London photographer Bill Hart-French is an internationally known people and narrative photographer. He has been exhibited in London and Europe and published throughout the world. His take on female nudity is bringing the all-time taboo subject closer to general acceptance, however, the innovation comes with the insightful perspective of a woman.

Bill’s nudes don’t just reveal the body as they reveal his subjects’ souls and states of mind. What the artist tries to convey is that his models are more than a mix of shapes, curves, and shades caught by the lenses. It’s almost like he wants to undress their past, not their bodies.

Hi, Bill, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Well, I am a Londoner. I was born in the suburbs and went to school in Devon. I have done lots of things in my life, but I am probably best known as a one-time actor and a photographer. I live in the middle of London now.

When did you get your start in photography and how did you grow interested in nude?

Well, I sort of had two starts. I originally took up photography in the late eighties when I bought a Zeiss Ikon Contina for five pounds from a market stall. I found it a tricky camera to use but I stuck with it. I took a lot of terrible pictures, but every now and then I shot something that was OK. After I while I bought a Pentax ME Super and things started to get a little better. I was working as a West-End actor at the time, and I shot a lot of pictures of my friends, my girlfriend, and fellow actors (some famous!) and I started to get a bit better. I loved taking pictures of people and I was also lucky to have a lot of female friends who were happy for me to take nude pictures of them so my work started to develop in that direction as well. But then things changed and I stopped taking photographs.

I came back to photography in 2014. I had given up acting and stopped taking photographs for years. I had been working in the high-end property business in London and felt increasingly frustrated with the lack of creativity in my life. My partner had bought me an entry-level Nikon digital camera one Christmas, so when I got sacked from my job, I started taking pictures again. Street pictures mainly. Then I started working on a couple of documentary series until I spotted a life model online called Yuka Tanaka. We took some pictures, I posted a few online. A magazine got in touch and then published a story called “Leila in a Room” featuring actress Leila Blue. And… well that’s how it all started again.

Do you have a philosophy behind your work?

Yes. Truth and emotion.

How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?

A lot. When I am working with my model/collaborator I want to be completely free from distractions while we shoot. Our relationship, our “conversation”, is the most important thing. I don’t want to interrupt that by messing about with lights or trying to think about what to shoot next so I plan everything meticulously before we start. Setup, settings, props, lighting, all the details. I don’t necessarily plan all the shots I am going to take, though. Just the look and feel. When we start shooting, I let things happen.

Here’s a quote from David Bailey: “I suppose I fall in love. When they are in front of the camera, they are everything to me. The object of my love for that brief encounter”. I think that is true for me too. I prepare everything beforehand so that I can concentrate on falling in love for two hours.

Are your models nervous about getting naked? What are some of your tricks or techniques to make people comfortable?

They have never said so! In the main, the people I work with are professional models and are experienced in appearing naked but it’s still important to make them as comfortable as possible. Technique? Acting completely professionally. I ignore the fact that I am in the same room as a naked woman and just concentrate on creating good pictures.

Why do you think society always falls into the trap of having certain standards of beauty?

I don’t think society does, necessarily. I think the media does, though. Constantly telling women what to do, what to look like. Women are under a lot of pressure to conform. There’s a lot of pressure on social media too. I will probably get some criticism for saying this, but I think that most of that pressure comes from other women, not men. Well, certainly not from me.

Trends about what is considered attractive for the female body have changed so much — going from the Marilyn Monroe hourglass to the skinny runway model, and also going from breasts being the main attraction to the butt taking center stage. Does that influence how you shoot?

No. I think all women are attractive in different ways. I tend not to be influenced by trends. Trends come and go. Inner beauty is always there.

Who would you say are some of the biggest influences on your work?

As far as the narrative side of my work is concerned it would be the private pictures of Saul Leiter. Definitely. Also, Arto Pazat, Francesca Woodman, and Alix-Clio Rouboud. Two photographers who are having a very big influence on me at the moment are Brian Duffy and Corinne Day but overall, the biggest influence on my work has to be David Bailey – of course!

As you grow as a photographer, are you seeing your style and interests change?

Always! Here’s a quote: “Every picture you take comes from every picture you have seen”. I look at a lot of pictures. There are so many exciting and interesting photographers around – both past and present. I find that my style and approach are always changing. I am always open to new influences.

What kind of pictures would we find on the camera roll of your phone?

Mainly my new puppy Bertie! He’s a Golden Retriever and is just nine months old. There are also quite a lot of pictures of locations on my phone. I am keen to get out of the studio so whenever I see a possible place to shoot, I take a few snaps to remind me of the place.

Where do you find yourself when you’re not taking photos?

With my partner, Tess. We are very close and spend a lot of time together.

Do you ever consciously think about the art you leave behind after you have died?

I hadn’t before. But I will now, I think.

Guilty pleasure time. What would you say are some of your current most guilty pleasures? All is fair game- food, books, or video games, whatever floats your boat. Let us have it.

Exactly that. Food and books. I read a lot. I mean a lot. And I love food. I also love whiskey and beer – perhaps a little too much.

Cover photo:
“Ai no korîda”
Model: Natsumi Kuroda
Published by: INP Magazine
September 2016

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Still can't tell exactly my origins because of my suspiciously ‘Chinese eyes’.