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Norwich. A city of mavericks and makers, creators and trail blazers. A big-hearted city beneath even bigger skies, and open air, open minds. In Norwich, everyone has a story to tell. And we’ll be sure to tell it. Every month, we’ll be sitting down with local writers, designers, makers, artists and influencers to discuss life in Norwich. This week we’re joined by local photographer, Hannah Hutchins.
Hannah was born in Norwich, at the old hospital on Newmarket Road in 1994, but lived in Hertfordshire until 2002. She grew up with creative adults around her, with both her parents being musicians. At the age of 12 she landed a scholarship to study music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Whilst it was an amazing experience, and one she tells us she’ll never forget or regret (even the 5am starts!), Hannah soon realised that music just wasn’t her passion and decided to pursue photography instead.
Today, Hannah is a highly sought-after photographer who has worked with household names such as Norwich University of the Arts (NUA), the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), and the National Centre for Writing in Norwich.
How did you get into your chosen career/profession, and why did you decide to pursue this in Norwich?
I was always taking pictures as a child. My first camera was a Canon Powershot, it was small enough to go everywhere with me and was probably the best present a child could receive. I loved documenting life that was going on around me, and still do. I didn’t want to forget anything, the good and bad. When I was 16 the powershot was upgraded to my first DSLR and kit lens, and I felt like I could do anything with that camera, it used to be wrapped up in a scarf in my music bag on my way to London each week and then slung over my shoulder when I went to house parties later on. My portfolio for university was created with it and I had it until I was 21.
I think it’s important to speak about the progression of cameras as you progress through the steps of a career – you can’t magic up a skill and a good image overnight. I’ve enjoyed photography and using cameras to document life for a good 15 years and I definitely haven’t mastered it yet. I still look at other photographers work and think ‘wow, how did they get that shot, that’s so poetic and says everything I want to say…’ and then question whether I should just give up …and then a magical moment happens and my faith in the art is restored!
I didn’t get into my 1st choice of Uni (University of the Arts London – London College of Communication) first time round and spent a year in London working 3 jobs and barely touching my camera. I got in the following year and it was the best feeling in the world. 5 minutes into my first lecture and I finally felt like I belonged. Having finished my degree and worked at BAFTA as a photography assistant for 1 year, my time in London felt like it was up. Norwich was pulling me back. My grandparents, who lived down the road from me growing up, were suddenly in need of round the clock care and London was making me home sick for the first time. I moved back to Norwich to live with my boyfriend, Dan, and to be closer to my family. Everyone in London told me I’d never leave if I went back. What Norwich has given me, that London hasn’t, is freedom. We can live in a lovely area, walking distance to the city centre, green spaces nearby, no commuting fees (unless travelling to London for jobs), you know your postman and you are home in time to make dinner and have an evening to relax.
Norwich has given me lots of photographic opportunities as well, don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t happened over night, but the cost of living in Norwich has given me the space to be creative and get my foot in the door (even if it’s just a toe over the doorstep!)
What do you love most about Norwich and why?
Where do I begin?! When you move to Norwich from a bigger city you may feel like you’re stepping away from a fast-moving train to a push bike, but you quickly realise the beauty in that. In London I randomly bumped into 3 people I knew in 5 years. In Norwich, I can’t walk into town without bumping into someone I know and having a chat! Love it or hate it, you can’t beat community and you can definitely find your community here if you want to – and there is opportunity for growth when you realise that. Until you step away from the Norwich bubble you don’t realise how lucky we are to have so many independent shops, cafes and restaurants. We are so spoilt for choice. I love so many and think this is one of many things that makes Norwich so special.
Favourite place(s) to eat in Norwich?
The Waffle House, all generations of my family have been going here since it opened, every family birthday and celebration has been here, even a hen do! Café 33 is a recent favourite for all day breakfasts, the pancakes are the best. All freshly cooked and the portions are large. You won’t be disappointed – expect a queue on Saturday’s.
Others I love are…
The Workshop for super tasty tapas, The Mediterranean on Magdalen Street for brilliant Turkish food, Woolf and Social for date nights and catching up with old friends, The Reindeer pub or the Unthank Arms for Sunday roasts, The Alex on Stafford Street for some old school pub food on a cold winters night …the list could go on and on!
Favourite place(s) for a coffee/beverage?
Coffee – Kofra Coffee (at any of their three locations…) Sainsbury’s Centre for pre or post walk around UEA lake, Onley Street as our local or St Giles for catching up with friends.
Alcoholic – Franks Bar, small enough to be able to catch up with friends yet still has an atmosphere.
What are you most looking forward to doing in Norwich now lockdown is easing? What did you miss most?
Having just thought about all the food and drink businesses I like, I’d have to say eating!
But seriously, as a photographer, lockdown has been hard. I felt like I had documented my boyfriend and flat and our home-made lunches more than enough times after the first week. I am looking forward to witnessing life actually happening again and getting back to lots of interaction with clients and idea generation. I would love for Norwich to have a big summer outdoor party once we’re allowed. The city blocked off from cars, and bars and restaurants to open up and spill into the street. Chapelfield gardens could open for a one night only N&N festival… we can dream …
Any lockdown tips/recommendations for our readers?
Routine has been everything, even on the weekends. The first few weeks of lockdown I craved interaction with others so much. Facetime was a god send! ‘PE with Joe’ was a great reason to be up for 9am every day. I think I managed 4 weeks of that… and then I needed to switch things up. The free ‘Couch to 5k’ app has turned me into someone who potentially may go to a Saturday Park Run …one day! Making time in your day to try the recipes for lunch that you’ve never had time to make (I really recommend the Happy Pear) has been brilliant. I planted tomatoes and sunflowers at the beginning of lockdown, and I’ve had so much joy from watching them grow, checking in on them every day.
Some days I haven’t felt productive at all, others I have finished books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. I’ve learnt that we will all deal with being told to stay home in different ways, everyone will have felt differently and everyone also has different views on how to proceed now – for me it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and a real chance to work out what my physical and emotional needs are each day.
Books I recommend (a local Norwich bookshop, The Book Hive, would be a great place to buy these books from):
Radical acts of Love by Janie Brown, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner by Chris Atkins, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, and Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Hollywood, Unbelievable, Tiger King, Ozark, Sex Education, Game of Thrones, Dirty John, Cheer, Restaurants on the edge, Jeffrey Epstein
Podcasts: Holly Tucker ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ and local tv presenter, Jake Humphries “High Performance” podcast.
And finally, what does ‘Norwich’ mean to you, or can you tell us your favourite memory of the city?
Norwich means home, it always will. Simple!