Portait : Hanae
I met Hanae about 5 years ago in Lille, thanks to social media we reconnected this year in Paris. Hanae Benjnouh is a moroccan photographer raised in Denmark.
The South meets the North, a warm aura with a scandinavian liberal mindset.
Like most of my friends, Hanae is a hustler. She worked long shifts at a shop in Copenhagen, acquired experience in marketing where she told me this humbling story: as a young intern she was asked to process videos, delivered so well on the task she was left with nothing to do. She asked for more, and took initiative to develop a branch of the company with arabic speaking countries on her own, no budget. She succeeded, the junior associate took on that new department as she was embarking on a new journey for her exchange in Paris and couldn’t stay on the project
YET, she learned so much about her own power, and that has unlimited value.
Sitting at a Parisian typical cafe in Paris le Marais, Hanae also tells me about how she became a professional photographer.
She has an undeniable eye for aesthetics by grasping the right context and angle She handles both I-Phone and Camera, as well as the post-production finishing details that make pictures come alive.
She is well aware of her value, as she stands her ground to get clients and then get paid accordingly. Especially when you are young, business can intimidate you (because you do want the experience), but not Hanae. A true entrepreneur is not afraid to manage its business from A to Z fearlessly, whenever a client defaults on payment she knows what to respond professionally ; the business sass of getting clientele and keeping it is maybe something she gets from her moroccan genes, or is it the scandinavian work ethic?
In any case, don’t mess with Hanae’s art.
Hanae’s narrative on her favorite shots
1. Every trip made to Morocco, I always go through Tangier. My mum grew up in the city and has so many memories and through the years, I made my own. With my mom we have this tradition of going to the old medina of Tangier, where the authentic and the memories she has of my grandfather still reigns. This picture doesn’t sum up the distance we walk or the amount of things we see, but the people we meet whom openly share their stories, and take us back in time by starting their sentence with a
‘back in the days’…
2. This picture was taken in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, at 3 AM. The person in the middle of the picture is Said; the owner of the camp we stayed at. It was our first night there, and as one of the few to speak Arabic in my group; I sat with a friend and socialized with the bedouins working in the camp. I was just starting to set my camera as it was ‘Showtime’ with the infinite number of stars in the sky. Suddenly he says:
here let me set it for you.
He had changed the aperture and had set it way to low than I would usually have done. He had given me a few tips as I didn’t have a tripod and was afraid to drop the camera in the sand. After taking a bunch of pictures we got back in the tent where he told me about the many National Geographic photographers who come to his camps to meet him as well as learn from him. Neither less to say that this was one of the best encounters during that trip.
3. They say photography is all about capturing moments. Most of my travel pictures are taken with professional gear. But when I’m out, the fastest and easiest thing to grab remains my phone. And to be honest those are the pictures I look back at the most. Whether it’s this picture of my last summer days in Berlin, or simply my Danish daily life pictures or my lately Parisian life ones. Those are all pictures whom I look back at and smile.
Because it just screams LIFE !
A conversation with Hanae
Who or what inspires you ?
Everything can be an inspiration, even the silence or the sadness. I say that because photography is like therapy.
Some of my pictures have been taken in my solo city wanders, where I would usually stop to elements catching my attention. But I’m usually inspired by people and light! I love pictures taken in the golden hour, play with the shadows and so on.
Fashion has also been a huge point of inspiration, in fashion photography there are no rules. To me, people do what they want and call it Fashion. Which is very interesting in the point of view of Art.
Moreover, travel photography is also one of my favorites. I’m a globalized kid and traveling is a must.
Steve Mc Curry was the first photographer to be able to draw me to his universe. His pictures are so colorful, the lights and composition of his pictures are always studied to the detail; and the people that are subjects in his pictures always carry a story in their look. By watching documentaries about him it is also interesting to observe how he manages to create this warmth between him and people he meets on his travels knowing that language is a barrier from the start to the end. Sadly, he is not super active on social media but that is understandable.
Afghan Girl, 1984
Mentioning social media, a photographer that really inspires me is Jamie Beck (@annstreetstudio). When I first found her profile I came across these amazing pictures taken in New York City. But last year she decided to take a break and go live in Provence, France. At the beginning I thought I’d get bored as the scenery was going to change. But the period of her living in Provence and me following her at that time was when I learned the most about the creativity process in general as a photographer. I was so amazed at how creative she was, how she found inspiration and saw beauty in every little thing but also how she allowed herself a break – never forcing herself – when she felt a lack of inspiration.
Would you agree that being a woman and being a migrant like myself is a challenge but also a strength ?
I really think that it depends on how you look at as well as who you are faced to.
Women around the globe are subject to all form of challenges, let it be the african mom who walks 20 km per day in order to bring the clearest water she finds, or the refugee mom who faces employment gap in the country she now lives in and has to work as a cleaning lady knowing she used to be a lawyer.
Luckily, I grew up with strong women surrounding me.
And as you, my own role model is my mum. She is by far the strongest woman I know. ‘Toujours la tête haute !’ (Always head up high) – As they say in French.
Moreover, I spent most of my life in Scandinavia. A region of the world where equality between men a women is almost at 50-50. So for me being a woman hasn’t been a challenge yet.
I usually experience challenges as a woman when I’m travelling due to the differences between cultures – like the time I got my passport stolen in Jordan and found myself at 3 AM at the police station surrounded by male officers having to solve this matter – but other than that I’m happy to say that it hasn’t been a huge challenge yet.
As for as being a migrant I can say that the challenge might be present identity-wise where I feel more Moroccan in Denmark and vice versa. But I guess that’s normal for a multicultural kid like me.
How did you learn about photography ?
If we go back to my childhood, the interest came on its own. It started with me showing interest in Fashion, especially gowns. I’d seriously spend hours on ‘FashionTv’ (thank me for the throwback later!) for example and just stare at dresses. Then I one day got to borrow my sisters’ camera when they came to visit in Morocco, until the day I got my own.
My brother in law studied photography himself and told me at a young age that I had the ‘eye’ – but what does that even mean to a 12-year-old kid?
In which concerns the technical part of it; I’m a self-thought photographer, meaning that all the knowledge I got came from curiosity and research. (Let’s all take a moment to thank Youtube for that !)
Do you have any tips (that you already gave me) to improve photographic skills for an amateur?
My only advice is to take your time to find what inspires you and illustrate it in your own aesthetic way. Despite the photography composition and lightning rules, there really are no rules in photography.
If you’r happy with what you got; then so be it!
What are your projects for 2018?
To be honest I don’t have any specific ones as the first six months of this year will be dedicated to finishing my Bachelors degree. I would love to say that I have traveling projects and so on but the truth is that I am going to hibernate until I’m done with Uni.
One thing I have been promising myself as a resolution is to work more on Fashion photography.
So hopefully I’ll be able to do that during study breaks !