Behind the camera of Hannah Lipowsky
Hannah Lipowsky is an award-winning photographer based in Maastricht, a small town in the South of the Netherlands, but before that she has developed over the years her professional career in Amsterdam and Barcelona as a freelan-ce photographer for sportswear and portraits for FC Barcelona and other brands, including Nike and Reebook.
However, her interest shifted to children's photography and clothing. We have had the pleasure of her collaboration in this wonderful shooting in an old farm-house in the Belgian region of Ardenne. The selection of this location was no coincidence because if there is one thing Hannah likes, it is to disconnect in the middle of the forest, soak up the characteristic smell of conifer trees, and enjoy a few days of charm with her family. If you want to know more about Hannah and her story, keep reading!
After spending some time working for advertising and for important brands such as Reebok or Nike, why did you decide to go into children's photography?
I professionally started photographing kids sometime in 2017 when I came back from my first baby break. I just felt really inspired by seeing all the kids fashion that suddenly came into my world, the colors, prints and designs. Suddenly a lot of ideas for kids fashion editorials popped into my head, and my interest and inspiration grew even more after having shot them. I felt inspired and driven by the spontaneous energie I got from the kids, and the fact that they act so genuinely and have such a great im-agination. Anything can be everything and I love that.
Because the process of making editorial work is different from working on an advertising assignment, it enabled me to work more intuitively, giving me the feeling of just being able to play around. It was less tech-nical, less expectations to meet, and I could just freestyle which felt really liberating.
I think it was also related to my age, when I started out working as a photographer in Barcelona in my twenties, in the first years of my career I was shooting the players of FC Barcelona for Nike. Obviously, I was super hyped and excited to get the job but I was also terrified, I certain-ly felt the pressure. It’s definitely been a process for me to explore my own vision and stand by it. Probably becoming a mother helped me to it as well, as it was so overwhelming but so empowering. I have always enjoyed shooting commercial work, and still do, but starting photographing kids fashion and making editorial work really helped me to explore and define my style and, in the end I think, made me a better photographer.
Looking back I noticed that there are certain elements in my work that I in-corporate in my assignments from my editorial work and vice versa. I have always liked working with real People, street casting and I go way back.
Another thing is my interest in stories, human interest stories. In high school I was very serious about becoming a journalist, but then my mum gave me a camera for my 16 birthday and I was hooked. When I started out as a photographer a lot of my series had the intenti-on of telling peoples stories something extraordinary in someones life. I loved finding them, and blending into them for a little while. I travelled the south of the US to find the soul legends of the 60, wanting to see what had become of them. I lust really love taking pictures of interesting people and I love peeking into other people’s lives best when theirs is most different to what I know.
When I travel, I enjoy those moments the best, that are the most real to some of the local’s day to day life. In 2009 I spent a month in Japan, and rather than wanting to travel around to see all the beauty and magic of the whole place, I ditched the lonely planet ( back in the days) and decided to „waste“ three weeks of my precious time on an island closed to Tokyo, hanging with and getting to know the local surf crowd. I made a series on the first genera-tion of surfers in Japan which ended up in COLORS Magazine, and one of my dearest memories of this trip is, when I crashed a high school party with my camera and all the students were so excited of having an international „reporter„ there and we had the best time taking pictures without being able to understand one another. I think in some way I always seek connection, whether I am traveling, or I am taking someone’s picture.
How do you describe yourself professionally? What is your rela-tionship with you work? Tell us a bit about your studio
Overall I m a pretty straight forward photographer, I would think. I can work really quickly, thanks to all my shoots with pro sporters. I am curious and very impulsive. Which comes in handy at times, I find it easy to talk to strangers, or when I have an idea, I always find a way of making it work, but the other half of the time it’s just really annoying. When I get inspired, I am all over the place.
As to my relationship with my work, photography sure grounds and re-laxes me and fills in a big part of who I am. It certainly has some teen love story qualities to it, as well. I have always cared a lot for photog-raphy, when I am satisfied with my work it is utter fulfillment, when I am not it is the brutal opposite. My studio is actually not in Amsterdam anymore as we have moved out of the city into a small town in the Netherlands close to the German and Belgian border. I love being outside and parenting actually has become much more relaxed living close to nature. I also really enjoy living so close to other countries and the mix of the languages spoken all around us, the streeks of nomansland around. I think for some reason it makes it easier for me to feel at home.
From what we can see in your photos, you have a very personal style: minimalist, pure and very true to colour. What inspires you?
Nature, the sea, people, my kids, food, colors, packaging, movies. One of my favorite movie “the graduate “, the editing is brilliant. When I grew up, we didn’t have a tv at home and with bad weather I spent half of my time hanging out in the city library reading. Books have always inspired me, not only the stories but the materials, the smell. I am a huge fan of paper, paint and prints. Put me in a Japa-nese paper store, and I can be in there forever. All kinds of children’s books, love them vintage also. Painters like Gauguin, Rothko, Henri Rousseau and naïve art in general. I like anything that has a story or re-minds me of a former epoche, I love vintage design, clothing and look-ing at old family photo albums.
From a stylistic point of view what do you like about The New Society?
I love the edgy romance of TNS, the quality of the garments. The look which to me is the perfect mix of classic romance with sassy prints, cuts and cleverness. Also, in every collection they manage to include some of my all-time favorite things like Vichy squares or broderie an-glaise, crochets and ruffles. The fair isle knitwear is also a favorite. It certainly shows some vintage elements without ever feeling retro which I really like. When it comes to my own style inspiration, I think I am always aiming to visualize what an amish person would dress like after having lived in Paris for year.
When you focus on a person's face, what do you see? What is the most difficult thing about taking portraits?
Taking someone’s photograph can be a very brief but at the same time intense form of connecting with someone completely strange, and that makes it so powerful. I also find it really fascinating how it can be so technical on the one hand but almost spiritual on the other. I think I am always looking for signs of emotion in someone’s face. For me personally it was important to understand that a good portrait doesn’t al-ways have to be pretty. Like a beautiful photo of someone doesn’t necessarily have to show someone looking good.
As Robert Capa said "if your pictures aren't good, you haven't got close enough", does this apply to you? What are your tactics for capturing such expressions in your portraits?
Robert Capa was a great photographer and his work is really impres-sive. The quote is even more when you think about that he worked mainly on combat and in war zones. I do think it’s very true, even though for me actually the opposite applies more, as my personal in-stinct always is to get closer. I always have to remind myself, to also take a step back and show some more surroundings of someone, as this too can add to the story.
To me, one of the most magical things in photography, is that you end up with a product that before only existed in your own imagination, which is physically seen pretty crazy and incredible. It is like you can put your visual imagery in physical form. If you can share this process with someone else and create out of two minds it gets even more interesting and I love the moment of a shoot when everyone in the team is so pleased with what they see, as it is rooted and grew in all the minds likewise. I don’t think I do have a certain tactic that I usually apply, but I know that (metaphorically) showing some more of yourself always helps if you want to see some more of the person in front of you.