This piece marks the first entry into a new series we are starting here at Only The Best, ‘Introducing:’, in which we will be bringing you profiles of New Zealand’s most exciting young creative talent. Read on to check out our debut profile on photographer Hazel Redmond.
I spent a long time trying to think of a word that could best describe the work of Hazel Redmond: crisp, colourful, composed — all are acceptable, but none seemed quite right. Until, that is, one word floated up while looking at the photos she sent me for this piece; multifaceted. With her portfolio containing shots ranging from portraiture and still life, to real-estate, commercial and landscape photography, the word seemed not just acceptable, but apt.
At just 20 years old, Redmond finds herself not only in possession of a sharp eye and a growing list of bookings — last year she photographed the reopening of RUBY’s Christchurch store — but as the founder, owner and operator of her own business, The Photo Shop, in her hometown of Ashburton. Such accomplishments would be impressive for anyone of Hazel’s age and experience (she has invested herself into photography fully in the last two years), and indeed they are so, but Hazel’s successes take on a new level of importance once you learn about her past.
In 2010, Hazel — at the time a hardworking and talented student, both athletically and academically — began to show symptoms of viral meningitis while at a netball tournament, and was soon diagnosed with the illness and hospitalised. Unfortunately, the virus did not stop and soon spread to her brain and developed into encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. The swelling forced Hazel to miss an entire year of school, a time in which, she tells me, she “had to start from scratch: walking, times tables.” It feels trite, belittling even, to refer to such an experience as ‘challenging’ or ‘difficult’, but without having gone through it myself that is all I can do. Evidently though Hazel pulled through, and now, five years after she first fell ill, the former St. Margaret’s student finds herself in a position not shared by many of her peers.
As a result of the swelling, Hazel’s abilities in maths and English (formerly her strongest subjects) diminished, but her passion for art and photography remained. She credits the doctors at the Burwood Brain Injury Unit for encouraging her to, in her words, “focus on what you’re good at and not what you’ve lost.” As well as the support from her doctors, Hazel is quick to acknowledge the incredible support of her family: “I’ll never forget hearing my dad say to me, when I was very much gone, ‘don’t give in Haze’.” In fact, it was her father who encouraged Hazel to start her business — “at the time I thought it was the most ridiculous idea” — a move that has evidently paid off.
But anyone can take a leap of faith; it requires a certain blend of talent, drive and nous to truly succeed, a blend that Hazel seems to have mixed well. Although her skill expresses itself equally well in both a digital or analog format, it was Hazel’s work on film that originally caught my eye; soft, natural, almost ethereal, her shots of family and friends evoke a sense of intimacy. Her landscapes draw on that uniquely New Zealand summer experience, one of long days and empty roads, of laughter and sunshine and those secret spots that only you know. Given the tribulations of the past few years Redmond’s drive shouldn’t be questioned, for it takes an incredibly unique and singular will to overcome even half of what Hazel has experienced, let alone to succeed in spite of it — something that her increasing, and increasingly diverse, portfolio can attest to.
So if this is what Redmond is already able to achieve, then surely the coming years hold even greater promise. For the meantime, the continued success and growth of her business is Hazel’s first priority. But restlessness appears to be taking hold, and with the new year will come new ventures, hopefully, as she plans on exploring the photographic industry in earnest; whether that is in Auckland — where she already has enviable connections with friend and mentor Karen Walker — or further afield. Long term, Hazel describes New York as “my dream”, although admittedly hers may be more attainable than most, as she also has contacts in the Big Apple in the form of street-style photographer Ari Seth Cohen, and high-fashion photographer and fellow Kiwi, Regan Cameron.
Unlike many of her fellow Gen-Y’s, Hazel seems blessed with a bevy of options and opportunities, none of which lack excitement or reward. Whatever path she chooses, it would seem that further success awaits Hazel Redmond — all she has to do now is choose.