There is a careful sense of composition to Ninja Hanna’s work. Reflecting on contemporary conversations around gender and sexuality, she weaves high- and low-brow references from the worlds of art, fashion and pop culture throughout her imagery.
The photographer and director was born and raised in the north of Sweden, “where the winters are long and dark”, she tells CR. As a result, she spent most of her days drawing in her room as a kid, and for a long time thought she was going to be an artist when she grew up.
“I started out with a strong focus on painting, especially photorealistic painting, and from there the step over into photography came really naturally,” she says. “Sometimes I miss the canvas and brush, and that’s when the collages start appearing in my work. I guess I’m more of an imagemaker than a classical photographer in many ways.”
Fashion quickly became Hanna’s other major influence growing up. “I was a pretty rad teen who was heavily into subcultures, and I think that’s where my interest in style and by extension fashion as a mean to express your individuality came from. That led me into fashion imagery in my late teens,” she says.
After studying at the Gamleby School of Photography in southern Sweden and later at London College of Fashion, the photographer is now settled in Stockholm, where she’s built up an impressive client list including Acne, Sony Music and Weekday.
Poetic and kitsch all in one, Hanna’s work today is heavily influenced by nostalgia. “I pretty much always go back in time to find my inspiration,” she explains, often trawling through thrift shops and flea markets to find vintage fashion magazines and copies of Playboy from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Carving out a distinctive aesthetic means that these days the photographer is often approached purely to put her own stamp on commissioned work. “Every project where I’m allowed to be me all the way is, of course, very appreciated. It is hard to match the feeling when you’re getting a paid job offer and it is your personal touch that is requested,” she says.
As for her career goals in the future? “To be able to pay my bills and live comfortably doing what I love doing the most,” says the photographer. “To be allowed to always have my point of view be shown in what I do would be amazing – as probably every person who makes a living off their biggest hobby would agree on.”