The fact that Hannah Harris started the@browngirlhands Instagram account in June 2020, at the height of the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, hasn't been lost on anyone. Just a month before, renowned, critical beauty journalist Jessica DeFino launched her Unpublishable newsletter with an article entitled Where Are All The Brown Hands?It certainly seems Hannah's account was destined to become the platform for a movement. Since then, she's been featured on British Vogue and Dazed — proof of the impact her work has had. I decided to talk to her about what happened next when it came to life and work in a post-pandemic world.
Due to graduate from Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in The Business of Beauty and Fragrance, I spoke with Hannah on a rainy afternoon and my first question was:
What are you most excited to do with your degree?
"I'll be going into beauty marketing, not sure which brand yet," she answers swiftly and I sense she has a few brands in mind. "I'm excited to be fully immersed in the industry every day; right now I'm doing my school work and homework and then doing brand work on the side."
I've spoken to many creatives and always love to ask about how they work. For full-time student Hannah, it's all about organization.
"Everything is scheduled. That's the only way to get it all done," she says while acknowledging that she's lucky enough to have some school friends help her out from time to time. I ask her:
What was the moment that you really knew you were on to something with @browngirlhands?
"I launched at a very specific time, June 2020, and once people began to understand the concept it grew on its own. The community wasn't coming to the page just for pretty products, they wanted to learn. I created a reel about algorithms and algorithmic bias — when you search for 'pretty hands' everything that comes up is a white image. I shared how Pinterest allows you to search by skin tone and people were just like 'thank you so much.' That informative content is what I really want to focus on in the future."
While Hannah sounds like she has a clear vision for the account, she admits that once she started taking on work, things got really real, really fast.
"When brands started reaching out for professional services I was like 'wait? I'm not a real photographer!' So I reached out to a few people and asked, 'what do I charge?,' 'should I do a day rate?' I had all these questions."
Suffice to say Hannah's work has grown since those early days, but she says she still keeps the creative process very simple.
"I don't have a studio. I'm always traveling between school and home so I keep the paper backdrops in a portfolio so I can travel and shoot easily. I'll go outside and set up a piece of colored paper but if there's no paper, I'll hold up my hand to the sky, so it's just a blue background. It's that simple for me — I work around the weather. If the weather's not good I won't shoot that day."
It's easy to see Hannah's simple, uncluttered style in her work; you always notice the product and you always notice her hands. I ask her where she finds inspiration for such a clean and colorful aesthetic.
"Pinterest and beauty photography but I've always had a cool aesthetic — people always comment that my room looks like no-one lives in it," she laughs. "So I think my aesthetic comes from that, but also, by keeping it simple, I can shoot simply. When I first started shooting, I just used the white wall in my room as my background. The good thing about shooting at home means you always have access to things you need, so I'm able to adapt during a shoot if I suddenly decide I want to add a new element."
Although Hannah is able to indulge and do what she wants when it comes to creating for her own sake, she says that when it's a brand commission, the process is very much led by the brand, what they need and what they're expecting as final deliverables. However, one thing that always remains as the key feature are Hannah's hands, so I have to ask her:
How much thought do you dedicate to your always beautifully manicured nails?
"My manicurist recommended that I get gel nails so I can paint over them myself. My nails are protected underneath and I can change the color when I want, then remove it and I have pristine gels underneath. But since the rise of press-ons, I have an entire wardrobe to play with, so I can create mix and match styles and even paint the press-ons; it's like I have endless options."
Finally, if you're dying to know just how Hannah keeps her hands so glowy and camera-ready — it's one simple, quick fix: Glossier Futuredew.
Pass It On
Check out the Instagram accounts Hannah loves to follow for inspiration when she isn't creating or studying.
Writer and brand consultant Chrissy Rutherford: "I feel like I learn so much from her — not just fashion."