Bryan Hansel took up photography in his high school’s comprehensive black and white photography program. After completing the four semesters, his high school teacher created private study courses for him, and he scheduled his coursework to allow more time in the darkroom. Of the experience, he said, “The process of watching a photo appear on paper after dipped into chemicals captured my imagination.” His photography teacher was an inspiration and the instruction he gave motivated Hansel to explore photography as a life-long activity.
After graduating high school, he studied English and Religion at the University of Iowa. He used photography to document his climbing, paddling and backpacking trips. After graduating in 1993, he traveled across the country, lived briefly in Rapid City, and eventually returned to Iowa City area. While working in the outdoor industry there, he furthered his photography education with college-level courses.
In 2004, Hansel moved to Grand Marais, Minnesota, his current hometown, and started a photography business. Since then he has won multiple awards, been included on 121Clicks’ list of Top 100 Landscape Photographers to Follow. In 2018, Lake Time Magazine name him Best Photographer in Minnesota. His favorite award was Canoe and Kayak Magazine’s People’s Choice Award.
Konnie LeMay, editor of Lake Superior Magazine, has said about Hansel’s work., “His photography expresses his love and concern for our wild spaces and delicate environments. He’s one of a handful of photographers with whom we work who can literally translate emotions into their images. The joy of continued discovery comes out in Bryan’s work — he may have shot the same scenic area a dozen or more times, but every image speaks to a new way of seeing or of something freshly seen.”
Hansel’s business has morphed from real estate, portraits and fine art into outdoor education. He runs a popular photography workshop program. His programs take students across the United States to many national parks and his backyard in Superior National Forest and along the world-class photography destination Lake Superior. During every course, he feels like his is “paying back” his high school teacher for all the adventure and joy that photography has given Hansel. “I hope I can return to my students some of the joy my photography teacher gave me,” he said.
In addition to teaching and photography, Hansel loves sea kayaking, canoeing and the outdoors. He’s a former American Canoe Association-certified Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayaking Instructor. He also sits on the board of the Wilderness Classroom, a 501(c)3 that brings wilderness expeditions to over 3,200 teachers and 100,000 students around the globe.