It's Friday afternoon, our favorite time of the week! What better way to celebrate than with the gorgeous eye candy that is the photography of Elise Hanna. Elise has lived all over the world, most recently returning back to the US from India. If you're not familiar with her work, I'm declaring it the official weekend! Stop what you're doing and experience the virtual vacation that is her beautiful work. And don't miss her Instagram page too!
When did you develop a love for photography?
One of my favorite projects a child was to create dioramas. Those little shoe box projects for school, where you make a little world inside of the box, then put on the lid and peer through a small hole in the end of the box. Now that I look back photography seems such an obvious career path, even though I took a winding path to get here. Photography is one of those things I’ve always loved, but my love for it grows deeper in unexpected ways as the years pass by. It’s a little like marriage. I loved taking photos as a child there was a wonderful magic about it that remains even now. When I began to travel as a young adult, my love for it deepened even more. I could create tangible memories of the places I visited, souvenirs I didn’t have to worry about fitting in my suitcase. It deepened again when I had my first son and again with each of my three children. It’s the only way I know to stop time in the fleeting years of childhood while the busy busy world flies by. Again, about three years ago, I rekindled my flame with film and I’ve never been more in love with photography, but I don’t doubt that it will surprise me again someday soon.
What do you enjoy shooting the most?
I could never limit myself to just one style. I’ve learned to be chameleon in all the countries we’ve lived, in adapting to shooting the thing that I am most inspired by in each place. In India, I think portraiture had my heart. I am a quiet observer and I am always fascinated by things beyond appearances. Many of those things, are things I discover only by making and studying my portraits. My second love in India was street photography followed closely by food photography. The joy of wandering aimlessly is like a treasure hunt and each scene a small diorama. To discover color palettes and light and to wait and see how people interact with is a great joy for me. Food photography is all about story telling and to create a story in each photograph that takes the viewer to the meals origin, evoking sounds, smells and textures is a goal that drives my mad hunting for props and local details.
Where are you from originally, and what brought you to India?
I am originally from the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in Washington and Oregon with a geography professor and writer for a father and a teacher for a mother. My path to world travel was written in the stars. In 2010 my husband joined the United States State Department as a Diplomat. We wanted to see the world and let our children see the world and haven’t looked back since.
What are your favorite things about living there?
My favorite things about living in India were the people, the color and the food. There was great adventure outside our front gate each and every day. From Hindu temple festivals to quietly observing the beautiful ways in which people executed the most simple tasks each day. There was incredible attention to detail in even the most mundane things. It was truly fascinating and I felt like a student each and every day and I did my part by showing up each day excited to learn. An important lesson in living life no matter where you are.
Have you ever felt burned out? if so, what do you do to get re-inspired?
Of course, feeling burned out is all part of the creative process. When I’m feeling burnt out I always need a change of scenery. If I’m in my office I’ll get out and go for a walk. Something great always comes from going for a walk: Ideas, photographs, fresh air in your lungs and oxygen to your brain. You can’t lose by getting outside. If I’m burnt out on a particular place, a vacation, a short road trip or a little getaway always refreshes my creative spirit.
What's a typical day like for you?
I have three children and a husband so they are my first priority. Once I get them off to work and school, I am editing photographs, planning a styled shoot or food shoot that I’ve dreamt up or hitting the streets in search of photographs and experiences.
Favorite piece of gear?
I have my father’s old 35mm Minolta x700 and I’ve made a few of my favorite photographs with that camera. Next in line is my Rolleiflex. Even when I’m not shooting a photograph it is often the ice breaker that gets me closer to a subject both literally and figuratively and creates unparalleled images.
I’ve visited many lovable cities in my life, and even though we just returned to the US from India in December, my heart is still in Chennai. It was a place that was good to me and that I explored from every angle. I think it’s possible to fall in love with any place if you study and understand it with commitment. If you don’t love it, you’ll at least leave with a working understanding of it and therefore an appreciation. It was vibrant, friendly, full of color and culture and was as complex as anything I’ve ever known.
How do you market your business?
What has been the most successful for you? Instagram has been my biggest marketing tool. It started as a way to communicate the little things to my family when we moved to Brazil, but quickly became just another camera in my bag. I began to use it more in India, for little bits of inspiration, to capture a color palette that I wanted to remember for a future styled shoot or to show a subject their photograph when they asked to view it, as many did, in Chennai. I was shooting almost exclusively film and people always asked to have their photo taken.
Best three tips for someone starting out?
Shoot every day. Don’t get hung up on the equipment you are using, only be caught up in perfecting exposures and training your eye and mastering your camera.
Take a camera with your everywhere you go. That’s easy to do these days, with smartphones and such, but take your non-iphone camera, too. Wear it on our shoulder or on your belt and look for compositions and light in everything you do. Photographs are everywhere.
Print your photos. I tell myself this as much as I tell you, but I have a friend that still prints all his photos. I think people forget that the process isn’t fully complete until a print is made.