Zeitgeist: Eric Hart Jr

Enjoying a meteoric rise in the industry while still at college, Eric Hart Jr is discovering the power that photography has for self-discovery

Each year, as part of the Photography Annual, Creative Review’s editorial team selects five photographers that have made an impact over the past 12 months as our Zeitgeist winners

Growing up in Macon, Georgia, photographer Eric Hart Jr’s earliest images were taken in his grandmother’s front garden. “I was surrounded by a lot of nature, so I initially started photographing trees, landscapes and dirt roads,” Hart remembers. He was in middle school at the time, and after setting up Instagram and Tumblr accounts he soon started saving images and portraits he felt he could recreate.

It was in high school when Hart really started practicing properly. Using his friends as his subjects, weekends were spent heading to downtown Macon and capturing candid shots. “At first it was all sporadic shooting, but eventually I got to a point where I would start to create moodboards and concepts which led me to fall in love with this craft. The love of photography is what led me to study it at New York University,” says Hart. “There came a point in my life when I just knew this was what I was meant to do and I felt like NYU was the perfect place to start my creative career.”

Now 21, Hart is currently at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and so far the experience has gone beyond what he could’ve imagined. “Going into my freshman year, I have to admit, I was intimidated. I suffered from imposter syndrome for the longest time, just because this isn’t the norm for people who come from where I come from, but honestly I think I’ve conquered that,” Hart reflects. “Tisch really has pushed me not only academically and artistically, but also as a person. I am much more in touch with myself, as well as my goals and beliefs, simply from being in this environment.”

Hart’s work right now typically takes the form of stylised portraiture, with a heavy focus on the nature of what it means to be Black in America. “It’s work that applauds the beauty and power of those who at times have been left in the shadows,” he explains. “From an aesthetic perspective, I am big on lighting. I want the shots to be sharp in quality and textures. I also love confidence in a frame. I love capturing models who exude a pride in their identity.”

Top: Untitled, featuring Patrick Yeboah, personal work, 2021; When I Think About Power, personal work, 2021. All images: © Eric Hart Jr