Eric Hart Jr.'s tender vision of Blackness
At just 21, the Georgia-based photographer has won plaudits from Beyoncé and Spike Lee.
Eric Hart Jr. is one of America's rising stars in photography. He grew up in Georgia and began taking self-portraits as a solution to teenage boredom. He soon turned his lens on his schoolmates and developed his technical skills, and before long, Beyoncé and Spike Lee were admiring his work (the former commended his viral photos of her Ivy Park collection on his grandparents, while the latter has become something of a mentor).
The 21-year-old is currently studying at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where he's honing his tender vision of Blackness in all its beauty, joy and celebration. He describes his work as "stylised portraiture" with a focus on identity and shifting notions of beauty. The idea of power, and its intrinsic links to identity and self-expression, is what strikes a chord for Eric.
**Can you introduce yourself?
**So, my name is Eric Hart Jr. I am a 21-year-old creative born and raised in Macon, Georgia. However, I currently live in New York City studying photography at NYU. Creatively, my main focus is image-making, but I also dive into other art forms like screenwriting, poetry, and drag performance. Outside of art, I'm just a Sagittarius with a huge appreciation for Asian cuisines. I'm also queer, which I thoroughly enjoy.
**How would you describe your work?
**As a photographer, I definitely focus on stylised portraiture. My work is an exploration of Blackness and shifting identities within our culture. I'm fascinated with the intersectionality and the layers of what it means to be Black in the modern day. From masculinity, queerness, to dress, I strive to utilise image-making in a way that displays people like myself in all of their power and all of their beauty.
**Can you describe the concept behind this series of images?
**Ultimately with this shoot, I wanted to take that classic idea of what a traditional fashion ad looks like and flip it. That twist being to juxtapose masculinity and femininity through this chic, elegant type of lens. That freedom and confidence that comes when one is simply expressing the truest, ideal form of themselves is so beautiful to see. Even outside of art, in day-to-day life, I think at times it can be a struggle to love and own every bit of yourself with pride.
**Do you follow a certain philosophy when it comes to creating work?
**Honestly, my only philosophy when creating is to create authentically. I strive to capture what feels right and what actually interests me. I can't lie and say that, within my time as a photographer, I haven't shot something because I thought it would resonate online, or edited things a certain way in order to play into certain trends aesthetically. But that never sticks. It doesn't even feel right as a creative.
Embracing my own subjectivity and point of view as a photographer has really shifted how I create and what I create. I think every photographer's strength is a uniqueness that only their eye has. I try to make sure I'm using mine authentically.
**What has been your most meaningful professional experience so far?
**I'll admit, I heavily struggle with imposter syndrome. I've always been incredibly ambitious and driven. Always dreamt of shooting editorial work for major publications or having my work impact the archive of major platforms and institutions; however, there are times when all those things seem out of reach.
Even when you see bits and pieces of your dreams start to become a reality, it's like, who am I? Things like this don't happen to people who come from where I come from. But I have been fortunate enough to have these moments of validation from the universe that reassure me that this dream I'm chasing is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. It's hard to pick one moment because I'm grateful for them all. I can definitely say receiving bravos from the artists who've inspired me is something that sticks with me in those moments of doubt.
Beyoncé writing me a letter acknowledging her appreciation for a shoot I did was… I still can't even find the words. That woman is one of my biggest inspirations, and her work has brought me so much joy and love. Same thing for Spike Lee. Hearing him commend your talents, allowing you to absorb his knowledge and wisdom, even just knowing he trusts you to shoot something for him… he does not have to do that! What Spike Lee got to lie for? This isn't a mistake. You belong in these rooms. God has a plan for my life, and in the moments I forget, it's those moments that remind me.
Photography Eric Hart Jr.
Hair Ricky Davii
Lighting Assistance/Digitech Jay Arora
Models Aaron Laporte, Antoine Manning, CJ Hart