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Interview: Photographer Jill Beth Hannes

Jill Beth Hannes originates from Honolulu, Hawaii, but is now based in LA. Her photography uses techniques that make it feel like it's from another, simpler, time. Her work takes us on lonely, wistful journeys with her subjects, who are exclusively women.  

The images below are from the Strange Women series, shortlisted for the Next Photographer Award 2015. Take a look at Jill's award-winning photography below, and hear her technique, advice and philosophy.

Interview: D&AD Next Photographer Jill Hannes
This image is part of a narrative about a young woman who was frozen in time during the height of the Salton Sea and is now coming back to life to see her town destroyed.

Where did the idea for the shoot(s) come from?

The idea for Strange Women came to be in 2010. This was a very difficult year for me. I was getting sober and with getting sober you start to feel a lot of what you have been trying to numb for so long. It was searching for my new self and in the process I would write short stories based off women I thought I was, could be, or was becoming. I then created images based off of these characters. 

Describe the process of capturing the images

The process of capturing the images is a long one. After creating the character there is a lot of planning that takes place before actually shooting. Location scouting is key to tell the story of the specific woman and hopefully it will add to the feeling and emotion I’m trying to capture. Also, finding the right wig and outfit takes some time. It really needs to be in line with the strangeness I’m trying to create without seeming too obvious. 

I then cast for a model, or make it a self portrait depending on the character I’m trying to create. While shooting, I’m very meticulous in what I’m looking for. I have to capture the exact emotion I felt when I wrote each story. Each shoot takes about six hours.

Interview: D&AD Next Photographer Jill Hannes
This was shot in San Francisco, CA in an old victorian house by the beach. This story is about a young women who lives in the basement of the old house. It is her castle and she will never leave.

What kit do you use?

I use three to four cameras while shooting. Currently I’m using a Rolleiflex, a Polaroid land camera and a Polaroid 600 camera. I also have a 35mm Minolta that was my grandfather's. As for lighting, I try to use natural light as much as I can. I also love to use my car’s headlights or heavy duty flashlights. With headlights and flashlights, I use a reflector. For indoor I love using lamps with yellow light, or TVs. I love strange light colors to create atmosphere. If I’m using studio lights, I like Profoto. I’ve used the Profoto B2 and its really great.

What was the biggest challenge?

There are always challenges with producing and capturing the images I create. Working with film is always a bit scary. Especially if I feel like the shoot went really well, there will always be a pit in my stomach until I pick up the film and I see that it all came out. Other challenges are finding locations that i’m actually allowed to shoot at. We were yelled at a few times while shooting the Salton Sea images. 

Interview: D&AD Next Photographer Jill Hannes
This image is part of an editorial titled Suburbia. A story about a women who lives a sad, quite, strange life in a beautiful house on a cliff. Shot in San Francisco, CA using a medium format camera.

What has been the key to your success?

I would have to say gaining confidence to put my work out into the world and not losing that confidence when I’m told no. Before I started the project Strange Women, I had all of these ideas and all of these reasons to procrastinate and not pursue them. Once I started the project, saw it through and put it out there I started gaining confidence and momentum. I love creating images, it’s who I am and how I tell my story.

am constantly shooting nowadays and sending my work out there. I don’t always get a response, and I don’t always get a great response but then I just move on to the next and keep pushing. 

How valuable are self-initiated projects?

I think it is so important! It’s how you find your voice, your passion and your style. You have to see your own ideas come to life to learn who you are as an artist. I think for me, I couldn’t wait around for someone to give me projects, or shoots. I had to just start creating my own vision and hopefully from that more projects will come my way. 

How important are competitions and award shows for creatives?

This has been the first year that I’ve started submitting to competitions and award shows. I finally felt that I was ready to start submitting and it’s been great so far. I think it's important to get your work out into the world in any way, but If it can be seen by photographers and artists that you admire and look up to it’s even better! Also it’s great to be acknowledged for your hard work and it helps remind you that you are on the right path.

The D&AD Next Photographer Award unearths the best new photographic talent and promotes it back to the industry. The competition is open to new photographers with less than three years professional experience. 

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