3 min read

A Conversation with Photography Instructor Hannah Foslien


You work in the field of documentary photography with a focus on sports. How did you come to combine these two interests?

My youth was key in shaping my career aspirations. Growing up, I was surrounded by sports, from my father's stories of winning the Big Ten Individual Championship in the 2-mile for the University of Minnesota to me twirling around the living room as a young girl dreaming of becoming Kristi Yamaguchi. It did not matter what sport it was, as a family, we Fosliens were either playing it or watching it. From backyard basketball games of HORSE to 4th of July breakfast at Wimbledon, sports are a major part of my life.

For photography, there was a specific event that captured my attention. When I was five-years-old, photographs became magic to me. My dad took me to visit my grandma, who lived two hours away. I begged my mum to let me take the camera. After lots of pleading, puppy dog eyes, and promising to keep it extra safe, my mum sent us on our way with the camera loaded with a roll of film. Two hours is a really long time for a child of five to sit still. I used this time to examine the camera's buttons, latches, and counters. It did not take me long to find the best thing ever - a latch on the side! If you pushed up on the latch, a door would pop open. Open, close, open, close - all the way to grandma's. All the way home - open, close, open, close. When my mum found out about my fun new latch, she calmly explained that the film was ruined. Confusion reigned, a fit was thrown. I demanded we have the prints developed. They were all a brown muddy mess. For the second time that week, I heard the explanation of photos being a moment of light captured on film through a lens. Magic, it had to be magic.
What projects are you currently working on?
My editorial assignments take me to many Minnesota sporting events. With a series of images, I tell the story of the game for my clients. Some days this comes easily, other days it's a challenge - especially when a key play is missed or blocked from view. I find that every game I am piecing together a puzzle to let the viewer know what happened without words.

For the past three baseball seasons, I have been working on a long-term personal project entitled "Tools of the Trade: Baseball." At the onset, I  found myself in a rut with my editorial work and nothing seemed to pull me out of that rut. Until, I saw a photo of a Polaroid Macro camera with an example photo of an eye. I developed an idea of what I could do with this camera - photograph baseball equipment up close and personal. Due to the nature of the camera, I can only work on this project at night games when the dugouts are in heavy shadow. Some days I set out with a particular photo in mind, other days images just appear in front of me. By standing on a chair or kneeling on the ground or changing between the five preset lenses, a single piece of equipment that has been seen a million times looks and feels entirely different. While still and moving images are prominent in the world of sports, the minutia of the game's equipment is glossed over, such as the name on a glove, pine tar on the handle of a bat, or the snacks provided to the players in the dugouts. These are the details that make up the story of the game.
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
First and foremost, my hope is to pay homage to those who have taught and inspired me to be the visual storyteller I am today. With every shoot, I go out with the mindset that it's an opportunity to learn something new. When teaching, I share the knowledge I have gained in my career in order to assist my students going forward - sometimes being told the answer is not as helpful as being shown the answer. I have heard from prior students that they find my passion for photography infectious.
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
I'm excited to meet new students that are interested in visual storytelling and watch them grow over the course of the workshop.
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
My website is http://www.photofoslien.com/, but I post most often on Instagram - @PhotoFoslien.

Hannah will be teaching "Visual Narrative: Telling Stories Through Still Images" June 26-28, 2017. Learn more about her workshop here.

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