Ace & Tate, the Amsterdam-based eyewear brand, recently supported photographer, creative director, editor and founder of BRICK magazine, Hayley Louisa Brown, on her portraiture pilgrimage to Memphis, Tennessee. Shown at Protein Studios, Children of Graceland explored the longevity of Elvis’s legacy on young fans, documenting her travels across a two-month period. We caught up with Hayley to hear more about her latest project.
We’re used to seeing you shoot hip-hop artists for your publication BRICK. What made you step away from this genre and focus the series on Elvis’ legacy, are you a fan yourself?
I’m not a fan of the music, necessarily, but more so of Elvis as a cultural icon and the way he has transcended from being a real person with flaws to becoming something of a deity to his fans. It’s been incredible to see the huge emotional impact he still has on the people who visit Graceland, I saw multiple people in floods of tears at his graveside, for example. I’m used to photographing people in more of a well thought-out setting and having a long period of time with them, so aside from the style of music, it was a very different experience in that respect too.
How long did you spend in Memphis and how did the children respond to you wanting to shoot them?
I visited both in 2016 and 2017, and spent almost two months there in total. Over the two trips I can only recall one person saying no to my request to photograph them, which was unexpected. I don’t often approach people on the street in this way, I find it so unnerving and this experience totally pushed me out of my comfort zone. It might have been Southern Hospitality but people were so kind, helpful and enthusiastic when I approached them – asking me questions about my camera, where I was from, what kind of work I do etc., it was a welcoming environment. A lot of the kids are Elvis Impersonators by trade so were very enthusiastic about being photographed to say the least.
Can you tell us more about the Creative Fund and your relationship with Ace & Tate?
The Creative Fund has been wonderful. Working with a brand can sometimes feel like a compromise but Ace & Tate have been the opposite of that. They really gave me total creative freedom to make my dream project – they believed in my work and my ideas wholeheartedly, which is such an empowering feeling, and they supported me and cheered me on throughout the process. The exhibition is really the summation of two years work, and having the support to showcase the Children of Graceland project as a gallery show is something I would never have been able to do without them. So I’m super grateful to them for everything.
What was the last thing that made you stop and stare?
The covers of the new issue of BRICK at the printers yesterday, so exciting to see something you’ve worked on for 6 months go from the computer screen to a physical object!
Limited editions of Hayley’s Children of Graceland zine can be purchased on her website and selected works from the exhibition are now on show at Ace & Tate’s ‘peep store’, 10 Earlham Street, London, WC2H 9LN.