Today I welcome friend, fellow vegan, food photographer and cat lover, Shannon Hickman to the blog. Shannon and I met about a year and a half ago at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA and thanks to social media we stayed in touch and have seen each other a couple times since. Shannon is the founder and creator of the website Another Hungry Vegan where she shares some of the most incredible plant based food photos I have ever seen. For only being in her early twenties, Shannon has talent well beyond her years. She’s also the Designer and Marketing Director for Vegan Travel, an online community that shares all things vegan having to do with travel, animals and food. A huge thanks goes out to Shannon for her willingness to share a bit about her life and background!
Cowgirls & Collard Greens: I’m always interested in learning about how vegans went vegan. Can you share with us your vegan story of how and why you went vegan?
Shannon Hickman: I first went vegan as a sort of “challenge” after being vegetarian for 3 years. I originally went vegetarian as a way to be kinder to animals, but as I transitioned over to veganism I learned that still consuming dairy products and eggs wasn’t very kind. I went vegan on my birthday of 2012 and haven’t looked back since! Over time I got to try new vegan products, while documenting my reviews on them on places like Instagram, Facebook and my blog. It’s amazing to me that vegan food is a lot more mainstream now than it was even just four years ago. I can confidently say that going vegan has given my life a new purpose, I feel so much better, and I have greater hopes about the future as more people come over to this lifestyle.
C&CG: I understand that you not only live the vegan lifestyle, but you also work for a vegan company. Can you share with us what it is that you do and who you work for?
SH: I have been working for a company called VeganTravel since July 2015. My official title is designer and marketer, though at a startup you do end up doing a little bit of everything. This company has really made me inspired to travel more, and since working here I’ve visited Scotland, NYC, Northern California (visiting Kayle!), Portland and Seattle and we’re planning future trips like Berlin and more. If you’re a vegan looking to have more adventures in your life, check out VeganTravel.com!
C&CG: Because I have followed you on social media for a long time, I am aware of how amazing your photography is, especially your food photos. Did you study photography? What kind of camera do you use and what got you interested in the subject of photography?
SH: Aw, thanks! I actually studied digital design, and one of the elective courses I took was a photography class. It was mostly an intro to photo type of class, but I did learn more about how my camera (Canon Rebel T4i) works. I find that it helps to learn how to use a camera on the manual setting, and from there just start taking as many photos as possible. It’s amazing to see how much your skills improve over time and really encouraging to keep pursuing your favorite hobbies. Sometimes a shot just doesn’t work out though, and you have to be both patient and accepting of that to keep trying. I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for pretty much anything in life: learn from your mistakes and let them motivate you to keep going.
C&CG: You have quite a remarkable following on social media, Instagram in particular. What’s your secret behind gathering so many fans/followers?
SH: I get this question every now and then, and I honestly don’t know what the secret is! I just try to post something everyday and mostly stick to food photos. I don’t get too personal on my account or post a lot of selfies, so the food is really the star of the show. I’ve found it to be an awesome way to share my favorite products, restaurants I find while traveling, or occasionally my latest go-to smoothie recipe. I try to keep the content as authentic as possible by sharing food that I’ve tried myself and actually enjoyed eating. I hope the variety of posts I share helps show people how easy and fun it is to be vegan!
C&CG: If you had to choose one, what would you say is your favorite vegan meal?
SH: I feel like my favorite meal is always changing, but lately it’s been pancakes. I had amazing pancakes at this place called Harlow in Portland, Oregon and I like to make my own using just baking powder, protein powder, flour and sweetener. They come out perfect every time and I get to add my own toppings like maple syrup or agave, fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, or even nut butter if I’m feeling extra hungry. Having pancakes also takes a little more time than smoothies, so I feel like I have more time to appreciate the process of preparing the food and the ingredients before gobbling it all down.
C&CG: What’s the most challenging thing about being vegan?
SH: I think the hardest part of being vegan is having people around you who don’t understand your lifestyle. This can be inevitable whether it’s at school, in the workplace, or sometimes even at home. As a sensitive person, it can bring me down when I hear negative comments from people I know about the way that I live. I’ve found that it really helps to connect with vegans online and in-person that you can go to for advice. It’s important to have a support system, and while the internet is an amazing resource for that I think it is great to find some events nearby that you can go to and connect with other likeminded people face-to-face.
C&CG: If you could help influence someone to move towards a plant based diet and vegan lifestyle, what tips do you have on simple steps to take?
SH: I speak from personal experience about this since my mom went vegan over a year and a half ago. I recommend starting with the food, since that is a lot easier than replacing your clothing, cosmetics, and other products that are not vegan. I think eating how you usually eat, but using vegan products in place of animal products is a super easy way to transition. There are vegan margarines, non-dairy milks, veggie burgers and even vegan ice cream and other sweet treats that are becoming more readily available in grocery stores. Even Ben & Jerry’s has non-dairy ice cream options! Though these kinds of items are not a staple in my own diet, I still enjoy them from time to time.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in how other vegans eat and live, but when you’re first coming over to this lifestyle you need to do what is the most comfortable to you. Now is not the time to start eating 10 banana smoothies and pounds of potatoes if you’ve never eaten that way in your life. I can totally respect people who eat ultra-healthy as vegans, but at the same time if you force yourself to immediately eat that way, it’s going to backfire. Do what feels the most normal to you, and meanwhile start trying new types of plant-based food, recipes, restaurants and more. I also recommend finding resources online for books, documentaries, and other general information that can teach you all the important details on veganism. If you have any set-backs or times when you accidentally eat non-vegan food, don’t let it get you down too much. As I mentioned earlier, learn from your mistakes and just do better next time.
C&CG: Thanks so much for your time today Shannon! I appreciate you sharing and on behalf of the animals and the planet, I thank you for your thoughtful and talented work in making the world a better place!
Shannon is a designer, photographer, foodie and traveler currently living in Denver, Colorado with her cat Dahlia. When she’s not doing design work or out exploring for VeganTravel, Shannon runs the blog and social media accounts for Another Hungry Vegan and is the co-founder of the local Denver group Plant Babes Crew.