By Alyssa Shapiro
Hanna Hillier is a photographer based in Los Angeles, whose work—even prior to the restrictions of the pandemic—extended into the realms of casting and creative direction. As a creative, she’s extraordinarily self-sufficient, producing beautiful work without the need for another human in the room. But when there are others in the room, her calm, positive energy ricochets from person to person. It’s one of the reasons we love working with her on our campaigns.
Is there a specific person, experience, or feeling that inspires your work?
I'm not even sure how to describe it, it's just a feeling in my soul that is drawn to certain aesthetics across the board, whether it's interiors, fashion, paintings, sculpture, photography, colors, lines... I also love when people break boundaries and create fresh, new ideas. I'm heavily inspired by the movement towards diversity and sustainability. It makes me excited for fashion and excited for the future to be able to be a part of this new world. I love watching documentaries on CNBC's Youtube channel about how cities will look in 50 years, vertical inner-city farming etc. It's mind-blowing and super inspirational.
When did you first venture into photography?
I was always into art, but I took up photography as a subject in school when I was 16. I loved it, and I decided I wanted to be a fashion photographer. I worked after school and every weekend at a local hotel to save up to afford my first camera, a second-hand Nikon D300s.
I went to London College of Fashion for a year but had to drop out because I got ill. As soon as I was better I applied for internships in fashion. For a while I interned for a magazine, a stylist, then Next Model Management. Next ended up hiring me full-time for 18 months. At the same, time I did paid testing and various side jobs on evenings and weekends to save up a financial buffer and go freelance. When I did, I worked every waking minute to seize every opportunity I could.
Instagram really helped my career and expanded my network. My photography was reaching a much wider audience, and I started getting booked for brands and editorials. I have always tried to stay true to work that I love and the level of ethics that I adhere to. I could see as I was growing that the hyper-retouched style of beauty was booming, but it just wasn't my thing. I had so many brands and photography agents tell me to work with specific retouchers and to make my beauty work more 'professional' by retouching the pores and stray hairs, but I didn't feel comfortable with that. It didn't feel right to be selling a version of beauty standards to people that is just false. So I stayed true to myself, and it happens to be one of the core reasons I get booked today.
How have you been coping throughout the pandemic?
Surprisingly well. Because all my loved ones are currently in the UK and I'm in LA, my daily routine is a bit strange. I wake up, call my mum and my sister for two hours, make breakfast, call my boyfriend for four hours, then I catch up on emails. In the evenings I've been doing a lot of still life photography for brands. I shoot in the evening, then edit during the daytime while on the phone; it takes a long time but doesn't require too much focus.
I've had a few crying moments, but once I get the tears out I feel a lot better. I'm normally the most organized person when it comes to life and travel, but right now it's impossible to plan anything, so I just have to take it one day at a time, limit the amount of news I watch, and realize I have it so much better than millions of others.
A lot of my friends and loved ones have had bad days so I'm trying to support them whenever possible. As we all know, this is a horrible event for humanity; however, it's a beautiful event for the planet, and I'm really hoping that when this is over as humans we realize we can slow down a bit, that more people can work from home and thus cut down on fuel emissions. Consumerism can slow down and we can think more carefully about the brands we are buying from. The global economy is so bad in terms of pollution, hopefully we can all take less flights, and countries can start manufacturing more of their own goods.
What has good energy done for your life?