By Melissa Ponton
Everyone has their own definition of the word “happy,” but what exactly does “happy” look like for people with dynamically different lives and experiences? From April 11 to April 14, Hannah Spiegel, senior photography major, showcased original photographs in a collection entitled “Happy.” Photographs of Spiegel’s friends, family and colleagues lined the walls of the S.A.L. Gallery, all donning smiles and showcasing what happiness looks like on each individual.
Spiegel’s series originated when she took a trip to Iceland with the sociology department in June of 2017. Iceland has been named one of the happiest countries in the world by the annual World Happiness Report, so members of the sociology department decided to investigate how happy people really were within the nation. After the trip, Spiegel decided to extend her stay in Iceland and backpack the country with a friend.
“I asked people, ‘what makes you so happy?’ and I found out that they’re not as happy as you would think.” Everyone has a story, and that sometimes cannot be translated into data.
For this exhibition, Spiegel explored types of photography outside of what she’s previously done. “My entire photography career has been nature and landscape, and I wanted to challenge myself,” she said. Despite being interested in and curious about people, Spiegel has always had difficulties photographing them. “For my senior show, I really wanted to push the envelope and meld the two studies together.” Spiegel found inspiration through her spirituality, and uses yoga and chakras to achieve personal growth and to push herself beyond her comfort zone.
Curious, happy, interesting, and inquisitive are the words that Spiegel used to describe her collection. Over the past four years on campus, Spiegel has seen both personal and technical growth within herself as an artist. “I’m more confident in it [making art], I would always try to what was correct academically, and I was always unsure if it was good enough,” she said. “But I realize that there’s a difference between being good technically and then just being good as an artist and then finding a balance between the two.” Alumna Liz Lopez gave Spiegel the best advice she’s ever received: just be yourself and don’t always think about what others will think about you or your art.
Spiegel chose to pursue photography regardless of how frustrating it can be at times. “Art is important in the fact that it is able to explain something in a way words can’t, and [it] expresses something in a language that anyone can understand.” To see more of Spiegel’s work, visit her Instagram @_hannahsp or her website HRSPhoto.weebly.com.