Welcome to our Creative Spotlight, where we’re highlighting the talented creatives who make up the community here at South 40.

First up is Dani Hammer, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and moved to Los Angeles for 10 years as a working professional film and television actress. While in LA, she met her husband and settled down in Nashville. Dani is also a mom of 5 beautiful kids, 4 here on Earth. Growing up as a child actor in front of the camera, Dani learned quickly how much she loved being behind the camera just as much as in front of it!

What inspired you to become a photographer?
As crazy as it sounds, losing my daughter at 16 weeks along in pregnancy inspired me to become a photographer. I’ve always had a huge passion for taking pictures. But when she passed, I realized that I needed to jump in and actually pursue my dreams. I also aspired to become a photographer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep so I could bring some closure to others in my situation.

Tell us more about Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) and why you decided to get involved.
NILMDTS is my favorite part of being a photographer. We work with hospitals and, when we receive a call, we come and take professional black and white portraits of stillborn babies, babies on life support, and babies with incurable conditions who otherwise would not be able to ever get professional images, and their families. We are all volunteers. None of us get paid for the work we do. The organization is such an incredible blessing to everyone involved. Including to us…. the volunteers. Often times we hold them and pose them and also grieve with these families as many of us have been in their shoes.

I began working with NILMDTS (coincidentally…or fatefully would be a better word) on the anniversary of my own stillborn daughter’s passing. I unfortunately was not able to get pictures of her and it inspired me to give that to other families. To this day, I feel that emptiness of not having a single image of her and how beautiful she must have been. So I love that I can give that closure and gift to other families. It’s such hard work but it’s the most beautiful and rewarding work I’ve ever had the honor of doing.

What keeps you inspired?
My kids. My daughter that I lost. I want to make her/them proud. Every client that comes back happy and tells me their stories or thanks me for capturing their biggest moments… that’s what keeps me going and pushes me forward.

What photographers/creatives inspire you?
Oh goodness. I have SO many local photographers I adore. Ann Thoni being one. She’s amazing and her big heart shows right through her images. I also adore Annie Leibovitz and Kelly Brown.

What makes for a great photo?
I think having real fun and capturing real life will always be my favorite pictures. Ones with families playing together and laughing. In my opinion, the greatest photos aren’t posed.

How did you get into doing photography full-time?
I shadowed a fellow local photographer and he happened to be moving. He loved my work and decided he’d send his old clients to me once he moved away. It really helped get my business up and running.

Any advice for fellow photographers?
So cliche but truly… never give up. Never let one nightmare client or one awful experience make you question your worth. If you love what you do, keep on doing it. It can get so hard.. but it is SO worth it!

Connect with Dani: