SO proud and pumped to introduce you to Hannah Elaine from Hannah Elaine Photography out of Nashville, TN (my old stompin’ ground!) My husband and I had the amazing opportunity to work with Hannah for a family session back in 2008 right before Steve deployed to Afghanistan. She came very highly recommended to us, and we were so thrilled to get to work with her! She worked with us around a tight pre-deployment schedule and her artistic vision of our family photos was just so stunning…in fact those same images hang in my office and my son Sawyer’s nursery to this day. I love Hannah’s work and hope one day to work with her again back home! In the meantime, here is her story behind her lens!1) Tell us a little about yourself! Where are you located? Are you married? Do you have children? Pets? I’m 30 years old and have been married 4 years to an awesome guy named John. We live in an 80 year old log cabin in East Nashville, TN. 2) When did you first realize you loved photography, and what made you want to do this as your career? I’ve been obsessed with cameras since I was a teeny little kid. My first film camera was an old Kodak 110 (the kind you now see for a dime at a yard sale). It took THE WORST quality photos of all time. But I loved it and was never without a camera after that. I fell into photography as a career very haphazardly. I was in school for graphic design at a local community college when I had a series of strange and unexpected things happen to me personally. I guess it put me in a sort of mood because I went out and splurged on my first DSLR and pro lens (Canon 20D + 17-40L). It was a very spontaneous purchase and word of it got around to a friend of mine a few days later who promptly gave me a call. She, having also recently purchased a camera, said she would be leaving in 6 weeks to attend an intensive documentary photography course in Amsterdam and would I like to go with her. I laughed and talked about how fun that would be but declined and hung up the phone. The next morning when I woke up I sat straight up in bed and immediately knew I was going to Amsterdam. I guess I convinced myself in my sleep. I dropped out of college, sold my car to pay for my trip, and was on a plane 5 weeks later. When I came in home in 2007 I started shooting every person I knew to build my portfolio, got a summer internship with a local wedding photographer, and have been shooting ever since. 3) As a photographer, do you feel that you see the world differently? What is your favorite subject? I don’t think that being a photographer or “artist” necessarily makes me see the world any differently than anybody else, but I do get to see things that nobody else does simply because of my camera. I am constantly privileged to witness extremely intimate moments and experiences in the lives of people in such rare situations when other people just wouldn’t be allowed in. I’m always floored with how trusting people are to allow me such uncensored access to their lives. People living life are always the best subjects to photograph. I feel unspeakably honored to have this as a passion and a career.
4) How would you describe your style as an artist? Are you a rule follower or a rule breaker? Traditional, modern, edgy, candid? My style…hm. That’s hard to say. While I think there are definitely a few universal rules most professional photogs can agree on, I try to steer away from most of the industry arguments about what photographers should or shouldn’t do. My overall goal is always to capture real moments with people. If I’m photographing kids or a family, yeah it’s going to be mostly posed stuff but I try to go for capturing a real moment or laugh — or even tears if that’s what they’re giving me — just so that when you see the image you feel like you can see a little bit about who that person actually is or what they were feeling in that second. Same with weddings. There is so much emotion going on there already all day long, it doesn’t require much from me except to be ready and on point to capture it while it’s happening. 5) How do you keep centered and balanced so the business doesn’t take over your personal life? My husband and I both work from home and that allows us so much flexibility — sometimes too much, actually. Every day that I’m editing or doing admin in the office is a battle in self-motivation and focus. The giant perk to that scenario is that when either of us have to travel for work (which is quite often) it’s not unusual for us to just both go. We don’t have kids yet so if he’s going to Seattle for a gig or I have a wedding in Charleston we’ll just pack up our laptops and go together and work from there. 6) What advice can you give to new business owners in any field who are trying to balance family life and work life? I heard a very successful photographer talk about how his entire work day is broken down into 2-hour blocks of time. 2 hours for phone calls, 2 hours for editing, 2 hours for emailing, etc. When he’s editing he forces himself to refrain from checking email or facebook during that time so he can stay on task and therefore be more productive. He’s a lot more disciplined than I am in that department but it’s a principle I’ve taken to heart and have reinterpreted it for myself. A huge part of pulling off this sort of work habit is to teach your family to respect your time blocks as well. When my husband is at his desk working I know not to bother him with whatever insane idea just popped into my head simply because he happens to be in the next room, and vice versa. 7) When someone sees your art, what are you hoping they see? As the saying goes, anyone with a camera can show you what you look like. In any photograph I take, I hope to celebrate the person in it in a way that reveals to the viewer a little something extra about who that person is. Something just a little bit more than a pose and a smile. That’s not always easy to pull off but it’s always my goal.8) What are some of the clichés in photography that you try to stay away from? I definitely have a list of things I think are rookie photographer habits when it comes to post processing. Overly heavy or white vignette, spot color photos, over saturation, to name a few. When you look at the work of the best, most respected (and most highly paid) photographers, you will never see these things. I want my photos and the people in them to look natural and real so anything that takes away from that is a no-go for me. 9) Who has most influenced your work? Other photographers? As I mentioned, I studied documentary photography so my influences are not typically wedding or portrait photographers. I fell in love with the work of Henri-Cartier Bresson while in Amsterdam. He had such an uncanny ability to make an ordinary moment extraordinary by just being in the right place at the right time with his camera. I’m also a huge fan of James Nachtwey, Sebastio Salgado, Diane Arbus, and most recently Vivian Maier (a great documentary just came out about her extremely fascinating story. It’s a must watch). If I had to choose a wedding/portrait photographer to aspire to it would probably be Kirsten Lewis. She basically treats portrait sessions as life documentary sessions, totally un-posed and unscripted. Her work is phenomenal. 10) Are you working on any projects personal or work related at the moment? What keeps you inspired and makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? I’ve been involved off and on over the years with a few different non-profit organizations working in various under developed countries, offering my photography services. Anytime I can use my camera to highlight need or the good work others are doing in their communities, I’m in my element. It always goes back to the documentary aspect. I’m always looking for work like that. 11) How has social media helped or challenged you and your work as a photographer? I hate Facebook so much. I really do. But I couldn’t do my business without it. My business is almost all from word of mouth, and FB is the catalyst for that chatter. I post photos, my clients post photos, they get shared and liked and I get new clients that way. The biggest challenge is just getting clients in the habit of crediting the photos to me so that everyone knows who took them. 12) How do you get away and relax? Do you take your camera everywhere even when you are “relaxing”? 🙂 I never take my camera with me if I’m not working! It’s terrible. But this is something I want to start doing again, Henri Cartier-Bresson style. 13) What is something you’ve done that has made a huge influence on your business’s success? I just participated in my first bridal show — the NotWedding — and that was a very unique and beneficial experience. Not because of booking a lot of weddings but because of the amazing opportunity that that particular bridal show allows for wedding vendors to get to know each other and network. It has taken me 7 years but I’m finally realizing how important it is to have other people in the industry on your team and wanting to work with you. 14) What is in your camera bag? Do you have any favorite items in your bag? I have a couple of Canon 5Dmkii’s and shoot mostly with prime lenses. With kids that are mobile I almost exclusively use my 35L and stay close. But overall, my favorite lens is my 135L. It’s gorgeous when wide open and makes these fantastically buttery images. Hannah, thank you for sharing your story with us! Your work is amazing, and you’ve got a forever-fan in me! Friends, if you are in the Nashville area be sure to look Hannah up! Check out more of her work on her website and be sure to like and follow her on Facebook! She rocks! Thank you again, Hannah! I hope you enjoy the fall and winter season with lots of color, warmth, and inspiration! ~ Jenna P.s. Did you miss the into to this new blog series? Check it out here! Don’t forget to send your artist inspirations my way at email@example.com or through Facebook!