(Lead image photo of Hannan Saleh courtesy of Terrence Jennings)
Hannan Saleh does not play small.
This is evident as she sits in a coffeeshop in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on a foggy October evening. The fashion photographer has been pulling images to include for Street Culture, her first book, which will feature photos from the hundreds of street shoots she’s done over her twenty-plus year career.
“Street Culture is a work of love but it’s also a call for authenticity,” she explains thoughtfully. “I just want people to stop wasting time and do what they came [on earth] to do.”
Hannan’s work has been seen in publications such as Essence and MOD magazine, but she just doesn’t shoot photos of beautiful people.
“As a creative, everyone wants to identify you in one way. I’m not just a photographer but I am an artist.” She sips her tea as she continues. “I’m a mother. I’m into spirituality. I paint; I don’t fit into one box. You can’t let people put you in a box.”
Street Culture is the first of a three-book series of Hannan’s work, ranging from commercial and studio shoots to scenes taken in city streets highlighting urban style. The book is being funded through the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe with a goal to raise $30,000 for production costs.
Pegged to the funding drive is another call to action by Hannan: “I AM…,” a reflective, interactive prompt Hannan has started on her Instagram page, encouraging women to define themselves on their own terms. Instagrammers can upload a video or image of themselves, sharing with the world their thoughts on self-image. “It’s a powerful activation,” Hannan says. “When you’re given a chance to define yourself, it’s like connecting with a higher power. And there is where your potential begins.”
Each of Hannan’s projects, from her shoots to Street Culture are all iterations of various life stages. As a child in scenic Buffalo, New York, Hannan initially took up painting; it was only after college did Hannan begin documenting her world with a camera. “As a creative, you have to see your project done, while trusting the process and coming into things while it’s still finishing. I did lots of things and then came into photography. And soon, I’ll do other things.”
Constantly reinventing, Hannan has lots of advice for other women–especially black female creatives– looking to spark change into their own lives.
“Do you; don’t worry about what other people think. Sit with yourself and allow yourself to have ideas. Your friends may not be supportive along the way and that’s okay. But being big is a part of your destiny; embrace it. Stop playing small and live loudly.”