Stories Within Stories: With Nina Hamilton

Tasmanian wedding photographer Nina Hamilton is one adventurous lady. A seeker of stories, she writes from the heart about personal bravery, the power in being present, and learning how not to be your own worst critic. 

We comprise many stories; we collect them in the everyday with each experience, interaction and conversation. We carry them with us as memories, as scars, as badges of honour. Your wedding day becomes a significant part of your story; it is a celebration of a threshold, or intersection, from one part of your story to the next. And it’s a story that deserves to be told.  

I tell stories with a camera. I consider myself an observer of people and life; a seeker of stories. I seek moments and stories in the ordinary, the everyday and the in-between – the best stories lie in the unexpected snippets of life. Visual storytelling is a skill I’ve refined through a combination of travel, people-watching and street photography. I compliment this by drawing on my background in architecture to inform the way I see and use elements such as light + shadow, pattern, texture, lines, form and colour.

I definitely never intended to photograph people and make visual stories. I was about 7 when got my first camera and started telling half-stories; by half, I mean that most of the people in my photos had no heads and were unidentifiable. At school, I wanted to be a journalist. I had my sights set on being a foreign correspondent, collecting stories of human experience from some crazy corners of the earth. But my involvement in the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 and watching the way the media worked made me realise that I didn’t have it in me to elicit stories from people who were grieving or under distressing circumstances. Instead, I ended up studying architecture and developed an interest in humanitarian design. This lead me to volunteer and work in India, South Africa and Uganda. It was during my 2 years living in Uganda, and traveling East Africa, that I learnt to photograph people. I undertook a pro-bono documentary project in Myanmar in 2018 which finally brought together my love of architecture and photojournalism; and took me out of my comfort zone.

In the creative fields, it’s easy to become comfortable, even complacent, with your process and output, and become static. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, broadening your knowledge and skills, and learning from others in your industry is essential for professional and personal development. Most of us are visual learners, so workshops are perfect learning tools.

When I signed up for the EXSPD Adventures at Mt Hotham earlier this year, it looked like a pretty straightforward workshop, with the promise of “photography, adventure, hiking, fires, beers and good vibes”. Sure, I hung out with a bunch of incredible photographers and speakers, drank beer (and gin), took photos in the most amazing light (yes, lightgasms are real) and learnt a few tips from the pros. However, the workshop far exceeded everyone’s expectations. And some of us took away personal stories.

 

I had no idea that my time on the mountain would become a very personal, and crucial, turning point. It began with an unexpected conversation, on the first afternoon, with Si Moore (Bayly & Moore). We discussed my architectural and design roots and I mentioned that I was hesitant to share most of my work. I have a lot of work that I don’t share; I’m my own worst critic and I fear it’s not enough. Part of me knows this is absolute bollocks, but my anxiety always screams louder and overrules the rational voice in my head. Even though I’m creating images for others, I still find it a very personal process; and I’m apprehensive about how others will view them. The conversation took a sharp turn:

Si: Show me something interesting plz.
Nina: Here, look.
Si: Holy fuck, just do that forever.
Nina: K, bye.
Si: What just happened. AMAZE. *eats cold pie*

In the days that followed, I did a lot of observing and listening and, as a result, I made some stuff that I had no idea I was capable of making (even though it has been in me all along). I was finding traces of architecture throughout the wild landscape and (finally) drawing upon the plethora of architectural knowledge that was once second nature to me (light/shadow/lines/pattern/texture) when composing photos. I had misplaced that intuition.

Then, on the top of Mt Hotham on the last night of the workshop, when the light was singing the most beautiful arias, I had an ‘ah ha!’ moment. I realised that it was the first time I had felt completely present for almost 6 years. I realised that I had finally been shooting with more purpose and intention than I had since I was in Africa. I realised that I wasn’t second-guessing myself. It was moment of clarity and a bloody magical feeling.

Postnatal depression is a bitch and for a long time, I wasn’t ok. It has become a big part of my own story and has taken me to some pretty dark places – most days it was a struggle to breathe and I felt completely numb to feeling very much at all. I also lost touch with my own identity. When the depression started to lift, anxiety slipped into the cracks. I still carry this anxiety with me. It was through hearing the personal stories of the speakers (and some of the participants) at the workshop that I was able to finally find my voice to share my own story. I don’t talk about it often; but seeing the vulnerability of those people in the industry who we often hold up as ‘invincible’ flicked something within me. 

We are all human, with human stories and human experiences. We are all imperfect, which makes us ‘us’. We are simultaneously strong and vulnerable, and we feel more feelings than we could ever name. I feel a lot of things and some days anxiety still gets the better of me. But we can turn our own stories and experiences into how we collect others’ stories. My experience with PND and anxiety allows me to be the calming voice when someone is on edge or nervous on a wedding day. It has made me more aware of noticing the most fleeting and quiet moments that might otherwise be missed. It is also the main reason why I believe in a people-first approach to wedding photography –  people, human connections and in-between moments first; the material details help tell the story, but they are not the most important part.

 

I want to make people feel in their hearts by seeing visual stories with their eyes. I want to document stories as they unfold in front of me. I want to visually narrate the realness of your day, creating beautifully honest stories of love and human connection. You see, you’ll want to look back on your wedding day – your story – and feel the words spoken, the deep belly laughs, the safe embraces, the gentle kisses, the stolen glances, and hilarious and heart-warming speeches. Because this is the stuff that’s at the very heart and soul of your celebration. 

Every wedding story is different; you’re unique and your relationship is as well. Your photos should be a real representation of who you are, your love and your togetherness. I want to tell your story in a way that feels true to you.

And the moral of this story? Be brave and put forward more work. Starting right now, by sharing my story.

 

 

Getting to Know… Jon Gazzignato

People would say you’ve got a pretty amazing job, Jon. Tell us how you fell into wedding photography.

Yeah I’m not gonna lie, it’s bloody incredible. My passion for photography actually started while I was travelling. I backpacked for a year through South East Asia and Latin America with a beat up, cheap camera taking photos every single day. While I was away, it didn’t really interest me to take photos of sights where you’d find hundreds of wannabe influencers waving around their selfie sticks. What I really loved, was taking photos of people living their everyday lives. I would stay in tiny villages and visit local markets just to observe people doing their thing. It was on that trip that I really developed my photojournalistic style and appreciation for capturing people’s true personalities. I now use that same creative mindset with every wedding I shoot.

    
You shoot in some amazing locations around Tasmania. Tell us more about how that inspires you.

With every shoot I am always looking to make the most of how incredibly spoilt we are here in Tasmania. There are bucket-loads of beautiful, untouched locations to shoot and it’s all pretty much on our doorstep. I’ve been so fortunate to shoot at iconic locations around Tassie such as Cradle Mountain and Freycinet, but what really inspires me are the lesser talked about wild settings that can be found everywhere you look. Whether it’s just a spot where ferns grow ragged or the edge of a beach with craggy cliffs, those snippets of untamed wilderness are what make our state so beautiful. Before each shoot, I spend several hours researching, scouring Google Maps and hiking to locations to find the perfect spot that has a killer setting, mint lighting but most of all – suits the personalities of the couple that I’m photographing. And the best part of it all is that I LOVE a good adventure.

You recently tied the knot yourself.. congratulations! What did you find most surprising about being on the other side of the camera?

Haha thank you so much! It really was one of the best things I’ve ever done. We ran away and did a secret elopement on top of a mountain with only a photographer, celebrant and chef. There were quite a lot of tears…on my behalf. Then when we got home we threw a massive party with all of our friends and family. It was insane! But back to your question: I think the most surprising part was how much having my photos taken didn’t phase me. Sarah and I were just focused on each other and we were so caught up in the moment that nothing else even mattered. We’d also had a fair few froffos, so that can help too!

 

If you had to choose a favourite moment to photograph with your clients, what would it be?

I enjoy the storytelling of getting ready, I love ripping up the dancefloor with the wedding guests, but most of all – I love the couples shoot. I say this to my clients all the time, but at a wedding it’s the only part of the day that they will spend alone with each other. Sometimes the couple won’t see each other all day, they spend the morning frantically getting ready before being rushed to the ceremony where a hoard of people are staring at them and watching their every move. When the ceremony ends they’re swamped by a sea of hugs and kisses. The crazy thing is – the couple still hasn’t even talked to each other yet! So when we go off to do the couple’s shoot, it’s the first time they actually get to be alone together. I love observing couples during their shoot because there is such a mixture of excitement, joy and feelings of holy sh!t did that just happen! There’s a real stillness about the way couple’s open up and become vulnerable when there aren’t a hundred odd people staring at them. And THAT is what I absolutely love to capture.

Have you got any tips for planning a wedding?

Something I tell every couple I meet with – get married however the heck you want. There are so many old school traditions at weddings that people do because they think that it has to be done. It’s YOUR wedding day! Whether it’s as simple as getting your couple photos taken before the ceremony so that you can spend more time partying or having a cake made out of Maccas cheeseburgers (I wish I thought of that for my wedding). The only thing you legally have to do is get a celebrant to officiate the marriage. So when you’re planning your wedding, start there and really ask yourselves “this is our day, what do we want?” Plan it so that you will have a rad AF time on a day that is about celebrating the awesome relationship that you and your partner have.

Any advice to couples looking to find a photographer?

Do your research! Referrals from friends are great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will like the style of that photographer. You don’t wear the exact same clothes or order the same food as your friend, so it’s important to do some flippin’ research. Whether it’s social media, Google or magazines – pour through photos until you find a style and photographer that you absolutely fall in love with. There are so many extraordinary artists in Tasmania that all have a unique style. If you do the research you will definitely find a photographer who speaks to your soul.

Zana Forster

Zana Forster loves guiding couples to create their own unique celebration ceremonies is incredibly rewarding and enjoyable – who doesn’t love to be around happy people! She also passionately believes that everyone has a right to love, and to celebrate that love, and she looks forward to the day when the fight for Marriage equality is history.

P: 0412557849
E: zanaforstercelebrancy@gmail.com
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Belle Bridesmaid

Belle Bridesmaid is an Australian online store specialising in bridesmaid and special occasion dresses. They aim to provide dresses that are exclusive to Australia that are modern, comfortable and suit all shapes and sizes, stocking brands exclusive to Hobart and Tasmania.

E: info@bellebridesmaid.com.au
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Your Grand Event

Ashley Matthews and John Perry both have a passion for fine decoration and tasteful furnishings. They have realised that passion by bringing Tasmania the new look Sandy Bay Living.

Both having a background in retail and hospitality, Ashley and John bring a wealth of experience to the business and understand that customers want something unique, something beautiful and something of lasting quality. They wanted to give the people of Tasmania a store where they’ll find something of lasting beauty. They also understand how important it is to know the product well and to help the customer make a wise choice.

All the pieces at Sandy Bay Living are chosen for their quality and uniqueness. Ashley and John have adopted the philosophy that if they love something and would have it in their home then it’s something worth sharing with others.

When you drop into Sandy Bay Living do say hello to Ashley, John and their staff. They all love a chat and will happily explore what it is you’re after so they can guide your selections. Oh, and if you like coffee they’ll make you a complimentary cup of the finest beans!

P: 03 6224 2248
E: info@sandybayliving.com
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Barilla Bay

Barilla Bay is located 15 minutes from the Hobart City and 5 minutes from the Hobart Airport. Surrounded by a serene setting and beautiful Tasmanian flora, they offer a unique experience, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

They offer a variety of different packages tailored to suit every taste and budget, and their dedicated wedding coordinator will help make your day truly memorable for you and your loved ones.

A: 1388 Tasman Highway, Cambridge
P: 6248 5458
E: operations@barillabay.com.au
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Abbie Pederson Celebrant

Abbie Pedersen is a civil celebrant based in Hobart Tasmania, mixing up the celebrant scene! Brimming with fresh ideas for stunningly traditional or quirky alternative weddings, Abbie is adventurous and open to wedding requests of any sort.

Whether you would like to be married in a months time or in two years, Abbie would be delighted to meet you and your fiancé to discuss and plan your desired wedding ceremony.

P: 0405 904 143
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Jessica Turale Photography

Telling a story through photography and capturing moments to relive these special memories is Jessica Turale’s passion. She specialises in capturing love stories at weddings and telling stories with beauty and fashion, portraying her clients’ unique personalities in a documentary style with a creative touch.

A: Penguin, Tas
P: 0400 544 702
E: jess@turalephotography.com
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A Cat Called Jo

A Cat Called Jo is an event styling business dedicated to designing and producing cutting edge, individually-styled events. They don’t do your done-to-death themes, and instead are enthusiastic about creating innovative ways to celebrate the important occasions in your life by reflecting your unique character or style in artful ways.

With professionalism, attention to the finest details, an eye for quality and a bunch of swagger, ACCJ will transform any venue into an unforgettable event.
Whether it be a backyard gathering, an elaborate wedding, corporate function or a launch party; if you want to party like a rock star, be as formal as the Queen, or have an intimate soirée with friends, they have you covered.

P: 0404 868 751
E: info@acatcalledjo.com.au
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Jai Hay Jeweller

Not just a jewellery store, but a craftsman’s workshop. Jai Hay Jeweller has over 15 years experience in crafting fine jewellery, using the same classical techniques that have been used for hundreds of years.

Jai Hay Jeweller is the jewellery shop to visit in Hobart if you desire, not just a mass produced piece of jewellery off the shelf, but a unique and individual piece of art that can be treasured and passed on for generations to come.

When visiting a fine craftsman like Jai Hay Jeweller, expect not, the service that you might receive from a jewellery shop churning factory produced pieces, instead expect that good old fashioned customer service that we all miss, with the jeweller himself working with you to produce that one of a kind piece that tells your story.

A: 7a Mather’s Lane, Hobart
P: (03) 6231 5414
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