Samantha Nandez Fashion & Portrait Photographer Interview
The following interview with Samantha Nandez fashion and portrait photographer from Alabama is truly one of my favorites. (The photo below is her self portrait.)
Her personality and answers are honest, vulnerable, passionate and sometimes insecure so this Q&A really expresses and embodies the feelings of countless creative people’s in a universal way.
Q: Do you like to talk about yourself or your pictures? If yes, about what aspects of photography? If no, why?
A: The only thing I can really say about my work is that the best of it comes when I’m having fun and working without a plan. When I make plans I never seem to get what I want out of it.
Q: How would you describe your attention span?
A: Very focused. When I start working I won’t stop until I get a good product (or my batteries die). I warn my boyfriend not to talk to me whilst I’m working in photoshop ;)
Q: When did you decide to become a photographer?
A: There was never really a particular moment, I did photography as a hobby for a very long time then slowly it turned into my job as well as my passion.
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: Freedom, expression….
Q: Can you recall the first photo you took that made you go WOW!?
A: That’s a tough call, because more often than not, I’ll have a photo and go “WOW” but then I hate the image two days later, haha. The ones I still like from a long time ago more grow on me than anything. And there are a few that I say “wow” and they still wow me, but very few. I guess most photographers are never truly happy with all their work.
Q: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?
A: Only a few classes.
Q: How technical is your photography?
A: Not very technical at all. As I said before, I work best without a plan, which means playing with lights, settings, seeing what works and doesn’t. I go with the flow.
Q: How do you feel about cropping?
A: I mostly do my cropping in camera, unless it’s a self-portrait where I can’t actually see how I’m framed, in that case, I crop.
Q: Where is your favorite place to live and work as a photographer in the World and why?
A: I would like to live in NYC, but that’s because I feel in love when I visited a few times. But as a photographer, the world is the best place overall. There are too many different people, cultures, styles, locations, to limit it all to just one spot.
Q: Define the word “beauty”!
A: Is something we appreciate looking at.
Q: What is your most favorite and least favorite word in photography or life? How do they make you feel?
A: Most favorite – passion. Photography is my passion, I couldn’t imagine living life without my camera in hand. Least favorite – failure. I’m terrified of it.
Q: How does your personality change when you look through the camera?
A: I see things differently. Most photographers will tell you that once you start seeing life through a lens, you’re whole perception on the world changes. That’s very true with me. I definitely see things in a different way than those around me.
Q: How do you feel about missed shots which cannot be recreated?
A: A tragic loss, I really need to keep my camera on me at all times.
Q: Ever concerned about failure?
Q: Who are your influences?
A: I greatly admire Annie Liebovitz (but who doesn’t). As well as Lara Jade, a young photographer from the UK, and Joey Lawrence, I admire him as a photographer and a traveler. Not to mention on both parts their successes at such a young age.
Q: What is your favorite image, either your own or someone else’s or both? Describe its creation or meaning to you?
A: There are many images that stick in my mind that I’ve seen throughout time. But right now I would have to say Joey Lawrence’s photograph of an African girl holding a goat. It speaks to me on a level I can’t even explain.
Q: Describe a day in your personal or professional life.
A: Professional – going into the office, taking photographs, editing, checking the internet, going home. Personal – sleeping in, thinking of ideas for photos, editing my personal work, and other random events that take place.
Q: What are the biggest personal or professional challenges you face on a daily basis?
A: Feeling like my work isn’t good enough, and that I could do better, but I don’t know how…
Q: What has been the single biggest obstacle against growing as a photographer in whole?
A: Fear. Fear that my work isn’t going to be good enough, so I don’t submit to contests, magazines, etc. It holds me back.
Q: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
A: People. They’re so interesting because everyone is different.
Q: Tell your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photo shoot!
A: I was with a group of photographers in an abandoned asylum just wandering around and shooting photos, when I walked by the main entrance (which had no doors because they were busted down) and saw a group of young teenagers walking towards us. I took a picture thinking nothing of it and they stopped dead in their tracks staring into the entrance.
I realized they didn’t see me because it was so dark inside and so bright outside, and all they saw was my flash. So I decided to play with them. I put my foot on a mattress frame and started kicking it making noise, the teenagers just stared at me saying “did you hear that?!” I flashed my camera again and heard, “I saw something! Did you see it?! I swear!” and “No you didn’t, you’re just being paranoid.” I made some more noise and flashed my camera again, “There see! I saw it!”, “Maybe we shouldn’t be here.” And they turned tail and ran. I wonder if they’re still telling their friends about the haunted asylum…
Q: Have you ever thought about or actually stopped doing photography? What were the circumstances?
A: I’ve thought about it, just to see how it would go, but have been quite literally unable to do it (besides that my job requires me to take photographs)
Q: Do you ever have photographer’s block and if yes how do you deal with it?
A: The main blocks I get are the inability to execute my photos the way I want. I’m limited in my resources…
Q: What types of assignments are you attracted most?
A: Ones with creativity and freedom.
Q: Describe what black and white photography means to you?
A: Emotion. I think the elimination of color makes a person really look at what they’re seeing for what it really is and are not distracted by face value. Since we see in color, I think most people take it for granted and tend to look over things. So without it, you’re forced to truly see something.
Q: Do you think of yourself as an artist and what do you think of the word artist?
A: I don’t call myself an artist, others do. I think it’s a valid word, but not something I really see myself as.
Q: How do you describe your photographic style?
A: Typically dark, but ever changing. I don’t really see my own style, but friends a co-workers say they really see something that makes my work mine. Which, if they see it, I guess that’s what matters.
Q: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction to your photographs?
A: Surprising – when people say they really like it, because many times a photo I don’t like everyone else does, and a photo I like no one else does. Go figure. Predictable – I don’t think I’ve ever predicted someone’s reaction.
Q: Tell a little secret about yourself that no-one knows …
A: I’m very envious of photographers that are younger than me and are much better and more successful than me. But not in an angry way, more in an admiring way.
Q: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven’t already?
A: People in other countries.
Q: What would you have done differently during your photography career so far and could this be an advice to others?
A: Don’t be afraid. I can say it all day long, don’t be afraid of rejection or someone not liking your work, but I don’t even listen to my own advice…
Q: What are your thoughts on the paparazzi and their effects on photographers and photography?
A: They make photographers look bad. I know they’re trying to make a buck, but that’s all their after. A photographer should be in it for the art form and take pride in their work, but they don’t. The faster they shoot the more money they get, makes no difference.
Q: How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?
A: There’s nothing wrong with it. There are a million things you can do in photoshop that can be done in the darkroom, it just takes longer manually.
Q: What other thoughts would you like to share?
A: Don’t give up…