Poulton teenager Hannah Riley looks like becoming “snaparazzi” to the stars – when she’s not hard at work capturing wedding memories.
At 17 the fine arts student and talented photographer already has her own business, blog and is helping a big name London cameraman.
It’s no wonder Hannah’s been snapped up herself.
It’s not every teenager who includes Britain’s best known political spin doctor Alastair Campbell in her followers on Twitter.
Campbell, former media mentor to Tony Blair’s New Labour, knows Hannah’s one to watch.
Showbiz photographer and columnist Joe Alvarez agrees. He covers all types of showbiz events worldwide, such as MTV awards, film festivals, studio work and top model sessions. His Friends network on social networking sites reads like a Who’s Who of the celebrity A list – Christopher Walken, Pamela Anderson and more in their midst.
He head hunted Hannah after she presented him with her business card on a recent trip to Westminster.
Hannah explains: “I was on a political trip with the college and spotted him outside Portcullis House and knew he was a photographer so introduced myself and handed over my card. He was quite taken aback. I now do his Facebook page for him. I ran a blog for him at the Cannes Film Festival and kept a diary for him. He now calls me his child prodigy. My mum’s thrilled.”
She’s also been working in London which she says is her favourite place in Britain.
Before the Olympics opened, BT River of Music brought artists from across the countries competing on big stages across London.
Hannah was in the thick of the action thanks to an access all areas pass.
“I saw the Africa Stage, and photographed Shingai Shiniwa of The Noisettes. I couldn’t believe I was so close all these stars. It was a big posh party and there I was, in Doc Martens and velvet skirt, my first time in London alone.
“I took some awesome photographs. I will also be covering London Fashion Week in September. I’d love to get into retail fashion photography. I mentally redesign clothes or the way they’re displayed, particularly in M&S in Preston and Manchester
“Joe is super famous but also very down to earth. He used to live in Macclesfield but drove to London on his motorbike with £35 in his wallet and gave himself three days to find a job. The rest is history.
“I think he quite likes go getters. Alastair Campbell does too. We met and talked politics. If I wasn’t doing this I’d want to be Prime Minister!”
Hannah’s in her final year at Newman College but opting out of university.
“I think I’ve managed to talk even my grandparents round now,” Hannah admits. “Mum was the first in the family to get to university. They assumed I would.
“Yet they’re inspirational. They managed to run a really successful business in Cleveleys for years. They did that on talent and hard work and knowing their market.”
Hannah’s niche is photography and art. “I’d love the wedding side to pay for the stuff I really want to do but right now I’m enjoying that too.”
Her commissions have included a Hindu wedding – and the wedding of her former English teacher Chloe Gore at Gibbon Bridge near Chipping.
Hannah’s enthusiasm is infectious. “My photography is a branch of my art. I think it gives me a different eye. I like quirkiness. I don’t like formal shots. On my 16th birthday I got a bit of money and spent it all on cameras, including a Sony 450 DSLR I still use. On my 18th birthday in October I’m getting a semi-pro Canon camera. I think my camera lens and kit cost more than my car.
“I love weddings, I like to capture the joy and the moments you usually see off camera.
“I like it when people forget I am there.
“Lots of people don’t like having their pictures taken or pose or just freeze whenever you point a camera in their direction.
“I like to get natural shots.
“The Hindu wedding lasted for about five days. It was at the Temple in Preston. I took lots of pictures of the dancers.
“I got an equestrian wedding too. And my former English teacher’s.
“That was the best, being commissioned by someone I knew because she liked my work.”
Hannah holds strong opinions on the value of university.
She said: “Once I get my A-Levels I want out of the educational system. For me it’s a no-brainer. Especially in a recession.
“You can either go to uni, gets loads of qualifications, and emerge to find all the jobs have gone – or you can do your best to make your way in the world now.
“In my case I’m trying to create a niche for myself.”
Hannah points out she has precedent on her side.
She adds: “Simon Cowell, Karren Brady, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Alan Sugar, Coco Chanel, Steve Jobs, John Major, Henry Ford – there’s an endless list of successful, well-known people, past and present. Who kick started their careers without a degree.
“In my own parents’ day it wasn’t normal aspire to go onto university.
“My father, Alan, was expelled from school, returned to sit the exams, and left with straight A grades.
“He is known as a hard working respected tradesman.
“My mum, Alison, studied a mixed honours degree in English and Geography and just missed out on a First.
“She is now a journalist at the BBC.
“I admire them both and see them as first hand evidence that qualifications are not the be-all and -end all factor to success.
“But times have changed and it’s now the norm to stay in education until your 20s.
“In fact, it’s expected.”
Hannah admits she fears others may consider her “less worthy of help” for not wanting to go to university.
But she added: “League tables put huge pressure on colleges to churn out the best grades. At my college, if you obtain a ‘U’ in an exam, you re-sit. If you obtain a ‘B’ you re-sit. There isn’t a distinction between students who fail and students who get what was considered a good grade. I have friends who have been advised to re-sit their low A grades of 82 per cent. Some colleges have become exam factories.
“But that means that those who don’t want to go to university aren’t given advice on what path to take.
“There are several talks for students hoping for Oxbridge but only one for those wishing to pursue an apprenticeship, for example.
“I reckon a job would offer more independence, an income, stability and networking.
“I think some are scared of the commitment it involves. University offers freedom and security in order to stay a teenager a little bit longer.
“I was torn but now I have my heart set on photography.”
And photography isn’t just a job but a passion for the student with the world at her feet.
She concluded: “I take photos all the time. Wherever I go, my camera comes too! It’s becoming an extension of me as my favourite style of photography is reportage – natural shots. I take in the surroundings and from a distance capture ordinary people living their lives.
“One moment can tell you so much about emotion, culture, and wealth – or lack of it!
“Since I already have a photography business, fashion blog, and am working alongside an established photographer in London this summer, I’m at an advantage to those studying it at degree level who may very little experience of the profession. I also think apprenticeships can be more worthwhile than degrees. To stand out today in degree terms you need a masters anyway.”
n Visit www.hannahriley.co.uk