Interview: Photographer Moni Haworth of Johnnys Bird
Monday, January 10th, 2011
Posted by: Jill Manoff
In looking at photographer Moni Haworth’s photos, you can practically hear Slayer in the background, smell the must of the dodgy venue of choice and, odd as it may sound, feel the freedom. A London-based shooter turned on by the gritty, the vintage and the far-from-the-norm, her days are spent capturing non-models who don’t give a fuck and, like Haworth, have nowhere else to be. Hers seems a rockstar lifestyle most photogs dream of, and would take on any day—that is, if they had her balls; she shoots who she wants, where she wants—to feed her passion, regardless of who likes it. It just so happens, we’re die-hard groupies.
C40. How did you get into the field of photography? What constituted your training?
MH. I worked as a gofer/slave for a studio full of boring boy photographers back in the ’80s. I wouldn’t say they trained me (except maybe how to order lunch for 20 people from five different places, and synchronize their arrivals), but I learned a lot about how boys bitch about their girlfriends, and how good they are at lying (hehe)—and I guess I learned a bit about lighting, except I never wanted to do that kind of studio photography, so it never really came in that useful, and i forgot it all way back, so…NO training!
C40. Where did the name of your website, Johnnys Bird, come from?
MH. “Johnnys Bird” was the title of a shoot I did a long time ago. It featured a weeping, trashy girl in a cemetery, driving a trashed ’79 Pontiac Firebird with an airbrushed phoenix on the bonnet (see pic below). Our story was that her drag-racing driver boyfriend was tragically killed in a crash, and she only had the car left to remember him. We found an amazing old grave that was marked RIP John Cuff! The car was mine, and I was super-sad to have to sell it—but we have far too many trashed cars outside our house, and I sold it to a boy who totally fell in love with it, so that was cool.
C40. What inspires you?
MH. I find inspiration really easily. I’ve always loved cliche, trashy Americana through all the eras; I love the movies David Lynch made in the ’80s: Wild At Heart, Blue Velvet, Eraserhead,… I love all those boy/girl, low-life-on-the-run movies, and I loved Harmony Korine, Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy; weird, old, wrong clothes really inspire me, too; old houses; my friends and always music.
C40. Where do you find your models? Is there a model “type” that you prefer to shoot?
MH. My models are never really “real” models from model agencies; they’re all friends, and friends of friends and Facebook friends… Yes, I think I have a type, but its hard to put into words; I just know it when i see it. It’s sometimes not how people look, but how they are; I like a certain kind of not-giving-a-fuck, and I like beauty that’s a little flawed somehow—not-so-perfect is always better.
C40. I read that most of the wardrobe featured in your photos is yours, and vintage. Where do you get most of it? Any tips for vintage shopping? What makes a look photo-worthy?
MH. Yeah, usually the clothes are mine—but sometimes people have way better stuff, so then it’s easy and I don’t have to lug my giant laundry bags around town. I only like vintage clothes, and the US has so much more of the stuff I like—so I used to pretty much spent my life on eBay, until I met Mark (the Cobra Snake) and realized that my lifelong wish list could be found in his online store. I also buy a lot from SICK in Shoreditch, and the usual Portobello and Camden places. For the kind of vibe I like, I guess things have to look a little larger than life—and, again, it’s good if they’re a bit wrong. I like stuff that doesn’t fit quite right, ’cause it’s more of a challenge to get it to work somehow—and I like stuff that doesn’t conventionally go well together, and I love homemade/custom stuff. I love a denim jacket that someone has stuck ugly things on, and then written something cheesy on top…and I love to wonder about the lives my clothes have had before.
C40. I felt a bond with you when I saw that you mentioned Guns N’ Roses in an interview—I’m still a fan! What music are you currently listening to? If you had to make a 10-song playlist featuring your all-time favorites, what would it look like?
MH. Guns N’ Roses, yeaaahh! I STILL love them much! I mean, I honestly actually can’t even look at Axl nowadays, but I’ve loved them since back in the day, and—when I listen to them—I just think of the way he was back then. I just read Slash‘s book; OMG!—such amazing stories about how deranged Axl became at the end. I also love Metallica to death, and Danzig, and Slayer, and Motorhead,…haha!—God, my music taste just stayed right where it was. I also listen a lot to Nirvana, and Hole, and L7, and Mudhoney, and the Misfits, and The Dead Boys, and British early punk,… And I do love Grinderman and The Dead Weather, which are new! Right now, my playlist would be:
1. Mudhoney- Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More
2. L7- Shitlist
3. Metallica- Seek & Destroy
4. My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult- The Devil Does Drugs
5. The Dead Boys- Sonic Reducer
6. Grinderman- Heathen Child
7. Danzig- 777
8. Hole- Skinny Little Bitch
9. Swans- Black Eyed Dog
10. GNR- Paradise City
C40. What are you currently working on?
MH. I’m just working on the usual stuff: making super-long lists of ideas, finding people and clothes and places, wondering if I should try making some little movies,… I’m pretty much never bored!
C40. When is the big move to LA? Why are you moving? How do you think your work will change/be affected as a result, if at all?
MH. We’re moving to LA because my boyfriend is setting up a West Coast office; we’re planning to go in August. It’s a perfect move for me; I find endless inspiration and motivation in America. I’m just dying to buy a big old Dodge Charger, and fill it with clothes and boys and girls and just head off wherever. I don’t think my work will change much, but the light will be better!
C40. What is your dream career path?
MH. I’ve never had a dream career path; I’m not good at planning; I even hate to plan a week in advance. I like to leave space, and let things happen; they always do. Sometimes, you don’t realize why you’re doing something, and then—later on—it becomes obvious that it was a, kind of, investment for the thing that was going to happen in the end.
Images via Moni Haworth, twitter.com
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