If you’re planning a Tassie wedding or elopement, Nina Hamilton is your girl. You won’t need to twist her arm to take you to the wild wonderlands of Tasmania. This is where she is most at home, in the quiet of nature, feeding her creativity. We chat with Nina about her wedding and humanitarian photography, so let’s get to know her!
You’re a Tasmanian Aussie with an African heart, tell us more about that?
I have always fiercely stated that I am Tasmanian before I am Australian; perhaps that’s an island mentality. I grew up on this little island, but I have travelled a lot, driven by a deep curiosity of the world; each time I have lived/travelled away I have found myself understanding my own identity more, as it relates to the unique cultural, political, design and physical landscapes of Tasmania. Sometimes we have an overwhelming sense of place, which is not easy to translate into words, because it is felt. I was surprisingly grounded in Uganda, more so than at home. The place has a strange ability to get under your skin. There’s a French expression ‘mal d’Afrique’, or The Africa Disease, which is the best way to explain how Africa stole my heart.
Tease us a little about life in Tassie…we want to visit!
It’s beautiful! There is a marvellous selection of fresh, local produce at the myriad farmer’s markets; you can buy seasonal fruit and vegies from road-side stalls with honesty boxes; Hobart has the best coffee in the country; you can be on a mountain top only 25 mins from Hobart’s centre; there are tracts of rainforest that still bare remnants of Gondwana. It’s easy to live a slow, sustainable life here. It is also a place of polarities, which elicits fierce debates; particularly around issues to do with the natural environment, which is one of the biggest drawcards for visitors. Tasmania is also gaining global recognition for an exciting arts scene. The island’s position at the geographical and cultural edge provides rich stimuli for local design and designers – architects, artisans, photographers, furniture makers, chefs, ceramicists, jewelers, painters… Tasmania abounds with creativity and creative people with wonderful stories and locations, who have made their dreams their lives. The physical isolation, unique landscapes, four distinct seasons and that incredible Tasmanian light (it’s actually a thing) all underpin a strong cultural identity.
What can couples expect when they book you?
I offer wedding and elopement photography for relaxed, adventurous couples who love wildly, joyously and intentionally. I believe in a people-first approach to 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 love to connect with couples who approach their wedding day in a relaxed and thoughtful way that reflects their life, their style and their love. Wedding photography should unfold like a well-told story, rich with images that allow you to relive the magic of your wedding day, over and over. Every wedding story is different; each couple is unique and their relationship is as well. I like to tell their individual story in a way that feels true to them. As such, you won’t find the same set of images for each wedding – I find most couples place importance on different aspects of their day.
How do you see your photography as a way to make an impact?
I’m passionate about creating positive social change through my skills and creative practice, and aim to empower and support individuals and local communities. Skill- and knowledge-transfer are very powerful tools. Prior to photography, I worked in architecture, including architectural education. Photographs are a way of holding memories and sharing stories. Each year, I volunteer my time to three organisations with a strong sense of social responsibility and which resonate with me: the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the annual Cancer Council Ball and Be Hers (a not-for-profit that raises funds and awareness to the issue of human trafficking). I have also undertaken projects with the Multicultural Council of Tasmania. I was recently in Myanmar to collaborate on a project with Turquoise Mountain documenting artisans, craftspeople and construction workers, and collecting their stories to give a face, and create a real human connection, to the work they produce.
Towards the end of 2017 I joined was the #rainbowloveau movement, which was initiated by photographer Nicole Bodle from Fox & Kin as a way to counter the hate towards the LGBTQI+ community during Same Sex Marriage survey. Over 30 rad Australian photographers joined in, and offered free mini portrait sessions to LGBTQI+ couples and families. I’m a solo mother, so it took a while to convince myself to join, as it was the start of the wedding season and time with my son is important. I wholly believe that love is love, and I was seeing so many of my LGBTIQ+ friends and family hurting more and more as the survey process drew out and became nasty; I felt hopeless, so in the end I decided to offer the sessions. It was a small gesture that helped bring some light to the awesome couples I met, by creating beautiful photos for them.
How do you incorporate your eco-ethical values into your work?
Engaging in pro-bono work, being paper free (my information is only available digitally) and supporting local where possible.
What are some creative ways you’ve seen couples reduce their wedding footprint?
Many of my couples have DIY weddings. There was one backyard wedding I photographed earlier this year which is probably my favourite wedding – the backyard was styled by friends, the bride had a second hand Jenny Packham dress, a friend did incredible florals, all the glasses/cups/crockery/cutlery has been collected from op-shops by the group of friends and does the rounds of the weddings within the group, the rings were designed and made by a friend of the couple, and the bride’s earrings were designed and made by a local jeweller who uses recycled silver. I have also had brides upcycle second hand dresses and create bouquets from native flowers picked from the side of the road.
What have been your fave wedding experiences?
Anything in the wilds of Tasmania! Each wedding is so different, and I take small moments from each.
What advice would you give to couples so they can enjoy their wedding day to the full?
Love hard, be present and do the day your way. Some of the best weddings I have been to have had very limited budgets, but have been the best celebrations of love and joy. If the idea of organising a wedding becomes too overwhelming, just elope and have a big party afterwards.
If you had 3 wishes, what would you wish for?
- A safe and inclusive future for my African Australian son. Racism is not black and white; it can be coloured, religious, tribal, subtle and incredibly complex. A Ugandan friend recently told me that he didn’t truly understand his own blackness until he moved to Sweden. I first saw Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ clip while sitting in a small regional airport in Myanmar and remember not knowing what to think or how to feel. I felt numb, because an artist had so powerfully and intelligently summed up today’s America in 4 and a half minutes – the complexities and subtleties and the in-between. I struggle daily with how the future will look for my son and how I can answer questions around identity and racism. I am grateful we live in Australia, though I am uncomfortable with how we are becoming more like America each day.
- A more socially and environmentally sustainable future. The latest issue of Dumbo Feather (issue 55) has some very timely conversations around social economics. We need to slow down; and Tasmania is a pretty great place to do this.
- For the world to never run out of chocolate. I have a medically diagnosed addiction to chocolate. Actually, really. So I hope climate change doesn’t affect cocoa production 😉
Now sit back and let Nina’s amazing travel images transport you to Myanmar and Uganda. Enjoy 🙂