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A lens on mental health

A self-portrait of Hannah Jackson sitting on her bed, smiling into the distance.
Using photography as a gateway to communication and to support her mental health, Hannah Jackson works to show others how it can help them.

Hannah Jackson (Photography ‘18, Nonprofit Leadership ‘21) understands firsthand how photography can support mental health, in fact, it’s a guiding principle of her work.

“I have always dealt with mental health issues and photography was always my gateway to communication in terms of that,” says Hannah.

Though she created Jackson Imaging as a side job 10 years ago, Hannah’s entrepreneurial potential came into focus while studying at NSCC.

“When I went to NSCC for the Photography program, my business accelerated by a fair amount because I had the tools and resources to expand it,” she explains. “Then I got a really bad concussion that put everything on hold for about two and a half years.”

During that time, Hannah continued her learning at university, obtaining a certificate in Disability Management and beginning her current bachelor’s degree program in sociology and social anthropology.

Entrepreneur in the Making

Hannah has never been one to turn down opportunities, so when she learned about the Scotiabank Entrepreneur in the Making Program (EITM) offered through NSCC Entrepreneurship, she knew she had to apply.

“I've learned a lot and received a lot of help in creating a more sustainable business, which has been the biggest impact for me,” she explains. “The financial aspect was great, however, the mentorship and supports provided more to me and my business than the financials.”

Tapping into the program’s business guidance and grant funding, Hannah developed a community service project under Jackson Imaging called Pics 4 Passion, which she started with a classmate at NSCC.

“I was able to take Pics 4 Passion to the next level by traveling across the province and interviewing people. And then I turned those interviews and photos into a book called Pain V Passion,” says Hannah.

“The most exciting part actually was getting a brick-and-mortar studio space,” says Hannah about her journey since the program. From the grant, Hannah opened the Pics 4 Passion studio in Dartmouth and has since moved to a larger studio space for Jackson Imaging in Bedford, NS.

Light Pillar Studio

In addition to operating Jackson Imaging, Hannah co-founded Light Pillar Studios, a digital marketing firm in Dartmouth, with Derrek Ord in June 2022.

After meeting twice through a business networking group, the two decided to go into business together given their shared business goals, focus on digital storytelling, and passion for mental health.

“I specialize in photography and graphic design while my business partner is a social media strategist and videographer. We each kind of have our separate roles and then we share all the other duties,” explains Hannah.

Both entrepreneurs decided to continue their own business on the side while focusing on growing Light Pillar Studio. Hannah says business picked up after the first few months and a big part of that had to do with word of mouth.

Mental health advocate

Hannah’s dedication to mental health is a driving force and she will soon be teaching therapeutic photography as a form of self-care and confidence building.

“Therapeutic photography is essentially teaching people how to use photography as a coping mechanism or tool in their toolbox. I will teach it on cameras and on cell phones.”

Hannah is also a national public speaker and workshop facilitator, receiving acknowledgement and thanks from Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, the Honourable Senator Moodie, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

“I've done workshops on therapeutic photography for organizations like the Old School Community Gathering Place out in Musquodoboit Harbour,” says the Eastern Shore native.

Some of Hannah’s other workshops include turning your passion into purpose and a mental health conference for business owners.

“I hope to provide a space for creatives like myself and our clients that is sensory safe. So it’s quiet, low lighting, scent-free and no strobe flashes. So anybody who has those sensitivities can come and enjoy. I’m providing a place where everybody feels welcome and doesn’t have to disclose anything about themselves. It's just automatically there.”

Fast Fact

NSCC Entrepreneurship is essential in supporting students like Hannah in getting their businesses up and running, including business advisory sessions throughout the EITM program.