During her mid-teens she was shot by Bruce Weber, Mark Borthwick , Ellen von Unwerth, Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller . She appeared in Vogue Italia, did Versace campaigns, and saw her own face as photographed by David Simms drive by on New York City buses and, yes, on movie theatre popcorn bags, thanks to the omnipresent CK1 campaign. She was a waif when waifs were what Dr. Fashion ordered. I’m referring to Eléonore Hendricks, who has since moved on to become an actress and a photographer, and she takes both disciplines equally seriously. Beautiful and smart by any standard, Eléonore attended Smith College, where her interest in portraiture of women was sparked. She’s a native New Yorker and her father is Jon Hendricks, nr. 1 Fluxus expert/curator, and author of the awesome Fluxus Codex. She takes acting classes from Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), and is dating Josh Safdie, of Red Bucket Films, in whose projects she stars.
So, you see, it’ll be hard to find a girl who’s cooler then Eléonore Hendricks. “I need somebody to prod me along with electrical shocks a couple of times a day,” she laughs, “just to get me off my ass!” But I don’t believe it one bit.
I love talking to Eléonore, and thankfully she does not mind my curiosity about her teen modeling days at all!
TG: I would imagine that having that level of success based on your looks is a bit of a trip at that age. How did you see yourself back then?
EH: I was a horrible model! I didn’t really give a shit. I rebelled against the prettiness; I wanted to be seen as me. Whatever façade I assumed was there because of my physicality, I tried to cut down. For example, I’d go to go-sees in my soccer uniform.
I don’t even know if I was doing it intentionally or subconsciously, but I remember being very timid in general, and very secretive about my modeling life. Only with close friends would I talk about it, because they’d be genuinely interested.
And I felt like I couldn’t present myself like other models, or at least how I perceived them to present themselves, you know, ‘modelly’. But in reality we were probably all the same. All just as awkward.
TG: Sounds like a lot of pressure on yourself. And it’s so young to be all sensual and sexy!
EH: Yeah, I had maybe kissed a boy when I was 13 but I didn’t come into my sexuality until I was much older. It was a funny phase; I was just coming into my skin, and people were seeing that change take place.
When I was 14 or 15 years old, a photographer said to me during a shoot: ”You gotta suck your stomach in!” (laughs). When I think about it now, I see that I just wasn’t ready to embrace any kind of femininity, because I was so young!
TG: You just said you didn’t want to present yourself the way the other girls did. How did you feel ‘not like them’?
EH: I always felt like photographers could still see me as a human being. First of all, I wasn’t as naive as some of the other girls from small towns, or from abroad because I’m a New Yorker. But also, I really related to the creative side, because of my family background. And I think that set me apart right away. My father is very involved in the art world, so I was able to connect in other ways than as a subject. And I constantly wanted to reiterate that to the photographers (laughs). “I’m a person! I’m not a fucking object!” And in the end I did become friends with some of these people, and now I’m proud of some of the work. Back then I was sort of reluctant, and now I’m like “Wow, this is some interesting work by major photographers!”
TG: Did being on the model side of the camera play a part in you becoming a photographer yourself?
EH: When I was in high school is when I started taking photographs, but that was more of a rejection of fashion photography. I didn’t really realize what I wanted to photograph until at least college—and then I immediately started taking portraits. The decision to pick up the camera myself did not solely stem from modeling, I think. It was about being excited by all the people I’d see on the street, and trying to categorize what I’d see.
TG: Now you’re a photographer-slash-actress, so in a way you’re active in front and behind the camera. You’ve blurred that line you felt as a kid during those fashion shoots. Was there that aspect of modeling after all, that you wanted to continue?
EH: No, that’s not really it. I love film, so I wanted to be involved in film in some way. It wasn’t that I dreamed of being an actor at a young age; I dreamt of being part of films. Expressing myself as an actress is something that I have to push myself to embrace—I’m not entirely comfortable with it yet—but I like moving my way through characters. It’s like photography in a way; instead of using my body to express or explore a character, as a photographer I’m observing these characters, and I try to use them to articulate… (pause)…these little snaps of beauty in life.
TG: Acting or photography? Would you be able to pick one?
EH: I can’t really do one or the other; I need to do both simultaneously. Not that I’m taking photographs while I’m acting! (laughs). But they balance each other. Just acting would feel kind of pointless. There’s so much more to get from the exchange with people from photography. I guess I like describing myself through the things that I see in the world around me.
> The artist’s own site: eleonorehendricks.com, where she presents her photographic work.
>The Pleasure of Being Robbed, in which Eléonore plays one of her favorite characters, one she co-wrote with Josh Safdie.
>A 2011 Huffington Post interview with Eléonore in which she talks about Bad Fever, in which she stars with Kentucker Audley.
>Daddy Longlegs, a 2010 Josh and Bennie Safdie Movie.