Victoria Hannan is a London-based Australian writer and photographer. I was lucky enough to work with her for a while, and I’m always deeply jealous of the amazing photo essays she creates. She told me about her approach, her inspirations and some of her favourite work.
Writing or photography?
They play such different yet necessary roles in my life that I’m not sure I could choose. I’d go mad without both of them but hungry without one of them. Also, I don’t think writers can ever really give up because thinking is also writing in a way. Don’t you think?
When I write my personal work it can be really hard to know if something’s good and to know when to stop. I can labour over a single sentence for years and edit and edit and edit. Even after I’ve published a blog post, I’ll go back and make small changes. It can feel like there’s no end point because my deadlines are self imposed.
I find photography easier than writing for that exact reason. I think because I shoot on film I have such a limited amount of time to get it right that I don’t worry about it as much. If I get the shot, I get it. If I don’t, there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s a quick creative release that I can judge the quality of as soon as I see it.
How do you approach your photography? Is there some kind of consistent philosophy and/or set-up that you stick to, or is it less organised that? I ask because (as a total layperson) I always think your stuff, even the style-oriented work, has a kind of democratic feel to it?
The only thing that’s really organised is the street style. That comes with a very particular brief of how the photo should be shot, the age, sex and style of who should be shot, of what’s considered “beautiful” for that particular magazine. I think the most interesting thing about it is that I have to take this very particular, stylised idea of beauty and then find it in the real world. And that’s what interests me the most: the real world, real life.
I like democratic as a description because I like to think that everyone, everything has the potential to be beautiful. Real life is beautiful. And I think that’s the only philosophy I stick to. That a carpark can be beautiful, that a taxi driver can be beautiful, that a fence, a dead mouse, a fat man on a boat. All of it in context, or even out of context, has a real world magic that I’m drawn to.
What’s your favourite personal project you’ve done? And why?
1010project.com is important to me because it was the first one I did and it made me realise how easy it is to do your own work. I had an idea and then I just made it (with a little help from some friends). It cost about £100 and had more press and views than a lot of the advertising work I’ve done. After that, I didn’t really have any excuses not to follow through on an idea.
Which individual artist/photographer/writer or group of artists/photographers/writer do you admire? Is there something about them that influences your work?
There are too many to list and I discover more every day.
I finished Leanne Shapton‘s Swimming Studies on a plane last night and wept silently next to a girl writing out maths equations on a napkin. I felt so understood while reading that book and I was devastated it was over. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. I also recently met a photographer called Anthony Gerace whose studio portraits are really incredible. Both of them made me want to get to work.
I’m also really lucky to be surrounded by talented people. I’ve somehow amassed a group of friends who do extraordinary things which inspires me to try harder so they still want to be friends with me.
You’re from Australia, based in London, and you travel a lot. Is there any sense in which ‘wandering’ influences your creative work?
Only in that being somewhere different heightens my senses. When I’m somewhere familiar, I’ll stop looking for a photo or a story and every day life will take over. Being in a new place forces me to really see the world again.