“This was how it was with travel: one city gives you gifts, another robs you. One gives you the heart’s affections, the other destroys your soul. Cities and countries are as alive, as feeling, as fickle and uncertain as people. Their degrees of love and devotion are as varying as with any human relation. Just as one is good, another is bad.” ― Roman Payne, Cities & Countries
How do we see the world through our cameras? How do we meet a city behind the lenses? How do we really learn to connect to a place and be a part of it while chasing adventure?
We’re sitting down with Hannah Platt, a 23 years old travel photographer based in Leeds, UK. Her photographs focus on the conjunction of human imbedded interventions within the urban landscape, italicizing the colors, shapes and patterns formed by urban architecture, telling stories of the city and people who inhabit it. Hanna’s project “You’re in America Now Honey” is the result of a six weeks human safari of capturing beauty in the overlooked and enjoying every second of it. Following her in the American journey like a genuine voyeur, I discovered that some of her images are replicating the feeling of emptiness one gets when driving through a city that is most often experienced from a car. There’s a great amount of added value to not over-researching a place and to go there and just getting to know it along the way. The same as one would try to meet a certain person. I also perceive that the places recorded in her fantastic journey tell stories but also keep secrets. And maybe this is what fascinated me to trace Hanna’s wandering steps into a journey of freedom and discovery.
Did you have an idea of what places you were going to be visiting or did you work it out as you went along?
Before we left we had a good solid idea of significant dates, we had a flight from Florida over to Los Angeles, so we worked around that when on the East Coast. Then when we arrived with Lindsey, (our Californian friend) we planned the remaining west coast part of the trip. We we’re never really too strict with ourselves regarding time, which sometimes worked in our favor, other times we could’ve planned some routes a little better. But like anything you don’t know until you try it. Yosemite national park was big on our list, surprisingly when we visited the remarkable waterfall which we passed through to see was actually out of season, and was merely a treacle of running water, although that being said it was absolutely mind blowing to see the surrounding mountains. Vegas was always on our list also, Vegas being indescribable when asked about, somewhere that everyone needs to experience once in their lifetime. Our final stop before returning to LA was San Francisco, for me we weren’t there long enough, I probably could’ve been left behind in SF. One of my favorite places we visited actually, we stayed with a very interesting lady for a couple of nights, her small house was covered in her own art, a lot of etchings which myself and Jaz being the arty pair of the group spoke with her about for quite some time. She also had a very large book collection on punk music and botany. She made for some quite interesting stories.
Surprisingly enough, all my photos from Vegas consist of my pissed up pals. The project also features a whole lot of pooches, I’m always drawn to photograph the odd four legged friend. I also find tourists really fascinating, although yes I was one during this trip, but I was in my absolute element when at the Grand Canyon, so many funky shirts and crazy people who kept me busy. For me I love that the project has a couple of fun elements to it. I see photography as a fun medium, and I think the series really portrays that. The project is just a record of my six weeks American monkey business.
I’m always drawn to shape, form, and color, which feature a lot in my work, even more so in this series. I didn’t even notice it myself, it was my good friend Karl who pointed it out, but many of the photos from the states actually all have red white and blue in, something I must have done subconsciously. Visiting the above states meant that each day was very different visually, keeping me on my toes. New York will always be one of my favorite places to photograph; nothing is ever boring in New York. Many of the stories I tell are from that part of the trip, Charlotte will kill me for sharing this but two days in she actually highly suffered from sea sickness from the Staten Island ferry, (look away now if your squeamish) and hilariously fully vomited on an angry chap in a suit, Jaz and I weren’t much help as we were high from caffeine. We never rode the SI Ferry the same again.
Your travel photography project includes quite a lot of architectural elements. The series seems to be focusing on the effects of humans on the urban landscape, rather than the people themselves. Could you please tell us more about this aspect?
As silly as it sounds, I don’t tend to focus on a specific aspect when shooting photos, maybe it is that I am drawn to peoples influence on the urban landscape like you say and probably more so for ‘You’re in America now, Honey’, for me it’s more so about their structure and presence within the frame, and the odd pop of color that influences the composition. Something that does tickle my fancy when I’m somewhere new is architecture and America does do everything a lot different to us here in England, so for me I probably was drawn to capturing those elements more.
Do you have any favorite photographs in „You’re in America Now Honey” collection?
I find it very hard not to have favorite photos with any of my projects, there’s always a couple that I’m drawn to more, especially with film, because I can never be entirely sure what I have hiding within each roll, then when I’m graced with each one again I surprise myself. One of my favorites from this project is the pink ice cream van in New York paired with the guy in the pink shirt quickly crossing the road. I remember taking that photo and thinking that I would be very lucky for it to work. It stuck in my mind the whole trip. Another favorite being the red car bumper sticker ‘Proud Hooker Mom’ photo, it just cracked me up for a couple of minutes and touching on what I said earlier, the photo subtly has red white and blue within the frame, which just screams America.
What were your first photographic experiments or experiences?
I began with photography from GCSE’s right through to A levels, yes this was my first photographic experience but looking back it was just a very simple base and introduction into what I know now. I’m always learning, as is anyone. Even through my three year Photography Degree, I made absolutely crap work which I look back and cringe about now, but without that I wouldn’t be producing work which I’m proud of. I’d say I really found my style and approach in my final year of university, maybe because we had a lot more free time to actually shoot work and really find what interested us most. I still feel very lucky to have been apart of the year and the photography course I was on at Leeds College of Art. Surrounding myself with like minded people and other creatives really enhanced my learning. I wouldn’t change a single moment.
What are the greatest challenges you encounter from being a travel photographer and adventurer at the same time?
The greatest challenge (regrettably) for me is funding my work and travels. I’m not lucky enough to have any savings or what not to fall back on, which makes it very hard to afford printing, film, and developing etc. Pretty much everything that’s quite essential when being a photographer. I do work a lot of hours to make up for this, but then I’m up against free time to actually produce the work. It’s a never ending circle really. Probably that is the reason why it’s taking me a lifetime to finish my ‘You’re in America now, Honey’ book.
The trip was a great insight to different parts of the states. Definitely not enough, I plan to return.
“. . . it’s part of the adventure!” ― Cat McMahon, Road Trip Explore! Oregon–Molalla River Corridor and Table Rock Wilderness