A look around Mount Pleasant will clearly show you that Marcella Hadden has been busy with her camera. Her photos of flowers and traditional tribal events adorn the walls of the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel; the Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce has used her photos in its brochures and on its website; and her photography has been on display at the Ziibiwing Center.
“I’ve been taking pictures forever!” says Hadden, a Mount Pleasant resident and public relations manager for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
Hadden used to experiment with different speeds of film using disposable cameras, and her passion for photography grew from there. “I think the Creator wanted me to do this. I love it,” she says.
In 2011, the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun selected her photo of a dirt biker flying through the air as its Photograph of the Year.
“People were congratulating me and I didn’t know what they were talking about. I said, ‘are you kidding me?’” Hadden says.
Hadden works hard to keep her photography skills sharp. She meets regularly with a group of Central Michigan photographers to share advice on the photography business, from how to draw up a contract to tips on perfecting lighting in the studio. At Studio M in Holt, Mich., Hadden took classes on how to appropriately photograph newborns and boudoir sittings, and in June 2012, she and her sister attended a National Geographic Weekend Photography Workshop in New York City.
Hadden has also graduated from disposable cameras to a top-of-the-line digital Canon, teaching herself how to edit photos along the way.
“When the family was watching Alien v. Predator (the movie), I was on my laptop editing photos,” she says. “I was amazed at how clear the photos were.”
In 2012, Hadden’s husband, Lee Hadden, gave her the best birthday present she had ever received: He had a photography studio built on their Mount Pleasant property. In the Amish-style building and among the surrounding acres of natural land, Hadden photographs high school seniors, beloved pets, and laughing families. She charges a sitting fee that includes a set of prints, though she also accepts trades for her photography services.
Hadden works as a photographer-for-hire under her Anishinabe or Ojibwe name, Niibing Giizis, “Summer Moon,” which refers to the moon during her birth month of August. During the many snow days of 2014, she was able to design a brochure and logo for her studio.
Hadden, as the public relations manager for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, is frequently asked to photograph tribal events and ceremonies, such as pow-wows and reburials, which often require extra sensitivity.
“I know when to take [spontaneous] photos and when I should ask permission,” Hadden says. She keeps these photos on hand for people wanting authentic and sensitive visuals of contemporary Chippewa practices.
Amidst her busy work days, Hadden is eagerly planning for the day she can proudly close her office door once and for all, having earned a rest.
“I spend my spare time gearing up for retirement from the tribe. I’ll take a break and focus on my photography,” she says.
And although it is not yet her day job, evidence of Hadden’s photography skills can be seen throughout Mount Pleasant and the Isabella Indian Reservation.