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Behind the lens: Emily Garthwaite and Cat Garcia

Aged 15, Emily Garthwaite witnessed nearly three miles of National Trust land where she grew up engulfed in a forest fire. In the immediate aftermath, she grabbed her mother’s camera and took photographs of the destruction, which she sent to the local newspaper. “I was really angry that no one knew about what had happened and I wanted to tell them about it. I didn’t get into photography properly until years later, but I think that’s where it started. That was the moment.”

At just 26 years old, Garthwaite is an acclaimed photojournalist and was recently included in the Forbes 30 Under 30. She uses a Leica M10 and M240, crediting the camera’s depth and rich colours for the ethereal watercolour aesthetic of her prints: “It’s the final product, the print – that’s when you see what the Leica camera is fully capable of. It’s about creating a piece of art, ultimately.”

Angela Hartnett Belstaff Experience video

Angela Hartnett Belstaff Experience video
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Garthwaite’s work, which focuses on humanitarian and environmental issues, has seen her document chained sun bears in Indonesia and trek 100km through southern Iraq during the Arba’een Pilgrimage – twice. Though instinctively drawn to areas affected by conflict, her aim is always to get behind the sensationalist headlines to tell the human heart of a story. “The way to learn about a country is through people. We’re at a point now where tolerance is acceptable, but it’s simply not enough – we need inclusivity. You need to speak to your neighbour, we need to cross paths and talk.”

On her photography ethos, Garthwaite explains: “The most important thing in my work is that I can be resilient but soft. If I lose the softness in my work, then I think I’ll stop photography.” It is this emotional connection with her subjects and affinity for communities living on the outskirts that made Garthwaite the ideal fit for the Everyday Heroes project, alongside fellow Leica photographer Cat Garcia, who captured candid, behind-the-scenes images.

“I love shooting portrait stories on location, and working with natural light, and with that way of working there are so many things to consider and bring together. For me, it’s about aiming to capture a portrait within a location, simply and beautifully in a graphic way, and aiming for that moment captured to have soul and a sense of story,” says Garcia on her photographic style. Belstaff has a storied history of working with prestigious photographers who work in unique ways, and through Garcia’s and Garthwaite’s eyes we see the often unforgiving landscape of Scottish islands and the ostensibly mundane lives of its inhabitants in an extraordinary new light.

“Belstaff and Leica are definitely a good match; the locations and stories we wanted to portray made for interesting subjects to capture as photo stories,” says Garcia on the project. “It was great to meet and shoot with Emily. I hadn’t shot like this before with another photographer. I hope that the combination of our images tells the story of each of the portrait subjects and the time we spent with them.” Garthwaite adds: “This is a unique experience for all the people we’re photographing, but particularly I want the women involved to be lifted up and celebrated and reminded of their resilience.”

“I’ve recently started wearing Belstaff and I remember saying to a friend how powerful and strong it made me feel. I wear a lot of functional clothing, but it doesn’t make me feel good. Things fall apart, but when you wear a brand like Belstaff, it wears with you.”