The Journey to Chasing the MM - NYC to LA to Cuba
New York. Growing, failing, loving, learning, and a. park's photography journey.
I want to start this post of New York with my full heart open with honesty. Open to it's good, it's bad, it's nitty gritty moments and the best place on earth to live and experience life. Its long, if you're going to read it, read the whole thing. Otherwise, enjoy the pictures and see you next time!
I knew I had to live in New York when I first made a visit out in December 2005, I was a senior in high school. I told myself I had to experience life living and working in this city. I landed an internship at Glamour Magazine in 2009. The photo assistant Jeeyun Lee who is now an amazing florist was Korean. I'm Korean, I believe my last name and my photography stood out within the 2-300 applicants to her, but she says she wasn't being biased :). I was photographing models from agencies by my 1st year into college. Pretty girls in dope places stood out to everyone. I moved there with a week notice for the two month internship. I was terrible. I didn't jot down numbers, I hated traveling from Times Square to Chelsea for a retouching job of Miley Cyrus I could have done right there in the office. It was also the first blizzard for New York and in my life. I'm from Los Angeles, California, it's summer all year long from 2-6pm. New York was cold, lonely, scary, new, homesick, and it smelled like curry. I was living in the living room in the upper west side with Indian Columbia students majoring in Engineering. They had the real curry. Love curry, but I moved in with a Puerto Rican family after two weeks. After my internship, I moved back to LA and Santa Barbara, CA and graduated college. I didn't know where to go. I worked at Digital Fusion as a file uploader in Culver City for a year and some months. On the weekends, I trained with Sam Lim in Los Angeles for weddings. I was coming from a fashion photography background so when I knew I had a good grip on weddings, I left immediately and moved back to NYC with 10k in my pocket and no job lined up. I wasn't finished and the two months did not justify my life experience there.
I moved back to New York in August 2011. I was always creatively driven, but I never cared about my job. I was able to find one two weeks after moving. I cared about what would work in my life and that did not include bosses and going to work at 9am. Same with college, I didn’t care about my grades, I cared about my art work and what I was capable of producing. I was late to my first job, hungover on the third day, told them they can fire me. I really didn't care, but I felt leverage and confidence. Then I convinced my boss to change my hours to 11am to 8pm and I was still late. I can't believe he never fired me. Few months later, I became freelance and just created my own hours. Amanda, Ryan, Sarah and Sara went through so much for my tardiness, inconsistent ways and being the bratty child of the studio. They saved my butt in many ways, but let me be. I was lead to freelancing weddings and all of them vouched for my talent and truly believed in me. When I look through my life, there were and are so many angels brought into my life to be there to support me and run with me. Thank you.
Since then I worked freelance for a lot of different wedding studios and personal clients. But I was going paycheck to paycheck to pay the rent and go out with my friends. I racked up 7k in credit card bills at some point. It was stressful, but I never let money stress me out. I always thought money is paper and it’s materialistic. My outlook on life is that we will be provided to our lifestyle and with blessings and people we need. Those blessings and those people are there to help us work on ourselves and find the happiness and the true joyful moments that matter.
Work was coming in steady, but I was doing the same thing daily, I needed change. I told my mom 5 years. So it's funny I moved back after 5 years. Your words can become your vision and reality. I booked 5 weddings for the month of May 2017. When I got booked, two were in LA and three were in NYC. I thought about it hard. I had to go back and forth twice in May regardless where I lived. I always told myself I am not growing old in the east coast trying to take the subway in the snow during rush hour. I was not born for that. That was not in my life plan. The two weeks of fall and spring were not going to cut it for me when I'm starting to wrinkle and crinkle. My gut knew my calling was back home and so I made a decision to cherish NYC as my 2nd home to visit regularly. There were blessings and people waiting for me in Los Angeles.
I moved back to LA in early 2017. Within a year, I finished paying the rest of that 7k, I paid off all my student loans, got my own apartment and I bought a car for my mom to chauffeur me around. If you know my mom, you know she loves to do that for me, so why not let her, I'm sorta serious. I hate driving unless I'm on the freeway. My first year back I saved the dough, I rode my bike everywhere in LA, I took the bus. LA buses.. I never thought I'd take that ever again after high school. I mastered the NY lifestyle in LA and I still ride the bus and bike even with my car. Everything felt like it was placing itself in the right direction. I was getting more and more jobs from friends and family, thankfully. But there were still holes somewhere in my photography path. Annabel Hannah has come so far from the past 10 years and is a huge part and a tremendous privilege I have in my life. I learned value in shooting people, in weddings, in love, in family, and the core heart of capturing the joy at that moment. I saw both myself and my photography growing up during my time in New York City. I learned to compact my gear to get in the subway and I learned to smile even if I didn't want to. Every year I saw myself evolving. But when I applied to Brooks Institute of Photography, I didn't have much direction and I really didn't think I would get into weddings and portraiture or fall this deep into film.
In February 2018, I went to Cuba and decided to go back to film. Everyone said I have to take film. I didn't like taking my 5D Mark III when I traveled anyway. I chose an Argus C3 as my film camera. The Argus C3 is manual, you have to wind, click, then shoot. I tested it out before leaving and just from testing it out, I felt the bliss. The inner gut bliss that comes uncontrollably within yourself and it literally feels like brooklyn in the summer without the nutty heat wave. Since then I've been experimenting and shooting, and trust me I didn't think I'd enjoy shooting nature this much! I took a breather, a step backwards, I wanted to rewind and remind myself of the butterflies that the simplicity of photography gave me in the first place.
New York, thank you for debt, thank you for supportive co workers to let me be, thank you for friends and family who are supportive of all my new ideas and thank you for guiding me back home. Now some of you might think, but didn’t you find this film excitement in Cuba? No actually, it was placed in my hands from being in Los Angeles. I would not have ever made it to Cuba if I were still going paycheck to paycheck, but I got called home for new doors to open and bigger blessings. New York was exciting, it was the best thing I ever did, I met the best friends ever and I blossomed bridges. I had 6 friends when I moved in 2011. Pamela, Dylan, Kyle, Derek, Anthony and Teanna. But throughout the years friendships grew and Los Angeles friends started moving to NYC. New York is really like adult college, your friends are your family and when you find people you can lean on, New York is a little easier on the tough days. I left NY with a big solid group attending my "Annabel's winter hibernation, but everyone knows she's not moving back" party in the blizzard. That's true love, even I didn't want to trek the snow to my go away party. New York City was a fortunate detour and a fire I was running through in my 20’s. I had to do it, I loved it and I hated it. Not a lot of people have this opportunity in their life, so I am grateful for all of it.
Thank you New York.
New York Photographs taken in April 2018 / All of the images on this site are shot double exposure in camera except this set of NYC. I decided that I would scan the films back to back if I wanted to create a double exposure. It was interesting, but I think I'll pass on it next time. The feeling of seeing the image already double exposed creating different lines and textures still blows my mind after many many rolls. You will see those in my upcoming posts or mostly in Man gallery.
Other New York images - MADE Gallery
Coming up posts - Cuba, Havana | Sequoia, CA USA | Colorado, USA