An interview with photographer John Mark Hanson

Hi, John! Thank you so much for doing this interview with me. Your work is beautiful and your Grandmothers of America series is particularly lovely. blanca-web_642

Thanks Kelsey, I appreciate the interest in my work.

So tell me about yourself! You’re based in LA, correct? What do you love about LA? What don’t you love but put up with because of all the opportunities there? What are your life dreams? How long have you been doing photography? Are you from Grand Rapids? (That’s where I live.) 

I’m originally from Traverse City, but I moved to Grand Rapids in 2011 and now reside in LA.  I just moved [to LA] about a year and a half ago.  I love all of the culture and incredible ability to learn about new and exciting things. There is so much going on here and so much creativity.  I really don’t love the traffic and pollution. There is also a lot of stress about money with rent as high as it is, but there are incredible opportunities and some amazing work happening here in the arts. My life dreams are to continue writing and recording music, photographing, and directing videos for artists and projects which inspire me creatively and to invest in community enrichment initiatives wherever I live. I have been doing photography for 14 years or so, since I was a junior in high school so 14 years. 

Some of your images are beautiful layers of several photos. How do you decide which photos to layer for a foggy / textured effect? 

BG-9810pg_640So one component of my style is multiple exposures. I do this by taking two pictures on the same frame of film. This is all done in-camera and not in the editing process on a computer. I usually start with a portrait so I know where certain facial features are in an image and then shoot some texture or organic material. I like to use plants and people together because it blends separate living things into one and creates a sort of mystery and obscurity. I like creating images with dimension and depth, and I love the experimental side of the process; each time you take a multiple exposure is sort of a mystery.  

For much of 2017, the photos you posted on Instagram were all in black and white. What tone does this set? vv4ed-website_640

I have been shooting black and white in my personal work since my Photography 1 class in high school. I just love the look and feel of BW film, and it’s a great process to shoot, develop, and scan my own film (an affordable way to shoot analog photography). Over the years, I’ve continued to learn about tone and value and to see the world in BW as opposed to color. So black and white has just become a way for me to share my photography practice and maybe offer a new way of seeing the world to others. 

What other photographers or creatives do you feel inspired by? 

Some of my favorite photographers are Gregory Crewdson, Eric Rose, Vivian Maier, and Edward Weston.

Creatives I’m inspired by right now are musicians Joan Shelley, Tim Carr, and Andy Schauff and filmmakers Mike Mills, Joseph Kolean, and the Canada Production Company.

IDCVR-1-of-1hairtmp800_800Where do you find your models? They’re quite striking and feel very naturally posed, not forced at all.

I don’t really ever hire models. I am always working with people I know and I suppose having a existing relationship with folks helps the situation to be more comfortable. Usually the portraits I do for artists are commissioned.   

What is one of your most memorable photo shoots? 

My shoots with May Erlewine have been pretty memorable, she’s an incredible person with so much love. Also working with singer Antwaun Stanely was pretty memorable, that guy is such a bright light.  

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Photo of John by Kelsey Tucker

Where is the coolest place you’ve traveled for photos? 

I kind of just bring cameras with me wherever I go… so I’d say hiking in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and Guatemala was probably the coolest region I’ve traveled to for photos. I hiked around shooting medium format black and white film at ancient Mayan ruins. It was a life-changing experience. 

What are your goals with photography? Any advice for other young photographers wanting to get into the business?

My goals with photography are to continue to grow and learn in the medium and to continue working with and sharing the analog process. I’d eventually like to run my own studio with resources for developing, scanning, and printing. For younger people wanting to explore photography, I’d say just go out and shoot! Any camera, even a phone, just shoot to find out what you love to shoot, then keep shooting that. And don’t waste time shooting things that don’t excite you. In creative work, it is important to notice things that energize you and follow those. Don’t get lost on a path doing work that drains you and does not fulfill you. 

lasso2-4-of-4spec800_800What’s the story behind founding the Lamp Light Music Fest? I have yet to attend but always want to when I see the rosters.

The Lamp Light Music Festival is a project that was developed as an experiment in social practice work, shifting the idea of what a music festival could be. [Hosting it in] houses opened up a new pathway for folks to share and listen to music in Grand Rapids. It has grown over the years into a fun staple weekend event in Eastown where people gather for the listening room experience. It is run by an incredible team of local artists and creatives, and the event really brings people together in an inspiring way. I definitely suggest checking it out. There are weekend passes and single event passes as well.   

Last but not least, a fun one. What camera do you shoot with? And how many lenses do you own? 🙂

So I shoot with several different cameras; here’s the list:

Mamiya RB67 with a 127mm and 50mm lens
Canon F-1 with 50mm lens and 135mm lens
Canon EOS-1 with 50mm lens
Canon 6D with 50mm lens and 35mm lens

You can discover more of John’s photography on his website or on Instagram at @johnmarkhanson.

This interview was edited for grammar and clarity. <3

Angela Cluley: Poetry, PeaceCorps, & Past

Kelsey May | September 18, 2017

Throughout your life, you meet people who stand apart from the crowd in their consistency and honesty. Angela Cluley and I became friends about two years ago and slowly realized that we have a lot in common, from struggling with anxiety to our shared experiences serving. We did this interview online, as Angela is living in Costa Rica, working for the PeaceCorps in child development, as part of her Masters in Social Work program through the University of Michigan. I hope you enjoy reading this interview and the poems that follow. 

Tell me about your childhood.

Favorite childhood memory is playing football with my dad. It was my younger brother and I and my dad would finger draw out football plays on his shirt and then I would execute exactly the play and always win against my brother. (since I was older) We would then play football video games on the Nintendo after so that we could have additional practice. I loved it!

Least favorite childhood memory is being in foster care from 7 to 9 years old. I lived with different families, some related to me and others not. One of the random families I lived with were horrible to me. They had many foster kids they were taking care of, and it was too much. The kids bullied us, and one actually slammed my head into my birthday cake to be funny. Luckily, we didn’t stay very long.

When did you begin writing? Why do you write?

I began writing when I was in high school. I had a teacher who introduced us to poetry and I started to like putting my life on paper. I write for my own personal reflection and healing. When I began writing, I did not write from a personal standpoint, which didn’t feel genuine. When I perform poetry now, I am able to express myself and heal with the audience.

Favorite interaction after a performance?

The best reaction was when one of the audience members came up to me after reading a very personal poem that I had broke down after reading and not only did they give me a hug, they told me that they had gone through that same experience and thanked me for putting it on the stage for the world to hear, since the subject is usually stigmatized.

What’s important to you?

Family and friends are really important to me but also serving others. I want to dedicate my life to making the world a better place which is why I am currently serving in the PeaceCorps and studying for my Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Imperfect Pictures

Why do we delete blurry photos? Hit the trashcan when we see red eye or an extra flab of skin? We should love mistook photographs. Undocumented moments. Moments that cannot be tamed by the lens.  The blurry laugh line of your grandpa’s smile as he sits back in his rocking chair telling stories of back in the day mischief and wander.

the camera knowing that this moment was too great to be staged. The grasp of your mother’s hand intertwined in yours as she takes her last breath. Tears uncaptured falling onto your hands.

A child dancing in the wind, dandelion seeds swirling around, their laughter touching your cheek. Daring you to put down your phone and dance. Children are more knowledgeable than adults. They know that technology cannot replace interaction. They understand how to live life, to enjoy the sunrise, soak in the scents of flowers of grass and earth. Imperfect photos remind us that the screen cannot replace people. The night sky cannot be felt in a Facebook post. Dreams and aspirations will not be contained in 140 characters or a hashtag. Fears and regrets cannot fully be expressed or heard in a 4 walled plexiglas solitary confinement. Love cannot be shared the same without the touch and hug of a friend. Active listening without distraction.

20623612_10214193117806986_1926574328_oDon’t be mistaken, photographs are beautiful, we are able to capture a percentage of a moment through a mechanical apparatus that soaks in  light… that is magnificent but realize that there’s always a place and time for everything and though the camera can be an amazing tool it can also be the knife that stabs us in the back as we lose moments with distraction. And if you must capture then don’t pose, don’t delete post the photos with the least amount of preparation. The ones with extra hazy laughlines, wrinkles and too much or too little makeup.

You never know when this moment will be captured and ruined.


I was 8 years old when I wrote my first suicide letter At 8, I wanted to die, found that life was too difficult and wished for a time machine

Shaking pen hand, trembling my goodbyes across construction paper, shouting silence to the world I don’t belong, never belonged. Tears smudging letters, creating thumbprints evidence of my existence. Existence I  want to wash away. Moments flood the mind, moments alone at this table with thoughts and a pen.

As a child I watched my family drown themselves with poison and addiction so they didn’t have to feel anymore. Everyone was slowly committing suicide so I decided to write mine.

At 14 I took razor blades to my arms trying to cut the hurt off, trying to get rid of the evidence of my failures. I took scissors to my legs and stomach trying to cut my fat away. Shaking scissors interlaced in defiant fingers, cutting the moments away, ridding my body of ugly of laughing, pointing children mooing in the hallway

Hoping to be my own lipo-surgeon

At 15 I found my uncle’s suicide letter, written on canvas so elegantly, telling everyone it wasn’t their fault and not to blame themselves. I spent hours at my uncle’s grave, contemplating why, justifying his reasons then justifying mine. I imagined his moment-
Staring down the black hole barrel of a gun, the smell of dumpster death lingering, contemplating the moments that came to this.

Counting the bullets in the chamber, 1, 2, 3.

Each a different tragedy leading to this. One click into position-raise the black hole where an outstretched  hand should be, a heart should be. He goes unnoticed, he leaves like the silence of a tree in the woods that nobody hears. With one click.

At 23, I wrapped a belt around my neck. The belt a noose to end the nuisance of breathing. I pulled, playing tug of war with my breath. before collapsing to the floor and clutching the dying inside me. wheezing in and out of a self induced asthmatic attack. Each belt notch marking a tragedy, a devastating moment coming to where the belt loop meets the strap.

At 25, I learned that my brother drove his truck at a tree. 20623250_10214193117886988_1237800995_oKey burning in ignition, foot on the pedal revving the engine to life, he never felt so alive. Shifter in park, just two shifts down and the moment of adrenaline

the moment of impact. Fingers caress the button contemplating the moments
2 shifts down, engine charges ahead

tree in sight as he closes his eyes. My brother wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t gotten stuck in the mud right before the crash.

That’s when I stopped dreaming of my own death, when I realized that someone I cared about was dreaming of theirs.


Dear Friend,

I got accepted into grad school! I’m so excited…don’t I sound excited?

I guess I’m not as excited as I should be because I only have 3 months to say I’m sorry, I apologize.

3 months to make amends to take back all the words that I said that slithered through your ear canal, leaving remnants of poison in your cranial cavity, acidifying your blood stream and finally sucking the blood out of your heart…leaving it cold. Colder than bitter frostbit ankles on long winter hikes through Antarctica. I left it below freezing.

And now I have 3 months to unthaw freezer burn, to defibrillate your heart from cardiac arrest, repair puncture wounds and warm your soul with hot cocoa. I’ll let you have the marshmallows.

I’m sorry that’s not enough, not enough time because I caused more than 3 months worth of damage and instead of healing your wounds I’ve been blanketing them in bleach, whitewashing them to agonizing thresholds, digging into your skin deeper and deeper beyond what any skin graft could repair. 20628961_10214193117086968_808854416_o

I apologize for not being genuine, for pretending everything was Alice in Wonderland shoveling all the pain down the rabbit hole and now…Where’s Alice? Searching for her in a Where’s Waldo portrait. And finding that she doesn’t exist, or maybe she’s in costume.

I apologize for sounding condescending, when I said I was proud of you, I meant it. I am so fucking proud of you. I hope that sounded heartfelt
it was, it is.

I apologize for taking jokes too far, not understanding boundaries or understanding but still crossing the line. Every time. Treating you as a finish line in a marathon race, I shouldn’t have crossed. But I did. Life’s not a competition but sometimes we still treat it like it is.

And now I have 3 months to shred the tears on pages in your book of pain, turning them into confetti pieces thrown on your birthday. Each becoming a wish for the future that could come true after you blow out the candles.

I wish you happiness, I wish you love. I wish you healed wounds. Scabbed over turned to scars that I can only hope go away eventually.

You’ve always meant the world to me and I still love you. Take out that piece of paper that I gave you..  I still love you.

20623379_10214193126247197_1988855172_oThese next three months I will help craft our resentment into paper airplanes named X and O and we can fly them in our spare time. Every Time they crash will be the last line in a goodbye letter XOXO from me to you.
P.S. I’m sorry that I wrote this into a poem but this was my only way of knowing that you’d hear my apology.

Sincerely, I hope you forgive me.

What advice would you give to other creative people who feel insecure / stuck in their art?

Keep writing, be in spaces where creativity and writing happens, practice makes perfect and if you get stuck…change your environment or people around you. Share your work with different places and avenues, with schools, publications, and open mics.

Interview and poems edited for grammar, clarity, and aesthetic / spacing.

Fashion is Heart Vol. 2





I say I’m learning how to love myself because it’s a process, one that will never end. Bodies change. Weight fluctuates, especially if you hate running in cold weather like I do. We age and wrinkle. We can’t always afford the luxury of buying attire we love. We might not have the time to do our nails regularly or put on mascara in the morning. But I love myself, and hopefully you do too, through all of it. Hopefully what I’m wearing isn’t as beautiful as the way I smile and greet others. Hopefully I’m a positive role model for others, someone people want around, because I’m kind and smart and adventurous. Hopefully the me I have to offer is a whole lot more than what I look like. But, it is nice to take some photos in clothes I love once in a while.

Do you live in Michigan or somewhere that I could travel to by car? Let’s do a photo shoot! Let’s talk about non-traditional beauty standards and drink chai tea and smile. Live too far? Send your photos to hyypeonline [at] gmail [dot] com to be featured on Hyype.

Love, as always,
Kelsey May & Jamie

On the model: “Free Your Mind” t-shirt is a Plato’s Closet find, men’s section, size Small.
White chalkboard-style text on black t-shirt is also a Plato’s Closet find, women’s section, size Medium.
Blue scarf is from Goodwill.
Blue anti-Line 5 t-shirt is custom made from Woosah Outfitters.
Bracelet & orange beaded earring from Women At Risk Boutique (check them out FOR SURE, because patronizing an organization that employs / supports previously trafficked women is the best reason to treat yourself to new jewelry and apparel).
Nail polish is from Ella + Mila, a vegan make up and nail polish company.
Shark ring is from Etsy authfashion (one size fits most) and is still in great condition after over a year of owning it.

Model: Kelsey May

Photographer: Jamie Anderson

first fridays: july 7

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On the first Friday of every month, Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan bursts with art, performances, food, and laughter. Avenue for the Arts‘ free event is attended by artists, curators, art-lovers, young people, students, and world travelers.

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Shibori [indigo dyeing] mini-workshop with Annie from LIGHT Gallery + Studio

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All displayed artwork, books, shelves, candles, jars, etc. inside LIGHT is for sale.
What a beautiful way to shop!

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My favorite pieces were from smallholding craft & co. [Mackenzie Lund]
and vanessa autumn.

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Trippy painting on display in Smokin’ J’s

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Affordable handcrafted wood earrings by jarrod napierkowski
for sale in the UICA gift shop

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my husband, Robert Fraser, and good friend, Alexis De Weese

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These flowers were part of a multimodal installation and series on mental wellness.
This piece was titled “Self Care isn’t always Pretty.”

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This station allowed viewers to respond anonymously. The invitation helped get something off your chest.

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Art is everywhere. This beautiful tilework was at one building’s entrance.

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summer ’17 love

We love to celebrate beauty, so much so that I often stop strangers to ask if I can snap a photo of them. Beauty is about so many things: confidence, selflessness, smiling, charm. What makes you feel beautiful?

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Thanks to Bri Ross, Emily Hubbard, Taylor, Lindsey, and Deborah Zillmer, and Jennifer Beardsley for posing!

hiking thoughts

written by Kelsey May
July 5th, 2017


Hiking is a new love. I began hiking just last year with my husband. We love exploring untouched parcels of land, places where trees are taller than buildings and deer are startled to see you. It’s lovely to reconnect with the earth, to place my palms on trees older than anyone I know, to identify birds by their calls. I love seeing young animals; this year, I’ve seen goslings, ducklings, baby squirrels, fawns, and baby birds. In the past, I’ve seen baby skunks, rabbits, and raccoons. I love chasing dragonflies and smelling pine needles. I love feeling whole.


beauty is pain: photo collage

We feel the pain that can – unfortunately – accompany many definitions of “beauty.” You should not have to exist in pain simply to feel beautiful, but confidence is hard to build and often comes as a result of falling down or feeling invalidated by others.


We hope you are able to reach out to important people in your life (relatives, teachers, therapists, friends) for messages of positivity and love. If you struggle with a condition or chronic pain, we hope you feel especially beautiful in your resilience and perseverance.

If you struggle with self image, eating disorders, or bodily harm, consider asking for professional help. You can also contact the National Eating Disorders Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.