"Seriously, it's all about making friends."
That's one of the last lines in Phoenix photographer Hannah Minkner's "about" section on her website Weekends Are for Lovers, or WAFL. But after spending even half an hour with Minkner, whose background is in design work, it is clear that this is not just a hokey, feel-good cliche for the 25-year-old. It is a way of life, infused in everything she does, and it has gotten her where she is today.
In her talk "Be Free, Not Cheap: Why I Love Collaboration" Saturday, October 18, at the Method + Madness Conference during Phoenix Design Week, Minkner will explain why she's so drawn to getting to know and work with other creatives, rather than just taking on clients, and will probably show you some pretty amazing photos of friends she's made along the way.
From the get-go, Minkner has focused on making friends, and with a little hard work and talent, the rest has fallen into place.
Minkner started out in design, one of the reasons speaking at Phoenix Design Week is right up her alley. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2011 with a graphic information and technology degree, which she describes as a technical look at design and how it is used in a workplace. One day after graduating, she walked straight into the cooperative workspace Gangplank Chandler. A handful of résumés in tow, she simply started going from table to table, talking to the different Gangplankers and handing out her application.
"I was like 'I do design. Can I have a job?'" Minkner says. "And they're all like 'Eh, we're just trying to do our coding. Can you go away?' Not really, they were all very friendly."
Eventually, Minkner landed an internship there for about six months before she decided she didn't want to be confined to strictly design.
"In [Gangplank] I just realized I thought of myself as a photographer but other people didn't," she says. "So I started doing photography."
Of course, it wasn't quite as simple as that. Minkner said many people advised her to drop photography, stick with design, and not split her attention between the two.
Minkner didn't listen and is proud of herself for not quitting. In fact, she continued with both design and photography up until about a month and a half ago when she decided to focus on her commercial and editorial photography business Minkmade and her personal and lifestyle photography business WAFL full-time. She says she still keeps what she learned through design in mind while she shoots and that it only makes her a better photographer.
But she found that the photographer community in Phoenix is not an easy one to break into. Full of cliques and fierce competition, it proved overwhelming and discouraging for the newcomer.
"When I first started looking for others photographers on Facebook, that's the first thing I saw was a lot of anger and people bashing each other," Minkner says. "It was scary. It was also entertaining if you stayed far enough away."
By being open and friendly, she was able to find like-minded people in Phoenix's creative community to work with. She was also able to tap into the growing Phoenix Instagram community, which she credits in helping bring her together with other photographers and artists in the city, especially Madeleine Browning who pops up in a fair amount of Minkner's projects and Instagram posts.
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Ever since, collaboration has been key. From her creative interviews in which she profiles other creatives for her website to her killer videos and GIFs, it truly is all about friends for Minkner.
"I think as much as you can make that happen, instead of networking, making friends who also share your passions, I think the work is going to be so much better and more meaningful," she says.
Catch Hannah Minkner at the Method + Madness Conference Saturday, October 18, at 2:30 p.m. at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 North Third Street, during Phoenix Design Week. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit phxdw.com.