Featuring photographs of shop fronts, signs, streets and scenes across the UK, Hannah Platt's Out Of Order serves as a loving ode to daily British life. The self-published photobook captures the nation's ability to go through life with a kindly wink and a two-fingers-up attitude. With intelligently curated pages, Platt affectionately presents timeless iconography in modern Britain.
Photographs are special in the way they make you look at something that you otherwise might not have noticed. As we go about our daily lives, it is easy to miss the character and charm that is peppered amongst the high-rises and billboards. Out Of Order is an appreciation for those occasional gems that make you stop and smile. We chat to Hannah about what inspired this project and what motivates her photography.
Tell us a little about yourself! What is your background and when did you first start taking photos?
I’ve been bumbling my way around Leeds for coming up to a decade now. I made the move for university - I studied photography at what was then Leeds College of Art. This was where I refined my style, where I was first introduced to the ‘photobook’ and the possibilities of self-publishing. Once I graduated, I got sucked into work; general life and photography became more of something I’d do as and when rather than work on particular projects. This is where the bulk of my photos for ‘Out of Order’ came from. It's a continuous project that I’ll always see myself working on.
Congratulations on the first edition of your photobook selling out! How does it feel knowing your work is on the coffee tables and shelves of people across the country?
It truly warms my heart - it completely took me by surprise too. It's my fourth book I’ve self-published; I’ve not printed anything in roughly five years so I wasn't sure how well it would do. I’ve had some lovely comments about the edit, design and generally how funny people have found it. Right now, that means the world. We’re all looking for a breather from the seriousness of this pandemic, so knowing that it has brightened up a day is enough for me.
Your photos have a humorous and timeless quality. What motivates you to take the photos that you do - what makes you stop and think, “I have to take a photo of that”?
Most of the time, its something that's made me laugh and I want everyone else to enjoy that slight glimmer of hilarity. Especially a stupid scribbly handwritten sign - when many things are now digitally produced, its great to be reminded of humankind. I guess that's where my motivation comes from; it's the same with the incredibly British shop fronts I tend to take photos of. There's so much development going on, who knows how long these fonts will be around. They capture a moment in time - I hope they’ll be nostalgic for some folk in years to come.
A lot of your photos capture the wit, humour and character in everyday life. I know you’re a big fan of fun: do your photos serve as a reminder that life doesn’t have to be serious all the time?
Oh yes, definitely! It's equally important to have fun and be silly as much as it is to be serious. I first started taking photos of shop fronts for a summer project back in 2012 - I got hooked on punny tanning shop names: my favourite was “Lifes a Beach”. I still look for those kinds of business names now; they always come with quite dated branding - and they always need a good lick of paint - but there's so much character. One of my all-time favourites is the hairdressers on the A64 heading out of Leeds: ‘Kurl up n Dye’.
The photos featured in 'Out Of Order' are all captured on your iPhone. What do you think using that medium contributes to your imagery?
Funnily enough, I used to be strictly analogue; everything was 35mm. I think shooting with a 50mm lens served it's purpose in developing my style regarding the angle and the way I frame each photo. I now love shooting on my iPhone. I don’t know what changed - I think my impatience got the better of me. It's so quick, instant and of this time. Many things catch my eye whilst I'm in a rush or even driving somewhere (I pull over, don't panic), so it's great to be able to capture something so quickly.
I hear you sent a copy to Peter Mitchell. What does his work mean to you?
Peter has been a huge influence for me - we were lucky enough to have a lecture from Peter at university back in 2013, and ever since then, I’ve admired his back-catalogue of work. There's some level of comfort from seeing Leeds in the past through Peter's eye. Seeing his recent ‘Early Sunday Mornings’ poster exhibition pasted around Leeds kicked me up the arse to get this project together and printed.
If you had to choose just 3 photos/spreads from Out Of Order to single out, which ones would you choose and why?
I personally love the Brownies Meeting / Fuck Boris spread. It was fun to come up with a sequence that links the project together and these two sit side by side well. It also time-stamps the project; Boris will always be linked to the pandemic and 2020. The same goes for the ‘England’ tattoo next to the St Georges cross photo, a quite ironic nod to England's patriotism - the England tattoo photo also reminds me of a really happy time at Brudenell for the World Cup back in 2018, which seems completely alien to us all right now. Finally, I love Bolton Flowers / Love Meter - simply for the impact of the pink, it cracks me up that the love meter even exists.
Do you have any plans for publications in the future?
I’d like to think so. Creating ‘Out of Order’ has kickstarted my love for self-publishing again. Creating a printed publication elevates a project completely. From small details to design considerations, it adds another element to how people view your work. I’d like to do a zine with the photos that didn't make it into this one; it didn't feel quite right for me to include photos I’ve taken abroad as this project needed to be solely gritty Britain.
Follow Hannah on @hannahbplatt
Interview by Meg Firth