The founder of the creative PR agency, Neon Stash, is also an award-winning photographer and advocate for diversity in skating. She’s this month’s member in the spotlight, and she shares with us the trials and tribulations of being a successful action sports photographer. She’s Hannah Bailey.
The glamorous-looking lifestyle of a jet-setting skate photographer and PR guru had to start somewhere, and for Hannah, her path of creativity began while already working in the action sports industry. With the right opportunities presenting themselves, Hannah was inspired to pursue photography as she recalls; “It was my way to document the inspiring stories of women in the industry, and it kick-started my mission to get more positive and realistic images of women in the media. I was absorbed by a culture that was itself fuelled by the outdoors and a limitless sense of freedom, constantly surrounded by inspiring athletes and adventurers.”
“It was never about being a professional photographer or becoming one. It wasn’t about me at all. It was about the subject I was shooting and the belief I had in it as something positive, worth pushing out there and committing my time to!”
In 2012 while working for DC Shoes, Hannah photographed her first skateboarding event in Malmo with the legendary UK pro, Lucy Adams. “I only had a point-and-shoot film camera at the time, but I shot about six rolls of film. Some of the photos were published in Dazed, and I still have requests for some of them now”, Hannah shares, “For me, professionally it is about the messages attached to my photos that are important and for me personally, it’s a creative outlet that I am addicted to.”
As creatives, we all have crowning moments in our careers that we can be proud of, whether it’s a favourite piece of work, recognition for our efforts, or being a part of something amazing. For Hannah, her greatest achievement to date is winning the Women’s Sports Trust Photographer of the Year award in 2017. Hannah recalls, “I had been nominated for the award and was already honoured by that, but to win it was next level and a really surreal experience. Lucy (Adams) was with me at the awards, and I just remember the moment she said to me “mate you’ve won”. I hadn’t heard the announcement because I thought there was no way it was me! The best thing about it all was realising my aim to connect my photography to a positive message was recognised. I won the award not for being the best sports photographer, or photographer in general, but for the work I had put in to raise the exposure of women’s skateboarding in the UK. To realise what you have been dreaming of has materialised makes all the hard work feel really worth it.”
A big focus of Shextreme Alliance is to help nurture, inspire and motivate women in creative roles within adventure and action sports. By creating a supporting community, we can share ideas, offer advice and grow together and while not all of us have faced challenges owing to our gender, women are still a minority within the media-making industry. For Hannah, “Crew such as the Shextreme Alliance are so important at this point of time for the industry. It’s growing, and popular; therefore there are a lot of opportunities and possibilities. Being part of an alliance, which brings women in the industry together, allows us to make the best of these times. We have worked really hard to get here and so it’s about working together and supporting what we have developed!”
Being a woman in her field of expertise, Hannah explains that she’s used this as motivation to fuel her passion and her work. “People work with you because of your work, not your gender. A few years ago, as a photographer and documentarian of women’s skateboarding, there were even fewer people doing it so we could set our path and support each other's work.
However, the biggest challenge comes now. With the sport gaining a lot of mainstream interest and is gearing up for even more with the Olympics, lots of people are trying to ride the wave, not always with good intentions. I used to have to really pitch to get pieces of skate content in magazines, and I faced many no’s as well as having to work for free a lot. But now, everyone wants a piece of skateboarding, and when you have something valuable, sometimes it can be difficult to know what to trust and where to put your energy.”
As we head further into 2019 with our heads full of ideas and plans, Hannah shares her projects and what else she has up her sleeve for the year ahead, “This year I am aiming to put pen to paper for a book detailing some of the inspiring women around the world I have met who are using skateboarding for empowerment. I’ll also be working more with the Skateism crew - a platform for all minorities within skateboarding, not just women. Also, I hope to be heading back out with the Skate Exchange to shoot another event. The first one was in December last year in Tokyo, and it was the most amazing thing I have ever been to - hundreds of female skaters from around the world. The Women’s Skate Alliance runs it, founded by Mimi Knoop, and a great thing for the industry, just as she is! The rest of the time, I will leave open to see what life throws at me and I am sure I will shoot a roll or two of film along the way…”
Hannah’s advice to you...
“Leave your expectations behind to allow yourself to be free to create. These days, there are so many photographers, photos, platforms and pieces of content that it is difficult to be original and creative. It can be overwhelming when you start to think about it all. But not overthinking it is key! Don’t be afraid to reach out to people that you would like to photograph or pitch ideas to. I’ve done pieces for media such as Dazed, i_D and Vice, but none of them came to me - and I’ve shot major skate events, by simply turning up! You have to get out there, connect it together and if it’s right, it will work out. Collaborate with the people you enjoy working with and who will motivate and support what you do. Enjoy what you do!”
You can follow Hannah Bailey on Instagram to keep up to date on her projects and adventures in the skate industry.