Camas High School student Emma Hahn became interested in photography because of her older sister, Stephanie.
“She had taken a class at the high school and had done photography, so she helped me a little bit, and then I kept going,” Emma said. “I think it was more of a, ‘Hey, my sister’s into this, I want to try it’ (type of thing).”
So when it was time for Emma to choose what she wanted to work on for her senior project, it was only natural she landed on something involving both photography and her sister.
Emma hosted a photo exhibit at Nico Bella Salon on March 1 to raise funds to donate to Oregon Health and Science University in honor of Stephanie, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010.
Emma put 20 of her favorite photos on display in the exhibit, which was part of the Downtown Camas Association’s March First Friday event.
Some of the photos were from her recent trip to New York. Some were nature shots. One was an abstract photo Emma had taken in Italy a few years ago. One of her top sellers was a photo from the Oregon Coast.
“(The selection process) involved looking at my past photos and picking my favorites. I knew that I wanted 10 prints and 10 on canvas,” Emma said. “When I did my proposal for this project, I was like, ‘I’ll do abstract, nature and landscape.’ I worked that all into all of it.”
Emma hoped to raise at least $600. Instead, she wound up selling nearly all of her photos and raising $1,000.
“It was nerve-wracking, but it was also exciting,” she said. “I was really proud of myself at the end of it.”
One of the best parts of the project for Emma was when she told Stephanie about what she was doing.
“She was really proud of me,” Emma said. “She thought it was really cool. I wanted to do something that could somehow relate back to her and help her in some way, or people like her.”
Stephanie Hahn, 27, now lives in San Francisco and works as a representative for a drug company. She had her first epileptic episode when she was a freshman at Seattle University.
“I remember (my mom) waking me up in the middle of the night and us having to drive to Seattle to go see her because she was in the hospital,” Emma said. “(Stephanie) didn’t know what (was wrong) at the time. It was scary to see her in the hospital and her having to deal with it, but she was very strong. She is better now; she knows when (an episode is) coming. But back then, when she didn’t know what she had, she was (scared).”
“It was tough,” said Patty Hahn, mother of Emma and Stephanie. “It was hard being so far away and getting those phone calls. You don’t know what’s going on. I was with (Stephanie) the day they diagnosed her with epilepsy. I think we were both really shocked. We didn’t think that’s what it was. (She didn’t have) the grand mal seizures that people see or think about when people think about epilepsy. She would just faint and pass out.”
Stephanie recovered, went back to school and eventually found medication that works for her.
“She gets lots of sleep, because that’s a big trigger for her,” Patty said. “She eats really well. She exercises. She takes very good care of herself.”
Meanwhile, Emma is immersing herself into her photography. She finds ways to involve picture-taking into most aspects of her life, big or small. She has taken some of her friends’ senior portraits. She takes photos and writes stories for The Camasonian, Camas High School’s student news publication. If she goes on a hike or out with a friend or on a trip with her family, she is sure to grab her Nikon D3300.
Emma said she has learned to see things in different ways and to think like a photographer.
“I think the challenge is trying to find the right angle. You can honestly make anything look interesting if you take it from the right perspective,” Emma said. “You have to be able to be willing to look at things in ways that maybe other people wouldn’t.”
According to Patty, Emma has “always been interested” in just about everything around her.
“She has a very inquisitive mind,” Patty said of Emma. “I think a lot of the time that’s what motivates her.”
At Camas High School, Emma took Doug Heugli’s beginner photography class as a freshman, when her interest was just starting to develop. By the time she returned to Heugli for his advanced class last semester, her abilities had developed markedly.
“She does have a good eye,” Heugli said. “She’s good enough to capture a good image (and) is able to make it a better image (with Adobe Photoshop). I think she could be a great photojournalist. There’s never been a timeline that she couldn’t hit. Her organizational skills are not those of a high school student; she’s very mature in that way. She’s driven, always asking questions and wanting to grow her skills.”
Emma will attend the University of Puget Sound, where she’ll major in communications. Her dream job is to work at National Geographic.
She said she enjoys photography because it helps her spend more time outdoors and get some exercise.
“It’s kind of therapeutic,” Emma said. “I’ll go take a walk in my neighborhood, take my camera with me, listen to music and take pictures. It’s just kind of a relaxation thing. (Photography) lets you see things in a different light and realize, ‘Wow, the world really is beautiful. We just have to look at it from a different perspective.'”