Arts & Culture, Featured, Open Mic, Spotlight

clay Photography Feature: Hannah Ling

Meet Hannah Ling, the first-place winner of the clay Photography Competition 2020: Photography as Poetry! Hannah submitted an amazing macro photograph along with her own poem, Breakdown:

Breakdown, Hannah Ling

The sky doesn’t fall.

We rise,

ashamed of the nightmares strapped

to our feet. We break the chains of wonder:

they don’t speak, only stare

and smile;

it is enough to condemn them,

innocent on the floor as the world hangs,

frozen, and we jump from dream to dream,

high, higher, highest, until the night grows tired and folds

into a moon-washed silence.


Meet Hannah Ling:

“I’ve been alive and annoying my sister for about 15 years now and I’m in 9th grade. I’m Malaysian and I live a little way off from our capital. This is my 4th year with TPS. My favorite class so far is probably Advanced Composition with Mrs Yagel, which I’m taking this year (shoutout to Section 8 – you people are epic!), but I’ve liked almost all the TPS classes I’ve taken. Whenever people ask me about my hobbies I don’t really know what to say. For some reason, I’m a bit allergic to the idea of ‘hobbies.’ It strikes me as a word that bundles up a whole lot of things and dismisses them as just something done for fun when in fact they could be something more. Don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s my weird brain for you. As such, I wouldn’t say I’ve got any hobbies, but I am interested in lots of things, like photography (no kidding), theatre, writing, and arguing. I also love sarcasm. Without it life would be so boring. So tepid. So… dull. I enjoy wandering around old, derelict, empty, quiet places and sometimes I don’t like being around people. I also think humans have a great capacity for dumbness – I’m irrefutable proof. I find it hard to write short bios.”


Hannah, what inspired you to write your poem, Breakdown?

The idea for Breakdown came from something else I wrote which had a line about the sky breaking apart and falling (drifting?) down. I decided to take that idea, run with it, and see how it could translate into another context.

What is your favorite subject to photograph?

I like macro shots. There’s something about focusing on a really small subject – it’s like everything gets quiet and still and there’s space to focus. I’m interested in portraits although I haven’t done them much.

Whose poetry has influenced you most?

Hmm, tough one. I honestly don’t know. I do love Annie Dillard’s essays though, and they strike me as kind of like prose poems.

What does photography mean to you?

It means catching a piece of time and freezing it, making it stay still. Sometimes you take a picture and it’s like that moment was caught unawares and it just looks so alive, like it’s doing what it’s meant to.

What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?

Looking at things differently. Being a photographer – it’s like your eyes open up all over again and now there are pictures all over the place. I think it’s also the remembering. My memory is pretty awful, so photos help.

What is a funny memory you have had while taking photos?

There was once I was taking a picture of a lizard and I thought it was dead because it was just lying in the middle of the road like some sort of crumpled leaf or carcass of old shoe, so I went pretty close to take a shot and it gave me an impressively disapproving look then kinda pulled itself up and posed. Later on it spat at me. It gave me the silent treatment the whole time. Absolutely charming personality.

What words would you give to an aspiring photographer and poet?

Ahah, this makes me feel like an ancient sage. I think it’s important to be curious. Don’t stop questioning. At the same time, trust what you’ve learned. Sure, you may not be some pro or expert, but if you spend a lot of time stressing about getting everything right you may not actually get down to creating, or you might lose the idea. So just the best you can at that time and worry about polishing it later. Oh, and something I’ve found helps with writer’s block is doing stream of consciousness free-writes.


Our warmest congratulations to Hannah Ling! We wish you all best as you continue on your journey with photography!


  1. That poem was beautiful! Great job on it, and on your outstanding photograph! You’re an amazing photographer, Hannah!

  2. Great job! Congratulations

  3. *throws confetti* Awesome job, congrats!

  4. Hey Hannah! Congratulations! Your picture and poem are beautiful! (btw this is Euodea from WSC. I had no idea you were in TPS ;))

  5. Hannah, I loved reading this! Keep writing, keep creating, keep making time stand still and run free all in the same instant. Congrats on winning the competition too!

  6. congratulations, Hannah! I really loved reading this poem, and your picture was awesome! (this is leann from wsc teehee)

  7. tepid… Interesting…I learned a new word today XD
    And congratulations Hannah! Your picture is so wonderful!

  8. Beautiful words, beautiful photograph! I will be proud to say I knew you when, Hannah!