ENCINITAS — At 60, Joanna Herr Hanks is hitting her stride. She’s exactly where she wants to be at this point in her life as a professional photographer, world traveler and all-around do-gooder. In January 1981, the single mother took her son Jason for a vacation to San Diego. Three months later they moved west, settling in Encinitas when Herr accepted a job installing a PBX system at Palomar College. Afterward she worked as a paste-up and graphic artist for local newspapers, drawing upon skills she learned with Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. In 1993, a job she didn’t particularly care for as a stockbroker’s assistant inspired her to pursue what until that time had been part-time work in photography, a skill she taught herself in high school.
“In my mid-40s I started planning a career in photography,” she recalls. “I had a five-year plan that included networking, building a clientele, photographing weddings on weekends and saving money.”
Today, Hanks has a thriving business that includes commercial photography, business portraits, corporate events, sports and lifestyle photography, and stock and travel images. In addition, she mentored two young photographers with whom she co-founded 3 Hot Shoes, an event photography business.
Recently, she launched Photo Trotting, global photo tourism venture that includes mini-photography workshops. A self-described “humanitarian photojournalist,” Hanks combines a love of travel with a desire to make a positive difference in the world whether volunteering at an elephant orphanage in Kenya or documenting women entrepreneurs in Tanzania who are recipients of microloans from the WGC (Women’s Global Connection.)
Claire Donahue met Hanks in 2009 when she signed up for a WGC immersion trip to Tanzania and Peru. She’ll be joining Hanks again this fall when they travel to Vietnam and Cambodia.
“Joanna doesn’t live on life’s sidelines,” Donahue dsif. “One thing that stands out is her unbridled enthusiasm and willingness to jump in and participate at every level: dancing at our celebration with the (WGC) ladies, giving our tour group helpful photo tips and, most importantly, keeping an even keel, despite complicated travel circumstances.
“She uses her photography skills to tell the story of the women in Tanzania, and Honduras, producing greeting cards to raise money to fund additional micro loans.”
When confronted with a potential cancer diagnosis a few years ago, Hanks co-founded A Way of Life, or AWOL, an annual retreat in Joshua Tree for breast cancer survivors that includes spa treatment, hair, makeup, glamour photography, yoga and camaraderie. Last year Hanks produced a photo book to tell the story of survivors and raise funds for scholarships.
Maggie Hood has been a friend for more than 30 years.
“Joanna is a giving person with a huge heart for the underdog,” she said. “She created this business on her own, and chose not only to survive, but to give back.”
In giving back, her only child, Jason Helwig, went on to become a Navy SEAL (retired). Eight times a year Hanks photographs military babies in San Diego and Ventura, donating production costs and time to provide families with a photo session and photo package.
For more information, including the fall photo tour to Vietnam and Cambodia, visit herrphotography.com, email [email protected] or call (760) 436-6469.