Hannah Kik’s time in high school was a little unconventional: After being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome at sixteen, Hannah fought to make it through the day without passing out. Over the course of two years, she bounced between her public school and the hospital, struggling to keep up with her schoolwork and fighting anxiety over her grades…
But her silver lining was bright: Ever since she picked up a camera at age ten, Hannah wanted to be a photographer. Her passion for modern art found its home behind the camera.
Now, she’s a long way from that ten-year-old who had just discovered photography, or that sixteen-year-old who was too sick to go to school: After graduating high school an entire year early, Hannah is a student at Savannah College of Art and Design, where she’s a photographer and creative director who focuses her work on fashion photography.
Hannah isn’t just chasing dreams, she’s capturing them with every click of the camera’s shutter. We chatted with her about hope, why art matters, and never giving up.
Q: Tell us about being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. What were the biggest challenges? What did it teach you?
A: Being diagnosed when I was 16 years old was a huge challenge. I was surrounded by kids my age who were healthy—getting their licenses, visiting colleges, all while I was just trying to make it through the day without passing out. I was taken out of public school at that time and put on homebound because I was in and out of the hospital so much.
I had an incredibly hard time maintaining my grades, which, in turn, gave me a lot of anxiety. It was hard to see a silver lining in that situation. After 2 years of rotating between public school, my bed, and the hospital, I finally started to recover. I not only graduated high school, I graduated a year early and left for college! I never saw that coming. I still have the disorder, and struggle with a few symptoms. Overall I am so thankful for having learned to not give up. It really taught me how to be thankful for good health, because I took it for granted.
Q: You’re a student at SCAD and a fashion photographer. What does photography mean to you? When did you fall in love with it?
A: Photography, to me, is a way to capture the essence of your dreams. I think it’s the closest thing you can get to experiencing someone else’s dreams and emotions. For me, my dreams are vivid colors and lots of fabrics, all floating in the air. That’s the best way I can put it into words. I fell in love with photography when I was 10 years old, and had my first paying customers when I was in middle school.
Q: What’s been the most inspiring experience of your life so far?
A: Visiting New York City. And well, traveling. I love seeing and really feeling how many people there are in this world.
Q: For all of us ordinary people who aren’t geniuses with a camera…why does art matter?
A: Art is the expression of humanity. Without it, we would not have movies, magazines, music. We wouldn’t have culture. Art is vital to a thriving society.
Q: What advice would you give someone on overcoming an obstacle to pursue their dream?
A: Do not lose hope. Find something you enjoy, and get better at it. Never stop growing. And always look for opportunities.