From cooking for the Queen of Holland, to shooting some of the biggest names in the music industry, all whilst honing his unique and sometimes haunting aesthetic; we get to know the British Dutch photographer Eliot Lee Hazel. From his LA home, we chat to Eliot about his process, his Formula 1 dreams and his penchant for darkness. Look out for his prints, soon to be available to buy on Darklight Art.
READ TIME: 4M
POSTED ON: 10.02.22
You’ve had an interesting journey to get where you are today. Tell us where you started your career and what led you to photography.
As the story goes, I was a chef for over a decade. I was very serious about it. To give you a few examples: I cooked the world championships at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, I cooked for the Queen of Holland and worked in several Michelin star restaurants before I started photography. I never even thought of becoming a photographer, yet it somewhat fell into my lap. When I came to the US, I became a private chef and on the side I did some styling for a photographer named Lionel Deluy. I would take random photo’s on set to remember the outfits… Lionel looked at the images I had taken and told me my images were special. I thought he was being sarcastic at the time, yet the next day he called me asking for me to drop by his studio to discuss something. Long story short, he told me to drop everything I was doing and become a photographer. Again, I thought he was pulling my leg. But he handed me a camera and said, “I am very serious, this camera is now yours now go do your thing. Make me proud”.
We love your aesthetic [obviously]. Is that something that’s developed over time or did it just happen when you picked up a camera?
People have told me that I have a very specific aesthetic, this is not something I ever planned it just happened over time without me realising.
You’ve worked with some amazing artists [Morcheeba, Thom Yorke, Basement Jaxx, to name a few]. How do you find the process of working with creatives over shooting more commercial projects?
I approach every project/client with an open mind. My aim is to always please the client regardless of what project I am working on.
As a photographer, how do you deal with strong personalities on set?
What’s your process when it comes to concepting shoots?
I tend to not give it much thought beforehand; coming up with ideas on the spot has never been difficult for me. I tend to work with what I’ve got, whether it’s a great location, or a interesting subject. I go with the flow and try to create magic out of it.
My images are quite dark, haunting or moody…such is my life.
What would you do if you weren’t a photographer?
Most likely I would go back to cooking, as I truly love cooking… But if I had it my way I would be a Formula 1 race car driver.
Is there one shoot you’ve done that sticks out in your mind as a favourite?
I had the pleasure of shooting Johnny Mathis a few years ago. I had no clue who he was at the time, but he left such a impact on me. At the end of the shoot he told me that the last photographer to shoot him was Richard Avedon, and followed up by saying that he was very pleased to be working with me. He then gave me a hug and it brought me to tears. I have rarely met anyone so sincere and graceful. A beautiful person he is.
What drives you?
A good shepherds pie or a Ducati.
We find your landscape shots dreamy and inviting. What did you hope people will take from those works?
Feeling at peace or feeling otherworldly.
Any tips for young creatives starting out in their career?
Don’t copy others. Find yourself.
Tell us about the girl in the shots ‘The Visitor’. What’s the story behind those?
I like mystery; I like the unknown. I tried to create that with her.
And a few quick-fire questions…
Morning or night?
I am very much a morning person. I wake up each day around 5am at the latest, but go to bed around 8pm like a grandpa 👴🏻
Introvert or extrovert?
It’s best to leave this question for my mother. A bit of both I guess, but most people think I am an extrovert as I speak my mind more than I should.
Dark or light?
I love light as it makes me happy. Yet I love the darkness as it makes me question things and I feel at ease with darkness. Several people have told me that my images are quite dark, haunting or moody…such is my life.
Thank you Eliot 🖤
Prints by Eliot Lee Hazel will be available HERE and you can follow him on Instagram at @eliot_lee_hazel.