Alexander Hardwell: Detroit Through His Lens
As a mortgage banker for Quicken Loans, Alex Hardwell is able to pay the bills and stay more than busy. He says he has a tight schedule and wished he took a break before starting the intense workload that the company offers. Alex says he is constantly exhausted but that he loves the work and finds it totally worth the time and effort. During his training period, which required much less from him, Alex was able to dedicate quite a bit of his time to working on his skills as a photographer, using up to eight hours in a day to focusing on learning technique or tweaking his photos. With his new rigorous schedule, Alex is taking time to reflect on and learn from some of his previous work as he adjusts to his new position.
Although he just started getting into photography in June of 2020, he has found it to be a new passion. He began taking photos of his friends and he says, "After taking photos of stuff, I yearned for a certain kind of style that's like most familiar in movies and I really kind of fell in love with that." He loves photographing his subjects, but even more than that, he is motivated to capture a cinematic moodiness in his photos and finds that he can get a bit obsessive on creating a frame that tells a story or at least captures a moment of one. He feels that there are a lot of "interpretations for what constitutes that style" which is what makes it so intriguing to him.
What he wishes he knew most when he started taking photos is how to extract emotion from his models. After training to talk to people all day by speaking to about a thousand people a day, he says it takes its toll, but that he feels he can communicate his direction much more efficiently because of it. He also feels that the model he is working with makes a huge difference in how he can get into the flow of his photography. Because Alex actively seeks opportunities to practice his photography, he has worked with people who lack confidence and experience, but it is no problem for him. He is simply encouraging and welcoming of a fun and casual experience by playing music, inviting the models friends, and telling them the photos are "coming out too good."
Having been raised on 9 Mile just outside the municipality of Detroit and close the infamous 8 Mile, Alexander used his photography as a means to connect with the city. He notices a negative stigma towards Detroit from outsiders (and even some insiders), but he chooses to look for the beauty that has come from Detroit's complex and painful history. He says that you have to work to find the beauty in Detroit and that the city trains his eye. One of the problems he has faced because of his location is that his models get very cold and he doesn't really want to put them through facing Michigan's winter so he opts for sunnier days and warmer weather for their sake.
Alex really likes photographing animals because he can get unguarded emotion from them and, with people, he finds you have to really put the work in to earn their trust. "The more you earn their trust, the better the photos will come out."
To Alex, photography is a way to express something. His goal is to get other people to look at a certain subject through his eyes, even if it is just a moment. A challenge in his work is when the image doesn't reflect his intention exactly but that, even through limitations of skill, time, and equipment, he truly enjoys creating an experience with his final product.
When I asked Alex if he sees himself doing photography in the foreseeable future, he replied with a resounding "Hell yeah, I'm just going to keep getting better and better with time."
To contact Alex with inquiries for photography sessions and to keep up with his continual growth, please follow or reach out to him; he is @HardwellAlexander on Instagram