Thoughts and Prayers by Hannah Harley

I've lived through the five worst mass shootings in the United States. I've seen each one of them unfold. I've mourned with the nation, I've heard the thoughts and prayers from politicians. I've seen their feeble and fumbled speeches in aftermath. Saying "never again", but never taking the action to make it happen. 

Before the Parkland shooting, I made these collages. I didn't know that a few hours later, children would be dying in their school because of this inaction. These images are screenshots of the mouths of presidents saying "thoughts and prayers" or "prayers" or "praying" while giving condolences following these mass shootings. 

I'm tired. We all are. We're tired of seeing lives ripped apart. Tired of crying on the subway reading texts from children to their parents while they're shaking in a closet at their school. Tired of seeing the same formula play out. Tired of watching guns be used to eliminate a generation. 

The United States leads the world in gun-related deaths. We cannot accept thoughts and prayers to keep us safe. We need to make changes. I'm not a policy maker, I don't have all the answers. I want to be a part of a solution to making it so none of our children fear for their life just by going to school. 

Experimentations by Hannah Harley

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(Excerpts from) The Situation Room, a photograph taken by White House photographer Pete Souza in the White House Situation Room at 4:06 pm on May 1, 2011 - during the Bin Laden raid.

As I enter my final eight months of the Parsons MFA program, I'm knee deep in research and experimentation. It's not the prettiest time, not a lot of beautiful things are being made. But it's wildly fun. I love research. I spend my free time just engrossed in research. It's fascinating. I spend so much time making these visual research journals and documenting the nitty gritty, the details. There are thousand things that I am so intrigued by, which means my work has to deal with all of it. 

But as per my new year blog post, I'm keeping this up to date with the experimentations. Since most of my experimentations are video installation, I'll keep it confined to these still images. These odd excerpts are from photojournalists, collaged together to help me understand the gestures within American politics. 

How does an American politician move around the world? How do they dress? Their collar, their handshake, their string of pearls? How is this tradition a note of what American is? 

I spend a significant amount of time writing about this work, determining where these objects will move to next, but it often means that I ask myself more questions than I find answers for. I've got notebooks filled with pages of questions. It's awesome.

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These experimentations have included photoshop, performance, collecting images and footage, listening to hours of speeches. It's been research, rearranging, representing, critiquing. I've been primarily looking at this most recent administration to gather the the most up to date information. It's been a pretty wild experience and I'm cherishing these moments. 

Okay, back to the research. See you in August at the exhibition!

Fake it til you make it politics - Doesn't every pretend politician need an American flag pin shaped like a heart?

Fake it til you make it politics - Doesn't every pretend politician need an American flag pin shaped like a heart?

C-Span moments before President George W. Bush arrived to give a speech concerning the Virginia Tech shooting

C-Span moments before President George W. Bush arrived to give a speech concerning the Virginia Tech shooting

Updates in the New Year by Hannah Harley

Happy New Year, Happy Monday! 

I'm going to be frank, which something I always love to do on this blog. Plus it's a new year, which always feels like you get a free pass. So let's do it. Folks, it seems that blogging isn't the most professional use of your time as an artist. What famous artist or photographer do you know that blogs? 

None? One? 

But I've always enjoyed dissecting this process with you all. Sharing what happens in the experimentations, what these steps are along the way, what research is going on behind the scenes, and most importantly - the failures. I'm sure there are plenty of articles out there that outline how important it is to only put your very best work online. To leave your failed experiments in a box under your bed and never speak of their existence. 

But I put a lot of time into those failures. I spend weeks and months carefully crafting failure after failure. The success rate is low, the output is high, and it's a constant reminder that life, much like softball, is a game of failure. 

For those who don't know, I played softball for 17 years. It was awesome. And it taught me how to fail. It didn't teach me the difference between grain and noise on a photograph or how to assess the value of a print - but it did teach me how to take risks and fail often. And sometimes that's more important than this traditional classroom education. We need all the help we can get in life. 

So I'm going to keep posting here with my progress, my failures, and all these little ideas that have no real shape or direction. Plus, this blog has been tracking my life for over 5 years now? It's tough to wind that down whenever this has been there through so many adventures. 

While attending grad school at Parsons, we get weekly critiques about our work. It's an exhilarating process, but it means I don't put much work up online now. I'm constantly perfecting the project, finding a better solution, getting feedback, but I keep it away from being finished. It's going to be critiqued next week, so should it really go on the internet before it's ready?  

To combat this unfinished feeling, I do a fair bit of experimentation in little notebooks. They're not conceptual or crazy exciting, but they're a way for me to always be accessing a new way to mix media and play with photography. I'll be sharing excerpts from those in the coming months as I move towards a thesis exhibition. 

It's a pleasure to share this progress and to have so many people involved along the way. Thank you again for making this a part of your online experience and for your support. 

Cheers to the new year! 

Pingyao International Photography Festival 2017 by Hannah Harley

I've spent the last half of September in China, exploring the country and culture while exhibiting at the Pingyao International Photography Festival. The week long festival takes over the small ancient city of Pingyao, filling old factories and storage facilities with photographs and art works. Academic talks, lectures, and workshops are scattered throughout the week.

I went with some of my peers from Parsons to exhibit our show, titled Unfixed, which was curated by James Ramer. Primarily interested in dissecting the contemporary malleability of the photographic image, this exhibition exposed new realities through experimentation in material and concept. 

In the days of analogue/chemical photography exposed photographic paper was first placed developer to bring the image into view. Then placed into a fixer, a stance used for setting the photographic image thus making it permanent. Thus silver halides fixed in place for all time. In the computational age the photographic image has shown itself to be increasing unstable in both its form and meaning. It is in essence UNFIXED. Images are more malleable than ever. They flow freely across the network with the potential to manifest on a variety of platforms in multiple forms Meaning shifts and bends according to context. The emerging artists in this exhibition seek to navigate these new realities. Their work thoughtfully questions current photographic conventions and cultural assertions. The work is critical and reflective exploring a range of contemporary issues from the acutely personal to the cultural and political.

Curator's Statement
James Ramer, 2017

Excerpts from the exhibition, along with information and the Chinese translation, can be found online, thanks to Pingyao's local government. See more here.

Our floor talk was a well attended English/Chinese discussion on Thursday, and sharing the work with larger audiences, really seeing their interaction with the work, is an extremely interesting experience as an artist. So often we create our work in our white boxes, never getting to see it interact with the public until it's 'finalized'. 

Photo by Maryanne Braine

Photo by Maryanne Braine

The experience was surreal, especially given the frenzy my blonde hair created. It caused quite a stir in this little city, even during the international festival The culture shock of being filmed, photographed, and even touched wherever I went was intense. I became an object, a celebrity, based solely on the color of my hair. It was chaotic, and it's clear that this part of the experience changed my own understanding of my recent work. (Ethnocentrism is powerful, friends.) And looking forward, the importance of the visual image, particularly of a person's physical representation, is even more undeniable. 

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The festival itself was filled with many different types of photography with a focus on photojournalism. Our exhibition stood out as one of the few fine art / photography shows in the festival. In many of the lectures and talks that I attended, the speakers discussed China's relatively new relationship with photography, one that spans less time in popular and artistic culture than western countries.

Exhibiting here encouraged me to consider more deeply the multitude of cultural experiences that bring visual culture to where it is now, and understand visual culture in a more fluid and dynamic way rather than the linear timeline that I had been constructed. Obviously that's been a large part of my research, but seeing it and experiencing the power of physicality and visuals was quite different from reading statistics and polls on it. I'm still planning to primarily focus on United States politics and visual language moving forward, but this trip and exhibition has invited a new approach that will influence the next step in my political work. 

Speaking at the floor talk, photo by Maryanne Braine

Speaking at the floor talk, photo by Maryanne Braine

As always, thanks for your support! 

Photoville 2017 by Hannah Harley

With over 90,000 visitors, Photoville is the largest annual photographic event in New York, NY. Situated in Brooklyn Bridge Park, it's also free and open to the public each year. The exhibitions are held in individual shipping containers, and various artists and organizations hold floor talks, workshops, and discussions. 

Photo by  Rich Wade   Apparatus of Discomfort shown second in from the right, with  Statecraft  (2017) peaking out.

Photo by Rich Wade 
Apparatus of Discomfort shown second in from the right, with Statecraft (2017) peaking out.

In one of these containers, I participated in a group show titled Apparatus of Discomfort, which was curated by Jeanine Oleson. Featuring 20 artists, the exhibition incorporated and deconstructed a wide range of contemporary issues and practices. 

Apparatus of Discomfort is an exploration of the photographic potential to reimagine relationships between bodies and feeling through abstraction, infrastructure, and identity. The artists in this exhibition form complex and varied approaches as they consider themes in contemporary photographic strategies and tactics.

Curator's Statement
Jeanine Oleson, 2017
Photo by  Rich Wade

Photo by Rich Wade

I also showed my newest video work, pictured here at the back of installation. A 5 minute video, meant to pair with the photographs of Statecraft, played throughout the two weeks, adding a portrait in motion type of experience for the viewer. 

Photo by  Rich Wade

Photo by Rich Wade

Photo by  Rich Wade

Photo by Rich Wade

It was a pleasure to exhibit in such a beautiful spot under the Brooklyn Bridge and alongside such talented artists and organizations. 

As always, thanks for stopping by! 

Second Summer by Hannah Harley

I've been signing up for summer classes since 2010, so when I found out that the Parsons MFA Photo revs up to an intensive session during the summer, I was thrilled. It's a pedal to the metal, stress filled few months, but damn is it prolific. 

With critiques twice a week, we're constantly being push to produce more work and to experiment outside of our comfort zones. We're researching like crazy, printing every other day, and pushing ourselves to the brink of seven coffees a day. But when you look back at the end, what an insanely rewarding time. 

I don't need to tell you that grad school is hard, but can I tell you how much fun it is??? Cause it's a blast. Floating in and out of my friends' studios, collaborating with them, talking art for 12 hours a day. We're loading up on theory and going to artist talks, we're filling up our studio spaces with endless work prints, trying to figure out how we want to say whatever it is we want to say. It's a stark contrast to last summer for me.. (See the blog post about my "dramatic failure" from last summer here.) 

The real difference is friendship and community. Having friends to work with and to bounce ideas off of and to complain about coffee prices with... It's invaluable. Working with such talented and lovely people has expanded my passion for photography beyond what I thought I was capable of. 

Today, I want to introduce my newest series - Statecraft. It's an exploration of the visual language of politics, the policing of women's appearance, and the correlation between visual presentation and politics. It's also a case study of potential public personas I could embody should I choose a life in politics

See more images from this body of work  here . 

See more images from this body of work here

The jpegs on your screen isn't the final rendition of this work. I'm creating a mixed media interactive installation of Statecraft for Open Studios, which will be taking place July 21st from 6 - 8 at 25 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003. It's a been fun to incorporate the audience more with the work and to plan for their various interactions. And I'm giving away little gifts to the viewers! So stop on by if you're in the area! 

(I also want to recognize the privilege I have in making this work. I fit society's ideal mold of female politician: white, thin, cis, hetero. I think that this is part of the problem about the policing of visuals and am continuously doing more research about it; however, I'm not yet sure how to bring it into my work.)

I also want to introduce the 66 Collective, which is a collaborative creative collective based in New York. It's comprised of some truly talented and respected emerging artists, who boast impressive accolades (like one duo whose most recent book sits in MoMA PS1's book store, next to Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida..). And bonus! They're good people too! 

There's also some artist writings and musings that will find their way onto the blog at the 66 Collective, which will be fun to collaborate with once we're spread out throughout the world. 

And an announcement! I will be showing my most recent work, Statecraft, at the Pingyao International Photography Festival this September. I'm excited to accompany the work as well, as it'll be my first time exhibiting outside of the United States.

As always, I want to thank everyone who has followed this journey along the way. It's had its ups and downs, but I've felt your support through it all. 



Introducing: What Democracy Looks Like by Hannah Harley

With the advent of the summer semester, thus begins the unveiling of four months of networking, traveling, and on the rare occasion, photographing. The project began as a seedling with the fall semester's work, titled The Homefront. The exposure to the massive political machine through Hillary Clinton's campaign office intrigued me. 

It's a complex world, filled with people desperate to make a change, to really help individuals. Sure, everyone is debating on what's the best way to do that, but I think most folks get involved due to a genuine interest in helping people. 

And that's what I found. In January, I began seeking out elected officials that I knew - either personally, through a friend of a friend, or even just through newspaper articles. The end result led me to a bunch of individuals who were generous enough to let me document their environments, into their campaign spaces and offices. 

It was important to me that these were the offices of elected officials, the places where democracy happens. The title, THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE is a popular chant among marchers and activists throughout the United States. 

The meetings included brief outlines of the official's current work, information about their town/village/county/state. Each was passionate, deeply, deeply passionate. And their passions were complex and intricate -- far from the elusive 'single issue' politician. 

As with every body of work, not every photograph made it into the final edit (like the above image, which is a pen holder, featuring this elected official's election dated), but proved to be valuable in informing me. 

One of the benefits of attending a school like Parsons is that I receive weekly critiques on my work. One thing my professors struggled with was grappling with my silent point of view. They asked week after week, "Where are you in this work??"

I thought I was being an unbiased documentarian, but upon some soul searching, I realized that I was researching. I was gathering information for how politicians exist within their spaces, how they curate their world, how they work to make their communities better. I wanted to embed myself into this world - however briefly - to satisfy a taste for the political that the Homefront first gave me. 

Eventually I realized that my interest in this project springs from a silent goals. 

I want to be a politician. 

Or do I? That's the thing about being 23 years old - you feel like the world is at your feet, that everything (and often times, nothing) is at your feet. I want to try on politics, shadow it, study it, immerse myself in it to try to grasp this enormous mechanism that makes decisions that affect you everyday. 

Should I be taken seriously? Perhaps not. This is coming from someone who also wants to operate an ostrich farm (what majestic creatures!) and live in a tiny Parisian attic apartment (perhaps with a bird feeder for the pigeons?).

But it's something to explore. With such uplifting conversations with the individuals behind these photographs, I have to say that I have a renewed hope in the political system and in my (future) place within it.  

I would like to thank some seriously incredible elected officials. These generous people were so gracious and encouraging throughout this entire process. As a way to respect their privacy, I will keep their identities hidden unless they request differently. A sincere thank you. 

Catch the full series at WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.

Reignition in Paris by Hannah Harley

It was my first trip to Paris that ignited my interest in photography. My semester there taught me about art. So when I found out that it was cheaper to fly to Paris than to Nashville, I jumped on it.

Two of my friends followed and all of a sudden, we were strolling through the small cobblestone streets again, seeking good food and wine. (Which, in Paris, both are abundant.)

I was surprised; however, by the museums. When I spent the fall and winter there in 2014, the museums weren't crowded. It was easy to navigate through the streets then. But the warmth of May, which reached up to 97 degrees fahrenheit, brought out an unending stream of tourists. So I naturally spent most of my time trying to run away from them. I'm not a nervous person typically, but large crowds and large shopping facilities tend to stressful me out more than I'd like to admit. (So naturally, I live in New York now..) So we dodge tourists where we could and spent time in cafes, sipping espresso and sitting on terraces. The French have a very different set of standards when it comes to quality of life. They don't put up with bad food or bad art or bad wine or bad company. It makes for some pretty incredible experiences for a couple of tourists who are used to sad, speedy New York salads.. 

It was just so pleasant to be back in a city where I transformed so much and learned about art for the first time. I've missed the quiet lull of it. (Also, Paris is MUCH quieter than New York, which we assume is because of the lack of noise pollution from hybrid and electric vehicles in Paris.) It's a city that relies on a slower pace, which is a breath of fresh air (haha literally) compared to the endless barrage of New York. New York can be very invigorating for some, exhausting for others. 

If you're ever thinking of traveling to Paris, I think you should. My grandma lists it as one of the ten worst places in the world, but it was a haven to me. I would recommend the winter though.. It's never too cold, but the bustle of tourists calm down and the espresso is that much more satisfying when you cuddle into a cafe for an afternoon sip. 

If I'm honest, I wish I was there again. At my favorite little window-side booth on the river, watching the city lights twinkle on the water. It is soul-soothing. 

And now, after that beautiful Parisian breath of fresh air and sweet friendship, it's time to dive head first into the summer intensive for the Parsons MFA Photo program. Life still seems like it's a surreal dream out of someone else's life. 

Seeking Quiet Moments by Hannah Harley

After running around New York for the fall semester, I busied myself with traveling out of the city in the spring. Between visits to friends, shoots out of town, and my sister's upcoming wedding, I was finding excuses to take a break from the constant roar of New York. It is, after all, a far cry from the small town I grew up in or the comparatively tiny city I spent my undergrad in. 

But recently, the return voyages have brought me excitedly back. I'm no longer dragging my feet from the bus station or airport. I'm eager to return, to walk in my creaky front door, and dump my weekend bag in my bedroom and just collapse onto my comfy, old, and beg bug free bed. I'm happy to be home.

Which means that the inevitable happened. I fell in love with New York. Everyone told me that it takes a year to fall in love with New York, and unsurprisingly, they were right. I thought that that was a pretty undesirable quality for a city.. It shouldn't take as long, it shouldn't be as hard, I shouldn't have to cry on public transportation so much. Right? I'd just hate it forever. 


I won't sugar coat the first six months. They were painful and hard and I really resented New York. I wanted more nature and less urine, more pristine walkways, less day old garbage rotting in the street. But you get used to dodging dog poop and weird weekend train schedules, and then.. One day, it just hit me that I was happy here. I was excited by the energy that once exhausted me. 

But I still needed to escape the city to feel a longing for it. 

It's not really a part of the artistic process, which is what I try to document in this blog. But quiet moments with loved ones is an important part of life for me and a major source of inspiration. And what is the artistic process if it ignores the parts of living we most enjoy? 

It's also been an opportunity for me to use my camera more in the everyday. It's been a New Year's resolution of mine - to photograph these memories and moments in a more deliberate way. It's been a good one. 

From Chickens to Brooklyn by Hannah Harley

I've always been fascinated with the idea of a conversation with a younger me.. Take a year ago, for example. I had applied to two MFA graduate schools in the country (reach schools, and I knew it) and was planning on traveling the world and working odd jobs with WorkAway when I graduated from Point Park University in the spring. But life worked out in its way. And I got in to both of them. But I still couldn't fathom that this would be the daily life I get to live. Being an MFA candidate at Parsons and living in Brooklyn.. Working on projects I'm passionate about and with friends who inspire me. It still knocks the breath out of me sometimes when I'm walking home from the subway. And to think that just two years ago, I had never been to New York City.

Perhaps it's so striking to me because I grew up in a small town, surrounded by horses and chickens. (Literally, surrounded by chickens. I hatched and raised them to 'adulthood' in my bedroom.) I spent the summers building dams with my dad in the creek and playing softball in fields with overgrown grass. I mucked out horse stalls and cleaned chicken coops. And it was a surprising amount of fun. 

So to be 23 now, having lived in Paris and New York seems like a page out of someone else's story. Like someone who was way cool in middle school and who had a cable television. Someone who didn't know fifty varieties of chicken breeds or where the best wild black raspberries were. Someone who probably didn't share a bedroom with 24 chicks. But hey, life works out in its own weird way. 

I do often wish that I could talk to that little weirdo, who made many chicken friends but very few human ones.  I wish I could explain how much better it gets. Kids can be vicious, and I didn't always handle it well. I wish I could explain that I didn't have to be defensive and mean and harbor that anger. Maybe tell myself that reading the books in class would be useful and that boys were not worth much energy. And maybe remind myself that that lisp with the retainer will never really go away, no matter how much practice I put into it. 

I've written this from my Brooklyn apartment, listening to some city noises instead of the cheeps I grew up with. I'm lucky I got a little bit of the rural world before living here. I'm happy not knowing which comes next, but in the event that a throughough knowledge of egg incubation is neccessary, at least I know I'll be okay. 

A picture of a picture, so there's a bit more dirt on it than usual.   The chick on the far right is Fritz, a spunky and loving rooster who had a tough battle coming out of the shell. We helped him get out and he spent his days caring after his beloved hens. Miss that big Buff Orpington. 

A picture of a picture, so there's a bit more dirt on it than usual. 

The chick on the far right is Fritz, a spunky and loving rooster who had a tough battle coming out of the shell. We helped him get out and he spent his days caring after his beloved hens. Miss that big Buff Orpington. 

Discovering Old Gems by Hannah Harley

Part of every artist's practice is archiving - it has to be. Keeping a record of what you've done is dang important. And it also means that sometimes you run into work that has grown into something. A fermentation process for art. 

And that's exactly what happened to me this past week. I was sorting through some files, working older work into a new system, and I came across these images, these self portraits from turbulent times.  

Looking back at these now, it's easy to see the lingering evidence of the internal conversations I was having. There's some sort of satisfaction knowing that these portraits captured that, the good and the bad. If even just for me. 

These photographs were taken between August 2015 and September 2016. 

I wrote about the emotional recoil from failing miserably in this blog post. It's worth a read to better understand where some of these images are coming from. 

The Pink Hat Army by Hannah Harley

After what was a fairly big bummer for a couple of liberals (inauguration day), we went to the Women's March on Washington. We left at approximately the same time as we had the day before, but from our first stop, we could tell that the day was going to be drastically different. 

The line at the bagelshop by the metro was extensive - it wrapped around the shop to the outside. The line at the Starbucks next to it was similarly lengthy. All different kinds of people were ordering breakfast, most of them armed with signs and pink hats. Rachel and I were already excited - it was going to be an interesting day. 

The delay at the bagleshop held us up, but we got to the train at roughly the same time as the day before. We squeezed on, surprised to find that no seats were available and we had to work to stand together. It was packed. Every age was represented and the car was a buzz with energy. Little girls in princess crowns and elderly women with their nasty woman shirts. Everyone was enthusiastic - it was palpable. Rachel and I eagerly snapchatted the experience for our friends back home, most of who were gearing up for the marches in their cities. 

The place was so packed that we had to wait to get out of the metro and then all crammed on the same, small escalator. Pink hats and fluffy coats - we were making our way to the march. Outside of Union Station, we saw thousands of people eagerly making their way. Some stands were selling t shirts and totes, posters and buttons. There were even make your own sign stands that gave you all the supplies for a sign in exchange for a donation to Planned Parenthood. 

This man came prepared with his wife and their friends. He was so proud of his sign, and it definetely kicked off the day in a fun way for us. 

This man came prepared with his wife and their friends. He was so proud of his sign, and it definetely kicked off the day in a fun way for us. 

Rachel and I pushed our way through the crowd, towards the center of the mall. As far as we could see, we were surrounded by thousands of people. We could see a big screen, where the performers and presenters were, but we couldn't hear them. We participated in some cheers as the crowd grew restless, and eventually helped lead the push to start the march. 

We followed a drum band, which was incredibly fun. Especially when a drum circle erupted in the middle of the march. People started dancing, singing whatever they felt, making music with water bottles and signs. It was a blast. 

As we marched, different cheers erupted through the crowds. My favorite was one that was started by the allies - "Her body, her choice!", and then higher voices would cadence back together, "My body, my choice!" For me, that one was particularly powerful, to hear the support from people who probably wouldn't be personally affected by harsher legislation on women's reproductive rights. To hear their voices cadence.. It was powerful. 

There were other cheers too. The march attempted to be as intersectional as possible, and the cheers tended to reflect that goal. "Black Lives Matter", "Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!", all swept through the crowds. 

One of my friends, a talented photojournalist named Julie Griffith, covered the inauguration the day before, and said that the women's march was like a "big, pink band aid" on the day before's wounds. And it was. It was a beautiful day for healing and rallying together. 

While my friends from art school have seen their social media feeds fill up with articles shared about the lack of intersectionality and the concerns with the organizers of this march, which you can get a taste of with this New Yorker article by Jia Tolentino, I've been seeing articles and Facebook posts about how this march was unnecessary, how it was demeaning to men, how it was personally offensive to women everywhere. I want to have these lofty conversations, these academic discussions about how we can continue to push feminism towards a more intersectional, more inclusive place. But how can I, when so many of my peers believe that feminism is offensive?? 

So to these women, I hope you'll understand how serious and true it is when I tell you that you are not equal to white men. It is plain and simple. You are not their equal. You never have been.  

I could spout off information about the wage gap, professional opportunities, sexism in institutions, and even show you some quotes from your president in reference to women. They wouldn't surprise you, I'm sure. You've heard it all. You've seen it all. And you've experienced it. You've experienced the lower pay, you've missed out on opportunities. You've experienced sexism in school or sports. You've heard Trump's words. Maybe you think that that's not about your gender. But these are not isolated events. You and millions of women, here and abroad, are fighting to be taken seriously as equals. You should join us. 

This march was not useless. Just as the marches and protests that earned the right for women to vote, the right to work, the right to own property, the right to open a bank account without their husband or father or brother's consent were not useless.. This march aimed to unify people together, to tell President Trump that we will continue to fight for our rights, to show that we will not go silently in the night. It was a peaceful, powerful protest. 

I encourage you to look at the Mission and Vision of the Women's March and see what they aimed for. It will help orient this march in loftier visions and grand goals. It's not something that happens in a day, but hopefully, we can get closer in our lifetimes.

One day at a time - together. 

One of Shepard Fairey's signs -  which was written about extensively prior to the march . 

Portajohns, A Church, and An Uneasy Feeling by Hannah Harley

On January 19th, I traveled to D.C. in preparation for the inauguration of our 45th president. Over the past five months, I've photographed the fringes of the campaign through desolate office scenes, homemade signs, and supportive lawn decorations. I've also kept a detailed research notebook, tracking the oddities of the campaign (like an article comparing Chelsea Clinton's wedding to Ivanka Trump's). And it seemed that it was fitting to follow it the whole way through - all the way to Washington. 

I was joined in D.C. by my friend, Rachel Rioles. If you followed the blog back in 2014, there was a lot of her on here, traipsing around European art museums with me. She was there for my first brush with Dali (in which I promptly cried tears of joy... what an incredible painter), and I was there for her first sight of the Mona Lisa. We weren't planning on seeing any art over the weekend, but we knew it'd be an emotional journey. 

I'm not shy in my dislike of Donald Trump. Through the campaign series, I tried to keep an even representation of both parties. But my disdain for Trump and his policies has only grown into such a powerful, emotional response that I can't pretend to have any artistic unbiased creativity left. It's all been a pretty biased ride as of late. 

A child swings with his friend while a helicopter patrols overhead - January 20th, 2017

A child swings with his friend while a helicopter patrols overhead - January 20th, 2017

January 20th felt fairly apocalyptic. The trains were empty, and even the grand Union Station felt pretty abandoned when we walked through at 10:00 am. There were hundreds of portajohns, arguably the cleanest ones I've ever seen, barely used. (But then again, my standards for portajohns are pretty low after a decade of travel softball. A couple hundred girls can really decimate two portajohns over a couple days.) Rachel and I walked around the area, following the parade route and the protests, hoping to find people and things on the fringes that would provide some creative spark to spur on the next four months of my graduate career.

Occasionally, we ran into a gaggle of white people - six or eight white folks in a semi circle at a street corner, almost all of them dressed in nice coats and khakis with the iconic red hats. Generally, we would overhear some grumbles from them about the protestors, calling them sissys and snowflakes. But other than that, we found ourselves surrounded by the protestors and hurried D.C. natives, who just seemed eager to get to wherever they were going. 

Another deserted scene, right off the inauguration route - three supporters buy Trump merchandise from a street vendor. One of the supporters laughed about the origin of the garments with me and Rachel, thinking we were Pro-Trump, saying, "Everything's from Mexico - can you believe it??"

Another deserted scene, right off the inauguration route - three supporters buy Trump merchandise from a street vendor. One of the supporters laughed about the origin of the garments with me and Rachel, thinking we were Pro-Trump, saying, "Everything's from Mexico - can you believe it??"

The highlight of our day was a little safe haven called St. Mark's. The protestors' route marched past this beautiful cathedral, which is how Rachel and I stumbled across it. People with warm and worn faces greeted you in the two blocks surrounding it, encouraging you to visit their church if you needed a warm up, a clean bathroom, and some coffee. They provided all of it for free and offered a politics-free place to be on a day that was quite overwhelmingly political. 

Rachel and I donated to their cause and enjoyed their hospitality. The coffee was delicious and the snacks were much needed. And it was, with only one exception, free from the politics of the day. 

While there, I felt truly proud to be an American. That feeling has become a more sorrowful feeling, to know that Trump's rhetoric has inspired the normalization of hateful actions and words across the United States. I have not had pride in this new America, in the America that's working to become 'great' all while vilifying and demonizing immigrants, the disabled, women, Muslims. But in this basement of a church, there were people sporting the red Make America Great Again hats and protestors sitting at the same tables, drinking coffee and eating snacks. Even in a loose sense of togetherness, this was a beautiful expression of it.

The outside of  St. Mark 's is decorated with welcoming signage

The outside of St. Mark's is decorated with welcoming signage

Sure, these people weren't debating healthcare or abortion, but they were showing that two extreme views can still be in the same room and not be shouting obscenities. Sometimes, it's the little victories that make you realize that bigger things are possible.  

One of the most fascinating things I found on the fringes.. The portajohns. Most of them were supplied by a company called Don's Johns. Prior to the start of the day, Trump's inauguration team ordered that they be covered up. As Fox News stated, "It's the great port-a-potty cover up for President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration." (See the article here.) Apparently, the title of the company was too close to the president's, so great care was taken that every single portable toilet's brand was covered up before the start of the festivities. How much government money did we spend on securing Trump's feelings? Paying people to cut out adhesive to cover each of the four stickers on every single portajohn? And for the adhesive itself? It couldn't have been exactly cheap, but that's how concerned Trump's inauguration team was with the correlation of Don's Johns to Donald Trump.. By the end of the day, the protestors had removed quite a few of the coverings, making for an evening more interesting story. Sure, it's not the big story on the day of Donald Trump's ignaguration, but boy, has it held my attention. 

The johns outside of Union Station at the end of the day - Jan 20th, 2017

The johns outside of Union Station at the end of the day - Jan 20th, 2017

All that being said - Trump is an abhorrent human being. He is vicious in his hatred and throws tantrums like a small child. His supporters and the people who voted for him have helped to give him some of the greatest power in the world - a power that I do not think he is worthy of. While we should be open to discussing politics with our friends and neighbors - especially those with different views than us! - I struggle to understand how this hateful rhetoric could be normalized, particularly in a country that prides itself on its inclusion and diversity.  

The Letters Project by Hannah Harley

At the start of 2016, I set out with a challenge: to write as many love letters as I could. Millennials are often told that we don't have meaningful relationships and connections, that we only show love through likes, retweets, and shares. But I've found that friendships are significant, especially among my peers. I've been fortunate enough to meet truly spectacular people and to know them well enough to love them. So I thought I'd do some old fashioned writing and send them handwritten letters - thanking them, praising them, cherishing them in a tangible way. 

I wrote the letters throughout the year to friends, family, co-workers, classmates, acquaintances, roommates. 100 letters to 100 different people. People who had all impacted me and shown me love - if only for a moment. The relationships all changed in their own ways, but my plan to send them at the end of the year remained. I wrote 100 letters in a year, but beautifully, thankfully, it wasn't nearly enough to thank and cherish all the people I wanted to. 

On December 31st, 2016, I sent out the first batch. I scanned each one, so I could have a way to remember the love that I had access to all year. I'm still scanning a second set, but that'll be on its way within the week. 

Unfortunately but also happily, between my moves from Pittsburgh to Indiana to Manhattan to Brooklyn, I lost a notebook filled with letters. On the one hand, I'm horrified that that's all lost. But I'm also elated. There's potential in those that I could never capture in the physical item. To those who don't receive a letter from me in the mail in the coming weeks, you were probably in that lost notebook (or you never gave me your address, classic). You were, and are, loved thoroughly. You're loved by a very unorganized creative. 

This year, I aim to write a letter every day. These letters, though, are not intended to ever reach who or what I write them too. Inspired in part by Collateral Beauty, I will be writing to people and things and ideas and feelings. At the end of the year, I'll send them to anyone who wants one. (Shoot me an email at with your address!) I'll write letters to the little girl in the pink hoodie on the train, one to rainy days, perhaps one to Steven or Marlinda, maybe another one to the steam on windows in coffeeshops when it's cold. I'll write letters to love and to heartbreak, to fear, to jam and jelly, to the moments when you're perfectly buzzed and with your best friend. 

I want to spend more time focusing on living more presently, more abstractly, more passionately. And a letter a day is a way towards that goal. 

So if you're interested in this next phase, please send me an email with your address, and I'll send you a letter by the end of 2017. Thanks for being a part of the journey. 

The first batch. 12/31/2016  This project has been generously funded by Tom and Patrice Harley, who lovingly bought me 200 stamps so I could spread some love via letters. Thanks, you two! (And sorry I lost your letter, Dad. But I'll be sending you a new one!) 

The first batch. 12/31/2016

This project has been generously funded by Tom and Patrice Harley, who lovingly bought me 200 stamps so I could spread some love via letters. Thanks, you two! (And sorry I lost your letter, Dad. But I'll be sending you a new one!) 

Farewell, 2016 : an end of the year update by Hannah Harley

I haven’t shared much since the election, which might surprising considering how rooted my most recent project was in the political world. It’s been an interesting couple months for us all, but now we’re faced with a new year and the possibility of making it a better one than the last.

I’ve found that through editing, the Home Front has taken on a very different meaning than I originally intended. I started off wanted to show campaign offices from both prominent parties, but I was denied access to the Trump campaign offices. To show Trump’s side, I photographed homemade signs of support, which dotted the western Pennsylvania countryside in the months leading to the election. It was striking to me because I had never seen so many makeshift and homemade signs of political support. While nearly everyone in New York was convinced of Hillary’s impressive poll numbers, it was clear that Trump’s message was being embraced in the rural community. And all it took was a drive out of the city to see that.

Editing through images to make a cohesive body of work is an on going process. This one didn't fit into what I hoped to say with the work when I first saw it, but after the election, the work shifted. And now, this is one of my favorites.

Editing through images to make a cohesive body of work is an on going process. This one didn't fit into what I hoped to say with the work when I first saw it, but after the election, the work shifted. And now, this is one of my favorites.

Once Hillary lost the election, the images I had taken of her campaign offices acted as foreboding scenes, depicting a clearly struggling campaign. The way I had photographed these spaces showed an apocalyptic offices, void of people and hope. I couldn’t see it at the time, but it became undoubtedly obvious when she lost.

I showed my work at Parsons’ open studios and was encouraged by the public’s reaction to it. It was uplifting to present work that I was proud of and that started an interesting dialogue. I also presented my research notebook, which was an intense scrapbook of a methodical process of following the campaign and the odd stories that came out of it. I spent hours combing through weird articles that address issues like the interior decorations of the candidates’ homes or the fashionability of their daughters’ wedding dresses.

December marked the start of three long weeks of final critiques and presentations at Parsons. It was exciting, stressful, and exhausting, of course, but I love how critiques often reignites my fire for this artform.

I spent the holidays with my family in rural Pennsylvania, which was the best present I could’ve ever hoped for. A quiet and cozy ten days gave me a long break before addressing the ever present, ‘What comes next?’. Since I was photographing spaces that no longer serve that purpose and the election is over.. What happens now? Always a tricky step for creatives.. But an exciting one. Paraphrasing from my one professor, “A project has its peak potential before you begin it, which often makes people nervous to even take the first step.”

Here’s to new projects and new creations in the new year. And of course, to being a little kinder to everyone as we move forward together.

Introducing the Home Front by Hannah Harley

Over the past year, we've been inundated and overrun with media concerning this presidential election. From gifs to news stories to Facebook rants, it's been an exhausting and even painful experience. The frustration and confusion has been immense on all sides.

I took my own intense feelings and did the most comforting thing I could think of - I began to research. I spent hours watching YouTube videos, reading tweets, searching hashtags, interviewing volunteers, visiting campaign offices, documenting homes, collecting materials. Everything from Christmas cards from the cute couple, their daughters' wedding budgets, and poorly photoshopped devil horns. 

And now, it's far from over. In typical artistic obsession, I've become insanely fascinated with the political machine, and no amount of research seems to quench my thirst for it. I can't imagine bidding farewell to this project come November 8th. So I won't. 

Excitedly, I present the Home FrontIt's an ongoing project, perhaps a never ending one. It has been a wild ride, exploring these structures of democracy and observing it in action. 

I'll be presenting an edit in the month following the election - with scans of my research notes, which has turned into an intense scrapbook from a very confusing few months. So here's to the election, and for remembering that through it all, we are all Americans. Let's work together, friends. We got this, no matter what. 


A Critical Analysis of 'Contemporary Domesticity' by Hannah Harley

Thank goodness for open dialogue and for peer critiques.

Last week, a friend came to me with concerns over my recent artistic project, Contemporary Domesticity. Several friends were enthusiastically supporting my new work and complimenting it, and for them I am grateful. But it was this genuine, constructive critique that spun me around and made me realize the grave and significant issues with this particular body of work. And I suspect that several individuals were interested in voicing these concerns as well.  

Where are the minorities? 

Where are the LGBTQA relationships? 

Does 'millennial' automatically mean white, straight, middle class?

Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 9.49.57 PM.png

I now have to face the simple and hard fact that I overlooked whole facets and demographics of millennials. I glazed over invaluable members of this generation, ones who have supported me and loved me, even through this gross and negligent artistic oversight. I foolishly highlighted my own privilege, my own naivety, and my own ignorance. 

As an artist, I hope to raise up important dialogues and to place the spotlight on important issues and concerns. I have researched and studied millennials, excitedly pouring myself into the topic. I have had amazing dialogue with friends, family members, professors, etc on these topics. I have tried to be as biased-free as possible. But in this project, I failed. Instead of showcasing a more accurate demographic of the American millennial generation, I showed my own Facebook feed's demographic - white, straight, middle class. And I know that I need to be better. It is not my place to wipe out important narratives and to pretend that this work speaks for millennials when it features such a small demographic and such a small percentage of the American experience.

So I will be taking down Contemporary Domesticity within the week. I leave it up for now so that you can view it for yourself, and that you can recognize the deep issues that are embedded in the work.

I sincerely and whole heartedly apologize to members of the communities that I have erased from this narrative. Your stories and experiences are not only important - they are vital. 


Contemporary Domesticity by Hannah Harley

One warm night last April, eleven creatives crammed into a house in Pittsburgh's South Side slopes to begin working on an all night project. Contemporary Domesticityas I had affectionately called it, was an idea that had been stewing in my brain for four months. 

Done in the style of Gregory Crewdson with elaborate lighting, art decoration, and posing, the images are elaborate, hyper realistic moments of daily life. They hint at quite moments of disconnect and overwhelming loneliness, each little detail subtlety playing into the next.  

And as much as it was a creative endeavor, this project also was a testament to the friends I met in my first couple years in the art world. They sacrificed a night on the eve of finals and helped me realize this artistic vision, no questions asked. Their attention to detail, their expertise, their encouragement proved to me more than ever that collaboration, when mixed with creation, is a powerful force. 

See the full series here

Thanks for being part of this collaboration and for finishing my senior year on the best note. 

Bischer Barmada, lighting expert, gaffer, DoP, BAMF
Matt VanWormer, grip and model
Jim Barris, grip and model
Ayla Miller, art director and model
Julianne Griffith, model
Dominique Hildebrand, model
Ren Rathbone, model
Eric Swader, model
Colt Guthrie, assistant everything and model
Frank Traggianese, for making sure we didn't lit the house on fire

And special thanks to the Point Park University cinema department and April Friges for helping me navigate some pretty tough red tape.  

Jobs, Juices, and the Frustrations of Red Tape by Hannah Harley

I'm currently sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, snuggled in with a cozy blanket and a warm coffee. It's one of the few mornings I've had off in the past couple weeks, and I'm basking in the deliciously slow start to the day (and the fact that I'm still in my pajamas past 8:00 a.m.)

I've started working at the Richard Avedon Foundation as an archives intern for two days a week. My work mainly entails rehousing negatives (of which he left thousands) into more archival materials and more organized systems. But I do make the morning coffee, which is more for me than any one else if we're being totally honest.

Me at the Richard Avedon Foundation, Day 4 

Me at the Richard Avedon Foundation, Day 4 

Avedon photographed extensively for five decades, and the record he left is unimaginably large, legitimately thousands and thousands of negatives. The man had almost 200 sittings per year.. It's prolific to the point of obsessive, and I find that the Avedon I thought I knew through my undergraduate history classes is a very different one than his archives hint at. And even though I've run errands and put together printers and done the menial tasks, it's all worth it to be interacting with these artifacts of his artistic process (and it doesn't hurt that the delicate negatives are of extremely famous actors, artists, writers, politicians.) 

I've also started at Galleria Ca' d'Oro in Chelsea. It's a small gallery, but the artists they represent have been making big moves over the last couple decades. They're based out of Rome and largely represent Italian artists. Right now, I'm creating promotional materials for the artists and compiling lists of places for them to send their artwork to. Since they're largely public art based artists, it can be a little more complicated to find a home for their work than it is to find one for a photograph. But recently, these artists showed in Central Park and the Centre Georges Pompidou, so they're doing more than alright.  

I've also begun working at a little healthy food place called Foxy Greens. They specialize in healthy smoothies, juices, salads, and sandwiches. So come on by, Brooklyn, I'm ready to serve you some incredible truffled avocado toast (or maybe a Donny Almond smoothie? How about a healthy breakfast bowl? Or overnight oats?). I also work Smorgasborg, which if you've never been to it, you should probably put it on your list. It can get a little carnival-esque and touristy, but it offers a wide range of New York's finest foods - from Ramen Burgers to the mangoes on a stick. You'll be happy once you leave, especially with the beautiful Manhattan skyline to look at while you enjoy your munch heaven. 

Just having class under the Brooklyn Bridge like it's no big deal.. Hoping I never forget how lucky I am to be here right now and with these people.

Just having class under the Brooklyn Bridge like it's no big deal.. Hoping I never forget how lucky I am to be here right now and with these people.

Classes have been going well, but I don't see my peers as much as I did over the summer. Our class schedules simply don't allow for as much lunch dates and coffee runs, so we're all making efforts to visit more often. They're a great bunch, and their work is being exhibited all over the world - most recently China, New York (at Photoville!), Denmark. It's very exciting to see their careers unfold and start to blossom. It's a daily reminder to step up my game, which every creative could use and it brings me to my next part:

The frustrations of red tape.
I've been trying to gain access to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigners, to talk with them about their experiences as volunteers, and to really get to know the people that are taking hours out of every week to spend working towards an America they want. Ideally, I'd love to meet with people and photograph them in their homes, make intimate portraits with their input, and really get to know them on a deeper level. 

But I've had an extremely difficult time getting access, but I'm not too discouraged! Just if you happen to know any individuals who might be open to these possibilities, please let me know, or give them my contact info! There are so many angry Facebook posts, and so few people actually working to adjust the world and make the positive changes. And I'd love to highlight the dedication of these individuals! 

On a more exciting and less disheartening note - I've been making some serious lifestyle changes. As most of you know, my career in softball ended this past spring, and it forced me to bid farewell to my main source of exercise. Since then, I've started running, doing pilates, and actually cooking my own food. My Pittsburgh friends were rightly horrified with how many HelloBistro burgers I put away in a week, but now, I'm becoming a little chef, cooking all my own meals and snacking on things like carrots, grapes, and chia seed pudding. You can see a sampling of my pretty meals below, but keep in mind that there are many more where I'm simply unable to satisfy my hunger before snapping a picture, so you're missing out on some good ones. Maybe you should stop by sometime, I'll cook you a mean (and very healthy) dinner. 

Marvin and Ruby Interview by Hannah Harley

During my solo exhibition, I was approached by Krista Wright, a contributor for Marvin and Ruby, who offered to interview me about my work and process. She focused on my most recent work: Contemporary Intimacy. She profiled me in an awesome way, and I'm grateful for her for writing it and Marvin and Ruby for publishing it! I've included the article below (sans pictures), so please head over to Marvin and Ruby to see the full article. And linger on their website, they've got some incredible articles and artists there! 


Contemporary Intimacy

July 12, 2016

Hannah Harley, a recent New York transplant, is a visual artist working with photography, collage, and mixed media to portray intimacy, femininity, and issues in modern society.

Tell me about this featured group of collages.

This body of work (called Untitled (Pornography)) is a focused analysis of the fetishizing of race through pornography. It utilizes the skin tone ranges found in non-fetish pornographic magazines. Mass media has habitually demonstrated a preference for white women and there is significant correlation between this lack of diversity in mass media and the American individual's racial preferences in romantic and sexual partners.

Their findings are backed up by statistics found from online dating services. Sites like OkCupid can track racial preferences in their users, and they note that race is a determining factor for the attractiveness of an individual. Their research found that individuals tend to display biases toward women of color more than any other ethnicity or racial group.

The pieces I prepared for my solo exhibition, Contemporary Intimacy, was comprised of over 25 pornographic magazines including Barely Legal, BJ Babes, Playboy, and Penthouse.

Your work seems to have an interest and concentration in the female body, and specifically, the body as a sexual object. Where did this interest originate?

In my opinion, the objectification of the female body is a constant price that women have to pay for existing in this society. I'm aiming to turn the lens on an audience that allows this critical look at the female form.

And while I won't disagree with your view of my work, I do have to discuss the original intent and drive for the work. Yes, the objectification of women has been vital in understanding the complexities of intimacy, but I have spent a large portion of my time and research exploring shifts in intimate behaviors. (i.e. how media influences relationships or how lovers shift into memories).

This artistic exploration stems from an abusive relationship that later required me to redefine my own understanding of intimacy. This constant alteration of my perceptions of intimacy has lead me to strange places, both artistically and personally. But it has lead to a better understanding of the complexities that is ingrained in every intimate behavior.

So while objectifying women (and female bodied individuals) is a theme that I aim to explore in my work, it is the vulnerabilities and complexities of intimacy that I am most interested in.

Where are you finding ideas for new work these days? Are you currently working on something new?

I sit down with my idea notebook at least five times a week for at least twenty minutes a session. I improve past ideas, and put the plans in motion for new ideas. This process always gets me thinking about what social issues need to be addressed, both in my personal life and on a larger scale.

I'm also constantly inspired by my creative peers - specifically by giving them critiques. When giving critiques, I find myself getting lost in my own vision of my work and their work, but I think about how I would tackle the problem in a different way than they do.

I just started classes at Parsons for my MFA in Photography. I have a studio at the school, so I'm pretty excited to start making a mess there. I have a lot of ideas to play with in this new space, and I'm hopeful that New York will shape my work with the same vibrancy that Pittsburgh gave to it.

Do you collect anything?

Art-wise or life-wise?

I've purchased a piece that had significant nostalgia for me from Hannah Altman and am currently purchasing several C-prints from Selena Hurst. I've been fortunate enough to see these two artists grow in incredible ways. Selena doesn't seem to have her work on the internet right now, but she has an incredible body of work that documents the travels of a glued ball of discarded cigarette butts. The color film and her perfect technical rhythm is an absolutely breathtaking pair.

What's your art world pet peeve?

Its inaccessibility. There are a lot of people who would like to see the Mona Lisa, but they can't spare the $17. While I am so impressed with the art community's steps toward more accessible and public art, I have found that some artists will resist this. I think that we need to think of a broader world when preparing art museums. 

I would also like to see the art world embrace blind or seeing-impaired individuals. The Contemporary Art Museum in Barcelona had an exhibit dedicated entirely to artwork that was meant to be an experience for the visually impaired and seeing viewers alike. It was interactive - making art more of an immersive experience.

I know that my work right now doesn't solve either problem, but I think that those are two directions we ought to be looking towards with more interest.

Interview by Krista Wright