“I just like to capture moments,” — Hannah Cassidy, photographer
BY Jennifer Lee O'Brien
Lately, we’ve noticed creativity being paraded about like a fresh pair of pricey trainers, looking cool and sounding cool, and when it’s not being cool, it’s probably being healthy.
The cool kind of healthy, like waking up at 5am to eat avocado smashed on toast with a spoon and writing lists of feels and setting alarms to remember to be mindful. Which is healthy, cool and good for creativity, some people say. And that is all a-okay.
But lately, we’ve wondered if wearing creativity like a slogan on a white tee and marching it about looking all minimalist in a world of squares is doing our chaotic old friend a disservice. Maybe creativity is hanging out on a bench looking right dodgy, or standing in line at Nando’s craving peri-peri spiced chips. Maybe it’s wasting its hours away on a barstool; content at home watching re-runs of The Sopranos; peering out the frosty window of a bus into 5pm darkness. Do we even know what creativity looks like anymore? What if we pass it right by?
When we saw Hannah Cassidy’s photographs, we felt something that felt like creativity, or maybe it was creativity’s best pal, inspiration; which was a good reminder that creativity and inspiration don’t always come in design-led packaging, shot in analog and arranged to look haphazard in a Moleskine. Sometimes, creativity is messy and unmarketable, and arrives at the coolest party dressed like an awkward lobster. Sometimes it drinks big-brand instant coffee and joins its muse in the gluey residue leftover in the mug. Mostly creativity is about feeling it, really and truly feeling it, in the knowledge that whether you share it with the world or watch it flutter its clumsy wings in solitude, it belongs to you.
When we saw Hannah’s photographs, which are remarkable, and feel rich and present like watching frozen time melt by candlelight, we remembered that creativity is all about feeling it.
“I just like to capture moments,” says Hannah. “To really capture a moment in real life.”
Hannah is a freelance photographer from Liverpool, who has studied film in New York and shot spaces, people and events around the world. She has worked with brands like Christian Louboutin, G-Star RAW, Vans, Herschel Supply Co and Belstaff; last season, she was assigned to Everton Football Club as their creative photographer; in October she worked behind the scenes at London and Paris’s fashion weeks; she’s recently shot Liverpool FC player Roberto Firmino with adidas, for SoccerBible.
When it’s listed all neatly, her CV sounds impressive, and it is. But it’s Hannah’s creativity that’s shouting out at us for attention; it sounds driven, joyful and sincere; and when we scroll through her photographs on Instagram we can feel it right through the screen.
We called Hannah one day to talk about being a photographer and about creativity, and we started where so many stories of creativity start, which is in New York, where dreams are stacked up to the stars.
“I’ve been to New York before,” says Hannah. “I went there quite a few times on family holidays as a kid, but I always wanted to live there.
“As soon as I heard about New York Film Academy I just wanted to go there; just to be in the city learning what I loved, in New York.”
Hannah studied Media Professional Studies at Liverpool John Moores University, and spent a year at the New York Film Academy learning film and digital filmmaking. In her spare time she’d photograph and film the people and city around her; tall buildings in iridescent lights; bustling streets. When Hannah graduated she worked on television shows like Britain’s Got Talent, X-Factor and Coronation Street with the BBC and ITV. When she wasn’t working she was following moments around with a camera, trying to absorb a bit of real life into her lens.
“It was just this overall passion for creating and capturing something visual,” says Hannah. “At the time Instagram was just starting and I was constantly posting. And my photographs were getting more and more attention.
“I wasn’t being fulfilled by what I was doing in TV, and I thought I might as well do what I want to do, and I just took the leap.”
Hannah leapt into freelance in 2014, determined. She shared her work on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr, and worked to the sound of espresso beans being ground to fine dust in cafes.
“What helps me all the time is being part of creative communities online, and connecting and surrounding myself with people that have the same type of ambitions and aspirations,” she says. “You can learn a lot from them.”
Hannah’s first big client was Dutch designer label G-Star RAW, who found her work on Instagram and Twitter.
“They contacted me and a week later I was down in their showroom in London; a week after that I shot some menswear stuff for their A/W range. I actually got featured in the flagship store in London on Oxford Street,” she says.
“I think it took a big name like that to really convince people I was in this for real, that it wasn’t just a hobby. And once I got a name like that on my portfolio it started to snowball.”
Since then, Hannah has been commissioned to work backstage at fashion shows, concerts and football grounds. Her images express movement, even when the subjects — including models, architecture, streets, shoes and sand — are motionless.
“I do a lot of photoshoots but I also love capturing live events, whether it be backstage at a music event or at fashion week,” she says.
Hannah also photographs for independent companies in Liverpool, like Maray bar and restaurant on Bold Street, just around the corner from her new studio.
“I’ve found that in my studio I can be more creative just from being in the environment,” says Hannah. “It’s a really vibrant area to be in. There’s a big independent scene, and I’ve been hired to photograph their restaurants or their shops and create content for them to advertise their places in a creative way.
“You can be as creative and visual as you want to be. You can create motion for videos on things like Instagram or you can do stills and really tell a story through images or just through visual work.”
We ask Hannah, who’s lived in New York and travelled the world, how she finds working as a freelance photographer in Liverpool.
“I think if I was living in London and working in London I would get a lot more work, but once I’ve got big brands to my name it kind of helps. I can put myself out there to meet people and go to places and to gain the work. I don’t just wait for it to come to me.
“I want to do more in Liverpool because it shouldn’t just be in London, that’s the main thing.”
Lately, we’ve walked through city centres and felt creativity emanating from clean pavements; through the glass windows at McDonald’s; along Scandi-style bar tops designed from reclaimed wood; during brunch, where we ate avocado smashed on toast with a spoon, and it tasted like inspiration.
Lately, we’ve noticed creativity fluttering its clumsy wings in some of the not-so-expected places, where it has always been, for everyone to feel. And we’ve thought: isn’t that so grand?
Originally in The City Talking: Liverpool — issue 03