gossip between takes. If the people in front of my camera are just hanging out and don't feel like they are being scrutinized, like they have to perform for me, that's where I get great shots. 

What do you like more? Standing behind or in front of the camera?

I like standing in behind the camera I think, because I have more control over camera functions than I do my face honestly. I like being in control and being able to choose the creative direction for a shot. That being said, having other people take photos of me is always a bit of a thrill– it's fascinating to see what side of your a photographer will capture. Sometimes they bring out things I've never actually seen in myself before. But it can be a bit nerve-wracking having all the attention on me. 

 What are the 3 things you’d take with you on a lonely island?

1. Some good books: I've been reading "Please Kill Me: An Oral History of Punk" for like a year now, and it's maybe the most interesting book I've ever read, but and just haven't had time to finish the last little bit of it. (But that hasn't stopped me from recommending it to everyone I know. Seriously, go check it out, it's fascinating) 

2. My camera and laptop so I could document and make films about my life there- I need something creative to stop me from going crazy.

3. A comfy hammock to sleep in, so I could finally catch up with all the sleep I miss thanks to busy university life. 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is probably shenanigans and mischief. I like doing things that aren't technically against the rules, but only because they didn't realize they needed a rule against that yet. In high school I had this really boring teacher who would always just put on movies and leave the class rather than putting in the effort to teach us. So I decided to make a point. When he next put on a movie I was ready - he left for 20 mins and when he came back, he walked up the aisle and stopped beside my desk. He looked down, let out a sigh, and asked in an incredulous tone "Hailey Asquin, are you making waffles in my anthro class?" I said I was indeed and asked if we wanted one.

Are you in love currently?

Aha, that's a messy question for me right now. I fell in love for the first time this spring with a very good man. But he's now an ocean away from me in England, and for logistical and practical reasons we just can't be together. It's heartbreaking, and I don't really know what I'm doing right now. But it does mean that I now know exactly what a happy healthy and supportive relationship feels like, and can avoid ones in the future that aren't like that. We still talk all the time, and distance aside, special people will always be important to you no matter what.

Photography: Hailey Asquin @hailey_asquin
Olivya Leblanc & Sam Kolder
Model: @annecyspencer, @pypes.a, @imrydog, @carmentricks and Renee Leblanc