Based in Dartmouth, Hannah Minzloff is a respected member of the arts scene in Nova Scotia, where she is a documentary photographer creating community portraits. The 6th generation in her family to be involved in photography, Hannah studied in her hometown of Montreal, worked in studios in Toronto and Munich, then earned a BAA in Stills Photography at Ryerson University in 1994. Hannah has had public exhibitions in Dartmouth, Toronto and Halifax, images published in Silvershotz Folio, received funding from NSCC&H, and in 2009, she was short-listed for the Mayor’s award in Contemporary Art in HRM. Hannah’s work has been purchased by HRM, the Art Bank of Nova Scotia and exists in private collections around the globe.
I pursue stories focusing on community and sustainability. The presentation of my work is a dialogue between viewer and idea, with exhibitions aimed at direct forms of connection with the public as illustrated by UNDERGROUND (2008) – installed in the advertising spaces of public transit in Toronto and Halifax; RoadWorks (2011) displayed in pedestrian zones near a mass transit terminal, and Portraits on Portland (2012) the first in a suite of five bearing witness to Nova Scotia neighbourhoods.
Opportunity and Inspiration
This is going to sound cheesy, but I just love being a VANS member. Anytime I meet an artist I ask if they belong to VANS, and if they say no, I strongly encourage them to join! I really enjoy scanning through the newsletters, looking for opportunities to show my work, as well as to dream about going to faraway places for residencies. I have taken a number of workshops over the years: grant writing, the business of art, social media, marketing, first impressions, gallery proposals and more. For a while we had a very active rep in our region who organized monthly get-togethers and annual exhibitions – what a great opportunity to talk with fellow artists, find inspiration to get through the unproductive days, and to get out of the studio. That group has recently re-emerged as ARTFOCUS, and we continue to meet monthly to talk about art.
I live in the moment, and get completely immersed in whatever I am doing right now – taking a picture of cool shadows on a building in the bright sunlight, baking bread, writing an email, sewing a raincoat for my daughter. I am also a curious person, and love to find out about things, to hear people’s stories and pass my discoveries on. Since I was a girl, people have said what a great teacher I am. These three things impact my work every day as I dive into new projects, work hard to complete them (gently pushing my perfectionist tendencies aside), and then share them. Then I move on to the next project.
My biggest challenge is to limit the number of art projects I work on simultaneously to two, or three. It’s easy to get blinders, to forget to keep moving things forward everywhere that it’s needed. I have found that a master list and my google calendar are a great help. I check in each with my big list each studio day, see what needs to be done and most days just get on with it. It’s kind of a no excuse principal, much of which I picked up from a great book “I’d Rather be in the Studio” by Alyson B. Stanfield. The key is breaking each thing down into its smallest steps so it all seems super easy.
Immersed in Community
I make community portraits. What does that mean? I immerse myself in various communities by doing lots of research online, in libraries and archives, traveling to each location to get to know individuals, record conversations, and then photograph in their places of work or homes. My favourite thing to do these days is to use a digital camera, taking hundreds of photographs in each place and of each person, which I then combine into collages using up to 50 of the images I have taken for each subject. What may only take a few minutes to photograph takes hours, if not weeks, to assemble in Photoshop on my computer!
The biggest moment in my career to date has been the permanent installation of my exhibition Portraits on Portland at Alderney Landing Community Cultural Centre.
Last fall I completed and exhibited the first suite of photographs for Portraits on Main Street, five suites of work documenting towns in Nova Scotia. That work will continue over the next two years. At the same time I am making slow but steady progress on a large documentary work called Ribbon to the Future with Dick Groot, a photographer based in Wolfville. We are hoping to be able to work with the NFB to develop an interactive website to showcase the work.
To Yarmouth, Yellowknife, and Sydney
This is a pretty exciting year. Having always wanted to do a residency, but unsure of what exactly to do onsite, I find myself booked for three of them(!), two of which are self directed, and continuations of my Portraits on Main Street project: July in Yarmouth, Yellowknife in September (where I have been invited to both mentor and give a community art making workshop to local artists), and Sydney in October.
In other news, Portraits on Portland has been nominated for the The Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award, and I have just applied for my first Canada Council travel grant, to take me to Yellowknife!