Archway snapper happy outside his comfort zone

Harry Mitchell

Harry Mitchell - Credit: Archant

From Don Draper to Carrie Bradshaw, photographer talks his latest commission.

Harry's vision of Don Draper

Harry's vision of Don Draper - Credit: Archant

It’s one of the simplest photos you will ever see. A crisp Brooks Brothers shirt. A pair of cufflinks. A packet of Lucky Strikes. A lighter. Nothing else.

But for freelance photographer Harry Mitchell, this still life snap was among his most challenging commissions so far.

That’s coming from the man who captured the build-up to Egypt’s first democratic elections in 2012. And commercial campaigns for the likes of Arsenal, his local football club, and footwear brand Converse.

So why was this shot of typical items belonging to Don Draper – the chain-smoking, sharp-suited protagonist of popular American TV show Mad Men – so difficult?

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“It’s really different to what I normally do, so that was a challenge in itself,” he explains. “But to then make these objects, most of which are unremarkable, actually look interesting was a bigger task than I thought.

“Look at the cigarette packet, for example. They are so basic on their own, so I had to position them into a certain arrangement with the other items. It is almost like sculpting.”

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The snap was part of Harry’s latest project: What’s in the top drawer of our favourite fictional creatives?

Commissioned by Hiive, an online professional network for creative people, the 25-year-old from Archway was required to “sculpt” and photograph items of eight fictional characters. Others included Carrie Bradshaw, from Sex and the City, and Bridget Jones.

How to tackle the challenge, then? According to Harry, of Hazellville Road, it’s simple. Have fun.

“I just approached each character by throwing down the items and basically having fun taking pictures, tweaking the sculpture and watching it come together bit by bit. Each picture took about an hour.

“I was excited to try my hand at something outside of my comfort zone. I think that’s really healthy as a photographer. Normally, I am responding to something that is moving or happening. But with these still lifes, it was all about using my own imagination.”

The latest commission came after he was named by the Magnum Photo agency as its graduate of the year.

He qualified from his University of Brighton photography course in 2012, and said: “I grew up in a household where films and cameras were always around. I grew up around friends that went into film or journalism. I guess it was inevitable I would go down this sort of path.”

After three years freelancing, Harry, whose next commission is a top secret landscaping project in the north, has learned to live with the insecurities and perks of the role as they come along.

“As a freelancer, you can go through really busy periods. The phone won’t stop ringing. And then it just stops.

“It’s soon two months without a commission and you are really beginning to sweat. But that is the life of a freelance photographer and it shows the importance of thinking ahead and planning things out.

“That’s where London’s creative community comes in. We photographers all assist each other and if we do each other favours, it doesn’t get forgotten. Without that, it can be really difficult.”

To view Harry’s work, visit

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