Photographer Hannan Saleh Celebrates Black Beauty & Style with “Street Culture”
If you live in New York City, you know you’re in the right place at the right time if the visionary photographer, Hannan Saleh, is there to capture your look. As one of my favorite street style photographers, Hannan’s work reaches the masses through the images published on ESSSENCE.com’s wildly popular “Street Style” series. After years of covering Black women in their glory, she realized she had an amazing archive of timeless images that needed to be shared. Today, I’m proud to announce Hannan’s new coffee table book project appropriately titled “Street Culture.” For the past three years, Hannan has been capturing breathtaking images of US that she’s ready to share with the world! I had the pleasure of speaking with Hannan to learn more about this highly-anticipated masterpiece. Here’s what she had to say:
In Her Shoes: Congrats on the new coffee table book you’re working on! The images you’re going to be sharing with the world in “Street Culture” are very much needed. Tell us a little bit about how you came up with the concept and what you want your readers to walk away with:
Hannan: I have never seen a street style book that really represented my aesthetic. After being told by friends over the years to create a book, I finally listened and I’m really glad I did. I felt like there was a void in the fashion publication industry for people like us. This is my interpretation of street style. When I started the book I had no idea what to do! Then little by little I was guided by my higher self. I trust pure intuition and inspiration so that is how I chose to select images and complete the book.
I think my images are full of life, colorful, cool and the people have such an individual style. I want “Street Culture” to help people feel liberated to express themselves in any way they choose, especially when it comes to dressing yourself. It is a form of expression and an art. Just let it flow and listen to yourself. Do you!
In Her Shoes: Have you always been a visual artist or did you transition into this creative space from another industry?
Hannan: As a young child I would find myself in a library flipping through magazines admiring women in fashion. As I grew older, my passion for the art grew stronger and I would paint fashion editorials. One of the most influential, is a black and white cover of British Vogue of the super models by Peter Lindbergh. Seeing Naomi Campbell on the cover inspired me so much and I wanted to see more women of color grace the front pages of more magazines. This is what fueled me to focus on fashion photography in college.
After studying fashion photography in college, I created fashion editorials and received the “Emerging Artist” award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 2000, the “Beauty In The Eye of the Beholder” award in 2001 and the “Turning Silver” award in 2003 from Women in Photography International. At this time in my life, I was inspired to infuse fashion and culture by submitting to various publications.
In Her Shoes: So many fashion-forward New Yorkers have gotten to know you over the past six years as the official Street Style photographer for ESSENCE.com. Whenever I see you at an event, I know two things: (a) I’m in the place to be and (b) I need to fluff up my fro just in case you ask to take my picture! Tell us a little bit about this time in your career:
Hannan: My time at ESSENCE has been quite an amazing journey. I started working on the street style segment and figured it out along the way. It was a fairly new feature on the site so I had to ensure I curated it in away that was eclectic and fun. Covering New York Fashion Week was exciting I didn’t just focus on celebrities, I expanded it to emerging talent, bloggers and creatives. Seeing how the site evolved was so fulfilling and every season I would challenge myself to make it better than the last. I definitely relied heavily on my intuition to put me in the right place and time.
Outside of NYFW, I branched out to other venues to capture the many various styles of people. Highlighting Black excellence at The Studio Museum of Harlem Gala, book signings and charities, I met some of the most amazing people and saw their brands grow as they did (like you!). Two of my favorite spots are the Brooklyn Museum during Target’s First Saturdays and Roble’s Everyday People Brunch. They’re always full of so many free spirited creative taste makers. I totally identify with them!
In Her Shoes: What is a day like in Hannan Saleh’s shoes?
Hannan: My average day starts with getting the boys ready for school. I have three sons who are 8, 11 and 14 years old. After getting them settled, I handle some emails and get ready to run out. Normally I would just pack my camera and my music (Ibeyi radio on Pandora) and head to SoHo. After getting off the train I run to Housing Works thrift boutique for inspiration then just stroll around. I usually bump into some of the most interesting people and ask them for a pic. After capturing some great pics I take a few breaks at bookstores and cafes. I wrap up a good day in the city, head back home to edit, pick up the boys from school and prepare dinner.
In Her Shoes: Celebrating individuality is very important to you. Was there ever a time in your life where you weren’t confident enough to do so? If so, how did you push through?
Hannan: I have been different all my life and it really is something I embrace. My individuality is my source of strength. We are all so different in our own way and have our own unique view of the world we live in. Like snowflakes, no two are identical and each is an intricate beautiful expression.
In Her Shoes: How much funding are you trying to raise with your “Street Culture” Kickstarter and how will the dollars raised be used on the project?
Hannan: I am looking to raise $33K for my Kickstarter. Most of it will go towards printing, shipping, rewards, and overall production expenses.
In Her Shoes: Where would you like to see “Street Culture” evolve in the years to come? Do you see plans for it beyond the book?
Hannan: I plan to continue shooting street culture and my site will be a hub for tastemakers. You can look forward to exclusive interviews, videos and imagery of emerging and influential creatives. Who knows…there could be a Street Culture II in the works (winks). Stay tuned!
In Her Shoes: Give us your top three reasons why In Her Shoes readers should contribute to the “Street Culture” Kickstarter today:
Hannan: There is nothing out there like it! There are plenty of style books but none of them reflect the essence of Black women. There’s mystery and allure to who a person is. I strive to reveal a glimpse of it. It’s not just about clothes, it’s a lifestyle. It’s an important archive of special moments in a wonderful time. This is a reality we are creating together that helps fill a void in the lack of diversity in the fashion publication industry.
To donate to Hannan’s “Street Culture” Kickstarter campaign click here now!