Victoria Hannan, Creative Director & Photographer

What do you do?

I'm an Associate Creative Director at a digital agency in Melbourne, a fiction writer and a photographer.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

Make time to do the work that helps you come alive.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

I went through a long period of time where I didn't write a word of fiction. From when I graduated university to when I was about 25. I started again in a time of great personal turmoil and it was a long, slow road but I kept at it and somehow came runner up in a McSweeney's writing competition. That really changed things for me. It was the permission I needed to keep going.

I was at Coney Island alone on a blustery November day and I asked some strangers if I could take their portraits. It was the first time I'd done it and my hands were shaking I was so nervous. I got the films back and the photos turned out better than I could’ve imagined. This kind of street photography opened so many doors for me, including shooting street style for Glamour UK and Fashion Week for Time Out London. Coney Island was where it all started.

In 2007, I was made redundant from my job in Manchester and couldn’t find any other work. I moved to London where I found a job that changed my life. I had a boss who believed in me, who pushed me to do good work because he knew what I was capable of. He taught me the power of standing up for what I believe in, but also picking my battles, and of speaking only when I have something true and valuable to say. I have no idea who or where I’d be if it wasn’t for that boss.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I'm working on a collection of short stories in collaboration with my friend and artist, Liesl Pfeffer. Another friend and I are putting together a website that profiles people who have creative side projects and pursuits outside their nine to five jobs. Last year, I curated a group photography show in support of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, so I’d like to continue to find ways to engage and activate socially and politically. I’d also like to exercise and sleep more.

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

I had a conversation with Dave Eggers in 2010 about self doubt. He told me he still battles with the voices in his head and said to be strong, write the truth and triangulate (find writers whose opinions you respect and share, share, share). Since then I’ve heard dozens of writers I respect say the same - most recently Helen Garner telling a sold out room at Federation Square that she thinks she’s a piece of shit - and I find it comforting that I’m not alone.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I live with two friends who make music together. They have a studio in our shed and work so hard at it. Their dedication to writing and practising music forces me to evaluate how I spend my own time. If they’re rehearsing while I’m watching Netflix, I turn Netflix off, open Scrivener and try to write. That’s probably not the answer you were looking for but it’s been a significant motivator for me.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change? 

Diversity and equal representation both at every level within agencies and in the work we do.

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

Other than questions about my childhood acting career, nothing! If there’s something I want to talk about, I’ll always find a way to bring it up.

How can we find out more about your work? 

Instagram and Twitter: @victorialhannan

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?  

Liesl Pfeffer

What is your dream project?

I’ve got a novel brewing. It’ll be the fourth one I’ve written but I feel like this could be the first one I’m not embarrassed to show people. Apart from winning an Academy Award, writing and publishing a book of fiction is all I’ve ever wanted to do.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I don’t own a digital camera (except my phone). I only shoot on film. I’ve never had a photography lesson, I just worked out how to use my camera by reading guides online, watching YouTube videos and making a lot of mistakes.

If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice, who would it be and why?

There are too many to mention but here are just a few who I think are saying things we need to listen to and doing things we should know about:

  • Maxine Beneba Clarke
  • Michelle LawNakkiah Lui
  • Loretta Bolotin
  • Anna Ross

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

It’s obvious but: just do the fucking work. You’re the only person standing in the way of you and doing the work so just do. the. work.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Agencies are still male dominated, especially at leadership levels. In my career, I’ve been told that women aren’t funny and that I’m not capable of writing about sport because I’m a woman. Just recently, I was on a shoot and was one of only two women in a room with 16 men.

I recently tried to explain to a male colleague that as well as having the same workload as him, I have to battle to fight tiny injustices and biases that are ingrained in agency culture that many men don't even notice are there. It’s exhausting and compared to many, I’ve got it pretty easy.

There are so many think pieces about why there aren't more women in senior positions in agencies. I think it’s partly because we get tired of the fight. That’s why networks like SheSays and Make Nice are so important. We need to rally not just to keep each other afloat, but to help each other swim.