This beauty zine is a hairstylist’s love letter to his creative heroes

In What Was, Will Always Be, hairstylist Michael Harding pays tribute to the photographers who inspired his work

“It’s truly a love affair for me,” says hairstylist Michael Harding and founder of alternative beauty magazine Modified States. He talks about his relationship with photographers who have influenced him throughout his career, a lifelong obsession that drives his work and inspired his latest project, What was, will always be. “I always revisit the same books and discover new visual details that contribute to the narrative of the image.”

A three-part zine in six months of preparation, What was, will always be sees Harding, who has worked with Dazed and AnOther as well as brands such as Fendi and Jacquemus, collaborating with photographer Rodrigo Carmuega and stylist Hannah Elwell to pay homage to three photographers who have shaped his approach to hairstyling and the worlds in which he likes to work.

Ever drawn to documentary photography, Harding says he has always tried to create work that emulates the subtle nuances of imperfections found in candid imagery – the small details that lend authenticity to captured characters. “I always wanted my work to show a sincerity for the subject matter and I was careful to capture honest moments,” he says.

To give viewers insight into the narrative of his subjects’ lives, it’s important to Harding that he has a candid approach and understanding of the world he’s trying to create. So he looks at what he knows. “I’ve been a skateboarder all my life, so that particular culture has been integral in shaping my creative aesthetic,” he says. “The skate scene is a melting pot of different cultural backgrounds, so inevitably you’re exposed to many different types of music, fashion and art.”

Although the images were inspired by his personal photographic heroes, Harding chose not to state who each section refers to, preferring instead to leave it up to viewers’ interpretation and imagination. He does, however, let us in on the vibe of each section, explaining that the first part is inspired by the Rocker subculture in Norway in the 1950s – hence the slicked back duck butt.

Part two explores moments of loneliness and acceptance influenced by documentary footage captured in Provincetown from the late 70s to early 80s, while part three brings it all together, helping to visually communicate a clear connection between others. sections.

Even with these influences from the past, the images still feel very grounded in the present, with elements of contemporary and vintage styles combining to create a timeless feel. It is this rapprochement between past and present that gives the zine its name. “It means the past will always inspire the future,” says Harding. “We all continually draw on the past for inspiration, but if you haven’t taken the time to understand relevance through research, what you create will come across as insincere and lacking in authenticity.”

The exhibition What Was, Will Always Be will launch on February 9, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Have A Butchers Gallery, in association with Hempstead May and May Print.

Photography Rodrigo Carmuega, styling Hannah Elwell, print design Jamie Shaw, hair styling Michael Harding. Special thanks to Hempstead May for scanning and retouching.