Leah Hennel: Interview with a legendary photojournalist

Leah Hennel: Interview with a legendary photojournalist



my dad grew up on a farm near Staedtler Alberta and so my brother and I would spend our summers up there we go to the family brandings every May long weekend take photos of them and yeah I just I I just love it it's to me it's a way it's a stress reliever it's a way for me to get away from the city and the daily life and and take photos of just beautiful countryside and amazing people haiti's 15 euros it's Dublin from the camera store and I'm here today with international award-winning photojournalist who yeah Hannah thanks so much for being here today with us so what is it that you do exactly what is photojournalism so photojournalism is truthful storytelling capturing real moments using photography or video he has just real moments documenting real moments and what is it that got you into photojournalism so when I was younger my mom had gotten my brother and I a subscription to National Geographic and like most young kids we would read all these amazing stories and look at these just amazing photos from all over the world and I think I was just kind of hooked cuz my math marks weren't that great so I knew that I needed to find a career where I didn't have to do math yeah and what was the path I got you so in high school I did this work experience course I think I was about 16 great tenth grade 11 and it was a work experience course at the Calgary Sun in their photo department so back then I developed their film I made prints worked in a darkroom I met a lot of my mentors now like Mike Drew and I just learned from there and then I took a sate photojournalism course and I graduated in 98 well still working at the Sun and then in 2000 I went to the Herald and I had the graveyard shift 11:00 at night till 7 a.m. yeah so what would you do dream the graveyard shift how did you get photos of that so again we'd cover breaking news or we had a police scanner and if there was a house fire we would go to that or I would go to that story and then I did a story on the Blackfoot diner cuz it was open 24/7 I would just hang out with the people there and get to know them and then I did I just tried to find anybody who was working the same shift as me you know in in different careers and I would document them I'm sure it wasn't always easy being a photojournalist I know you had a young son when you started your career through some of the more challenging parts you know working late working long hours putting tons of time into it so how are you able to do that yeah so it's hard I think it well I know it's hard for any parent and who's working a job full-time it's hard to you know you're constantly feeling guilty that you're missing out on spending time with your child and you're missing spending time doing the projects you want to do so I had a lot of help when I first started when I was at the Herald and I had my son I was a single mom for three years and I got to a point where I thought I just couldn't do this anymore I couldn't work the shift work I couldn't I just I couldn't do it I just was at that place where I'm a normal job yeah I don't even I just was at a bad place my mom had passed away and then I have this son and a lot of my colleagues helped me out with whether it was childcare or they just said Leah will help you like you know you need to keep doing this this is your passion and and my dad helped me out a lot if it wasn't for my dad I honestly wouldn't have been able to do this job because he would watch hunter when I worked the night shift and you know the weekends or you know breaking news happens and I had to go to Medicine Hat for a week and you know he would yeah yeah so that helped and you know I just got progressively easier the older my son my son 14 now so with Hunter have you been able to incorporate him into your work at all like does he like to come along I don't know if he likes to but he's made to know something no he does come along I take him because I do a lot of my own personal projects and documentaries outside of my work at the newspaper and one time I took him to a beekeeper because I wanted him to see where honey came from and I was doing this documentary got in them and he came and he liked it I think until he got stung and I think he was about six so now he's terrified of bees so what is it about the Western photography that keeps you coming back for more you know I think I've always wanted to well I know I've always wanted to be a rancher but I so I lived vicariously through them but you know it started from a really young age my dad grew up on a farm central Alberta Staedtler Alberta and we would go with my dad and my mom and my brother we hop in the car from Calgary and we'd go for brandings up at the kennel family farm every May long weekend and just from there I just got so attached to this lifestyle this getting out in the country and just being with really good people and just it was just amazing it's I always say on the weekends everyone drives to the mountains and I drive to the prairies the wildlife the scenery there's so much in the prairies yeah we're not just good for a mountain no and then going to like the Hutterite colonies I've always been interested in that right it's a different culture and there's lovely a whole different world and it's like stepping back in time now you have quite an amazing collection of Western photographs of people and places so much so that you've actually put together a collection called along the Western Front so what can you expect to see in that new title so there'll be a lot of like cowboys cowgirls portraits a lot of daily life on the ranch brandings cattle drives a lot of the Hutterite colonies in southern Alberta some of their photos and they're from brandings again and you photographed so many different challenging subjects and you know a range from sport photography to fashioned food to breaking news would have been some of the more difficult things you've had to photograph I think recently about a couple years ago myself and a writer Christina franku we did a story on doctor assisted death doctor assisted dying and we photographed Paul and I met Paul at 9:30 in the morning and he died at just after 3:00 I believe that was hard cuz I didn't know Paul and he wanted us there he want us to document his last hours and so to be in the room when someone takes their last breath is it I can't really describe it it's really powerful you know my mom she died in 2004 from cancer and you know I watched her slowly fade away my brother was about a year and a half ago from a heart attack at 40 so I feel like yeah you know I think my personal experiences maybe helped me understand what other people are going through and maybe what they need but I mean it's always it's so different for everybody but in terms of the emotional side I mean you know what Paul it was you know my my friend Christina and I both had a lot have personal experiences and you know we were both crying in the room you know I had my camera and tears are running down my face I don't stop being human just because I'm want to get a photo you know and then another one was Barbie Harris I met her at the on the streets and asked her if I could do a documentary on her and just see how she lives and I was interested in the women's side of being on the streets and being homeless and she was amazing and she let me take along with her you know I for a year I would try and get to see her in between assignments and wherever she was and we became friends and she got cancer in that year and ended up dying and so I was there for that I met her family you know her social worker it was hard you know I also think that when I'm documenting and doing stories on stuff like death I want to show who that person was and I you know it's a privilege when someone lets you document them like that and I go up for drives all the time and I meet all these people on their ranches and it's it's therapy for me because it helps me get over you know some of the harder stuff that I cover when my brother died I have one of my ranching friends invited me to come out to one of their brandings you know and it helps and and I can tell that this isn't just a job for you I mean you do a lot of stuff on your shift but then you keep working and you can tell that it's really fun for you you know it's it's my passion I'll never stop being a photographer I still have to pry the camera from my cold dead hands right that's my passion it's not just a job like I it sounds cheesy but I really love what I do and I really love meeting people and learning about different cultures and I love history and I just think it's amazing it's amazing when I look back and what I've done in my career I mean it's amazing all the places that I've been to and people I've met and friends I've made along the way I think that's the biggest thing is I feel like I have you know I've lost a lot of family members but I feel like I've gained a lot of new family members if that makes sense you you

31 thoughts on “Leah Hennel: Interview with a legendary photojournalist”

  1. Such a great episode and personal story. Sometimes we love talking about gear so much and I think we often leave out the art side and Human Side of photography. This is my favorite episode now. Respect

  2. Jordan’s wife has done good. I’ve been playing red dead redemption 2 a lot lately so I like horses and I like lassos. Photos are really good. Like some of the action shots. Your ginger son seems tortured. Best leave him be.

  3. Amazingly talented photographer, and can I say thank you for not asking what gear she uses. It was good to place the emphasis on the photos and not what camera system she uses because ultimately none of that matters. Well done 😊

  4. These intimate interviews with photographers are fast becoming my favorites of the Evelyn and Dave era of TCSTV.

    What really strikes me about his one is that Leah (like me) is at home behind the lens, not in front of it. She's relatively unemotional just looking at her speak on this video. But then cut to her work, and the feeling and passion of it really leaps out at you. Even her B&W work is colorful 😉

  5. Great initiative, good work. A look at the photographer rather than the gear, OMG, and from a camera store youtube channel! Way to go! After the flurry of gear talk over the past few months, definitely worth spending the time to illustrate why we guy the gear

  6. She's very talented indeed. Love content like this! I missed a wider shot in the interview as all of the shots were very close. A wider shot would have given it a bit more oxygen. Just my opinion. I tend to only cut to close when its motivated and I want to put emphasis. Still thought it was well produced and edited. I could watch this kinda content for hours. Thank you.

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