Why I Use Photography to Empower Myself and Others

One of my favorite things to learn about someone is how they began doing whatever it is that they love. I will (and have) asked anyone that I can talk to long enough - my dentist, academic advisors, train conductors, and especially other photographers. There’s something so inspiring and encouraging about learning where the people I look up to were when they were my age. For me, I began photography at 13 years old.

My friends and I decided to start a 365 project together, where you take a picture a day for a year (which is quite the commitment for a kid). A few months into the project, that friend and all our mutual friends cut ties with me, started spreading lies, and cyberbullied me before it was even a thing. Hey, at least they were trendsetters, right? But they did all this out of nowhere so obviously, I was devastated, wounded, and confused. Have you ever been so hurt that you were numb, unaware of the days, or what’s going on around you?

I was on autopilot for the next few months but continued to do my 365 project, teaching myself how to express my frustrations and pain through photographs. I was finding a new way to ease the pain I had with the actions of others in a way that actually made a difference in how I felt. There was nothing that I could do to change the way my friends were acting - all that I could do was find ways to help myself through it. I spent every waking second of day for the remainder of the year conceptualizing, scouting locations, shooting, editing, and healing myself through this art form. 

By the end of the project I had become a stronger, more confident, and empowered person. I had carved out a path for myself that I didn't know existed before and instead of letting the situation consume me, I fought through it, and discovered my love for photography along the way. Photography taught me how to heal myself through art, and that experience has been the basis for my photography and for my business ever since. 

I still can't believe it's real that I am able to share the biggest joy in my life, the reason I get up in the morning, and the art form that I use for myself as a tool to heal and build confidence in myself, with other people who trust me. I may have started photography for myself, but I continue shooting photography because of the way that it allows me to connect with others, empower them through my lens, and create an experience that neither of us will ever forget. I just want to sincerely say thank you to everyone who I have ever had the pleasure of photographing, and to the future beauties that I will meet someday soon. :)

Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.