We had the good fortune of connecting with Hanna Wilson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Hanna, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Work life balance is HUGE. Growing up I could never see myself working a traditional 9-5 office job – I always knew I wanted to be my own boss. I craved the freedom of being able to create my own office hours and work whenever I wanted to from wherever I wanted to. During the first few years of being self employed I worked mostly from home. To some people, this may sound like the dream – and in some ways, it was. That is, until I found myself having no boundaries in place and working until after midnight every night because I couldn’t shake the feeling that free time = wasted time. I eventually realized working 14 hour days on the regular was not good for my mental health or the quality of my work…and this quickly led to burnout.

Needless to say, something had to give. I began working from a co-working space which forced me to have set working hours and allowed me to leave my work there, in a sense, when the work day was over. Let me tell ya, it’s been a game changer.

Thanks to the co-working space, I’m SO much more productive during the work day.

I’m happier, more inspired, and have more time to actually live my life instead of spending it behind a computer screen. Now I make it a point to stick to my boundaries and only work while I’m in the office, which has done WONDERS for my productivity and mental health. It’s kind of funny that I started my own business to have more freedom, yet I still crave the structure of physically going in to work and calling it quits at 5 PM.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
All throughout my childhood, my dad constantly had a camera around his neck documenting my life as I grew. So it only made sense that I would follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in photography. It’s been a long journey to get to where I am today. From a young age, my dream was to be a National Geographic photographer when I grew up. I always said I never wanted to photograph portraits, I just wanted to travel the globe and photograph landscapes. Then I began second shooting weddings in high school to make some extra cash. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love it at first. I enjoyed having the honor to document couple’s love stories, but I would leave the wedding feeling completely depleted and drained. I’m a huge introvert, so I was struggling to connect with the big, traditional weddings I was photographing.

I went on to study Commercial Photography at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. I spent those next 4 years photographing all kinds of different types of photography in a studio setting, such as fashion, product, and editorial photography. I enjoyed editorial photography, but I was still convinced I was going to be a National Geographic photographer. That is, until I discovered elopements my sophomore year.

When most people think of an elopement they imagine a bride and groom running off to Vegas to elope in secrecy, but over the years the term has evolved into so much more. To me, an elopement is an intentionally small, intimate wedding that authentically represents the couple and is solely focused on them (rather than putting on a show to appease friends and family). Elopements grant couples the freedom to commit their lives to each other however and wherever they want to. After I photographed my first elopement, I felt an instant connection and left feeling so fulfilled and inspired. In that instant, I became OBSESSED with photographing elopements. I branded myself as an elopement photographer and ONLY shot elopements and couples. All of the leaders in the elopement photography industry stressed the importance of niching down and becoming an expert in the field by only photographing elopements, so I wouldn’t even consider photographing anything else.

Over the years, as I’ve grown and evolved, my style too, has evolved alongside of me. I still photograph elopements, but I found myself craving something more. During the pandemic, weddings and elopements had to be postponed. I missed shooting and creating, so I began photographing self portraits of myself at home. I’d gather props, set up a scene, put my camera on a tripod, strike a pose, and take self portraits with a remote shutter. These personal projects sparked something within me and I began actively pursuing editorial and fashion photography.

Side note- everyone knows the Instagram algorithm is constantly changing. When Instagram began pushing videos and reels rather than photographs I was pretty frustrated because I’m a photographer- I take photos, not videos. I denounced reels for the longest time, until I discovered my love of GIF making. I realized I needed to pivot to appease the algorithm, so I began turning my photos into GIFs and stringing them together to tell a story in video format. This also sparked something within me and I’ve never felt more inspired!

I realize my journey and evolution as a photographer is all over the place, but that’s kind of what I love about it. Now when I’m asked what kind of photographer I am, I’m not sure how to respond. Elopements and couples will always have my heart, but I’m really having fun carrying a camera around and documenting every day life through GIFs and putting them together to make short films. I have no idea where this journey will take me, but I can’t wait to find out!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Durango stole my heart 7 years ago when I first visited while on a roadtrip with my family, and every day since then I would daydream about the day when I would finally get to call it home. I’m convinced Durango is truly a magical place because of the way it grabs ahold of you and won’t let you go.

First things first we’d take a stroll downtown, stop by my very best friend Chayse’s storefront, Frontera Silver, in the Century Building. She’s an incredible silversmith and I’m one of her biggest fans! You also can’t come to Durango without paying a visit to the Strater Hotel! Then we’d make a pitstop at 11th St. Station for drinks and appetizers, then head to El Moro for dinner (their ramen is what dreams are made of). And because we can’t have dinner without desert, we’d walk over to Cream Bean Berry for ice cream. We’d spend the rest of the week adventuring and exploring the beautiful San Juan Mountains, what more could you possibly want?! 🙂

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m so grateful to be able to say that my parents have been my biggest support system since day one. From a young age they encouraged me to stay true to myself and to follow my dreams and not let anything get in the way of making them come true. They supported me while I was in school studying photography and never tried to persuade me to take the safe route and change my degree to something more “practical”. They’ve never once doubted me or my business, and I truly would not be where I am today without their love and support. So this one’s for you, Mom and Dad! I owe you both the world.

Website: www.hannawilsonphotography.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hannaiwilson/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hannaiwilson

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