oliver hadlee pearch and his assistant tegen williams explore the relationship between artist and muse
So much more than just a photographer and assistant, Ollie and Tegen have been brightening up each other’s lives since they first met two years ago.
Oliver Hadlee Pearch
"Maybe these relationships you build up are one in a million," says young London photographer Oliver Hadlee Pearch dreamily to his flame-haired muse, Tegen Williams. "You find people who you just connect with and who it's easy to work with and be around." Closer than friends but certainly not lovers, theirs is the kind of pure platonic love that runs thicker than water and sweeter than honey.
"You were doing some look book and I helped you with the collages," Tegen recalls fondly about one of their early encounters. A friend of Ollie's younger brother, their paths would often cross in the Hadlee Pearch household. "We hit it off instantly, we clicked," adds Ollie. "You were the first person who understood what I was trying to do. Sort of like a sister or a brother, someone who really understands everything." What began with Tegen hanging out on shoots, messing around taking Polaroids and just generally having fun, soon grew into something else. Tegen's presence on set has become intrinsic to Ollie's creative process, and with that the relationship of artist and muse took hold. "Tegen can understand my brain more than I can on certain days," Ollie confesses, "when we're on a set and there are lots of things we've forgotten, she always reminds me what it's about and what it should be about."
Artists and their muses have long been celebrated throughout history: there was Dante Rossetti, who was so captivated by Jane Morris's beauty that for a while he fashioned all his female figures in her likeness; Jacques Henri Lartigue who obsessively photographed the Romanian model Renée Perle; Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick; Man Ray and Lee Miller; Salvador Dali and his wife Gala; and Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel. In much the same way, Ollie has taken intimate and endearing portraits of Tegen numerous times. "The pictures have just come naturally, because we had to," says Ollie, "we needed to test lights and test stuff." But unlike the Jane Morrises and Renée Perles of the world, Tegen's role as muse goes beyond the physical. Not only has Tegen become the occasional subject of Ollie's work, she has become part of the inspiration behind the rest of it. "There's an understanding that's not needed with pictures," explains Ollie, as he searches for the right words to explain Tegen's role, "with Tegen I feel like she's part of it and, this sounds weird, but a part of me, like an extension. You're probably the only person I can be truly open with. You're the only person I can turn around to and ask what you think."
Yes, Tegen is on-hand to provide technical assistance, although she admits she's not the most technical person in the world, but what she really brings is a sense of grounding, an atmosphere, and the courage Ollie needs to push boundaries and try new things. "I think I bring stability and character,'' Tegen says, ''and the reassurance that it's going to be fine because it's just like we did it before." Despite their inability to describe their relationship in words, you can tell by listening to Ollie and Tegen that they have a quiet understanding of how much they mean to each other, and that the bond between them is unbreakable. "There's a passion and a love," Ollie surmises. "It's a love for what we do and an understanding. And you understand. That's where the love comes from. It's very pure… unconditional."
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Oliver Hadlee Pearch
Sittings editor Max Clark
Hair Chi Wong at Julian Watson Agency.
Make-up Thomas De Kluyver at D+V Management using Chanel Le Lift Serum and Eye Cream and autumn/winter 14.
Photography assistance Arthur Williams.
Styling assistance Kristofj Von Strass, Campbell Addy.
Hair assistance Loui Ferry. Make-up assistance Cory de King, Faye Quinton.
Lighting Pro Lighting.
Production Sebastian Bailey at CLM.
Model Tegen Williams.