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Hayley Ellen Day 

So tell me a little about yourself?


Hello! My name is Hayley Ellen Day and I am a Brooklyn based wedding/ portrait/ documentary photographer from Chicago. Living in NYC was always a dream of mine; my mother and I would stay up late watching Sex and The City. From that early age I subconsciously knew I wanted to be a part of the creative world. Honestly I owe a lot of that inspiration to my grandmother. Everyday after school she would have some sort of arts and crafts for me to play with. I obviously never followed the directions on the package, but I was simply in love with the idea of creating something new. I finally made the choice to move to NYC shortly after college while I was overseas in Cambodia with World Hope International (WHI) photographing their programs there. Soon after returning to the States I was packing up my apartment in Buffalo, NY and headed to Brooklyn to pursue photography fulltime. 


My job with WHI is now a full time position. Starting in October, I will spend 3 months overseas shooting documentary photography and writing features for our communication department. Then I will return to Brooklyn for the next 3 months to continue working on the features and design layouts for marketing. This following year we are hoping to visit 3-4 different countries (Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Haiti, and  hopefully Mozambique). This is just the start to my dream career!

I first met Hayley during undergrad while studying graphic design and photography. While sharing lots of classes and critiques with her, I was immediately impressed with the way she sees people around her. Her photography is all about relationship and it shows. I’ve never seen anyone smile and laugh so much while interacting with clients and it’s infectious — it takes about two minutes before you are joining in with the laughter. It’s this dedication to building a relationship with whomever she is working with that proves how much she actually cares about her craft and everyone she interacts with.

Photography is now taking you all around the world. Tell me about your process of transitioning to from wedding photography to documentary?

Riding the line between wedding photographer and documentary photographer is crazy drastic. Half of my wardrobe is black dresses for weddings and the other half is Africana prints for when I go overseas. I love photographing both! Weddings bring out that magical side, but my international documentary work means so much more to me. Which is why I will be focusing on my documentary work full-time starting in October! Working with so many non-profit organizations is truly amazing. I meet so many inspiring people trying to use their talents to change the world and that is exactly what I want my work to do; to bring awareness to different matters and to show the beautiful people that are being helped by these NGOs! I may not make as much money doing my documentary work, but I am a million times wealthier in my experiences and the many beautiful humans that I get to sing and dance with while working in the fields of Africa and Asia.

"Working with so many non-profit organizations is truly amazing. I meet so many inspiring people trying to use their talents to change the world..."

What are some trends in your field that you wish you could bring back, and which ones would you rather forget?


iPhone Photography: Where everyone and their mother can become instafamous… #nofilter


Who are some artists that you feel have impacted your own practice? What about outside the fields of design and art?


The one person who has impacted my career the most was Mary Daugherty. I second shot for her my sophomore to junior year in college. She is a rock star, gets shit done type of person! Mary runs her own business, has two children, takes on interns/second shooters to teach them about how she runs things, and is an amazing athlete. My freshman year in college I always heard her name around campus and had seen her work everywhere; I always wondered if I could swing getting a position working for her. When she told me that she wanted me to work for her I was ecstatic and knew that this was going to change everything for me, and it did! Soon I was second shooting weddings for Mary and she was showing me how everything was run on her end. She taught me everything I know; I owe her my entire business. Mary, thank you so much for everything.

may 2017

"My biggest strength and struggle is the same thing. I care too much."

What have been some of your biggest strengths and struggles during your career so far?

My biggest strength and struggle is the same thing. I care too much. I believe that photography is this crazy intimate thing where the subject is telling the photographer, “I trust you to see me, to see all of me and to capture it.” Every person I photograph I want to have an intimate relationship with him or her, I want the experience to be more than “Let me take your photograph.” But on the flip side there are some clients that just will not click with you and that is something I have had to learn to be ok with. Learning this at the beginning hurt, but I have to be ok with not everyone liking who I am. Either way though, I will always put my best foot forward to bring the best experience to my clients and to show them how beautiful they are, because that is exactly how I see them.

What's in your margin?

I do not doodle. I don’t do many things that most creative people do, but I do amateur Muay Thai fighting to help refresh my mind and to work out stress. Mauy Thai has been one of the best things I do for my body and mind!

Here are a few ways that I get my creative juices flowing throughout the day.

  • Coffee

  • Music

  • Coffee

  • Start dancing to music

  • Coffee

  • And if I didn’t have enough coffee during the day, whiskey ginger to end the day

How have your experiences abroad shaped how you view your work and maintain respect while capturing people and places around the world?

In my line of work I believe that it is my duty to build a solid bridge between first and third world countries. When I go overseas, it is not my intention to show the bad, but to celebrate the beauty of the people there and the world that they live in. It is my honor to share the lives of both worlds and everything between. I guess you could call me a mediator to help people from both ends to understand what's on the other side of the bridge.


Being an Asian-American has allowed me to view the with more sensitivity. When I was younger I wanted to know and understand where my roots came from, this lead into other parts of the world and becoming more intrigued by how others lived and are living. I like to believe that it's not just from my family history, but from who I am at heart that drives me to love those around the world so deeply. Humans are beautiful and deserve to be celebrated no matter where we are in life or in this world.

Edited by Joshua Duttweiler
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