Meet Amy Anaiz, an experienced photographer and business woman in New York City who applies her passion for social justice to her wedding and product photography.
Liz: Can you tell us a bit about your background? What was growing up like for you?
Amy: Sure! Well though I was born in New York City, I always state I'm from Miami since thats where I spent most of my childhood and growing years. I'm the middle child, so you know how that is. My parents are both doctors, so I grew up in a pretty "healthy" eating environment. I always laugh since I grew up eating quinoa, kale, and sipping wheatgrass 15 years before it became the newest health craze. (laughs)
Liz: Oh, wow! That's such an interesting way to summarize your childhood. So, what was your transition into adulthood like?
Amy: Well being the middle child, I feel like I had to figure out a lot of things on my own almost... So I would say it was a lot of trial and error. But I've always been one to observe and digest, as I can't say I make impulsive decisions. I think it's helped me in the long run of adulthood, as most of the big decisions that I have made have been positive to my growth... like moving back to New York City for instance.
Liz: When did you move back to New York City?
Liz: And what inspired the move?
Amy: Well as mentioned, my parents are doctors, so I didn't exactly grow up in a creative household. So though I had a passion for photography at a very young age (7-8 years old was when I remember first picking up a camera), I didn't think I could have a career in it... So I went to school for Advertising and Organizational Communications. I loved it, but in my heart knew I loved photography more... So by my junior year in 2005, I decided that once I finished my degree, I would go back and get a formal degree in photography as well. Fast forward to 2008, I was an "adult" with two degrees, so what's next? I knew I wanted to pursue photography, but wasn't sure where. I was never a small town kinda girl, so I contemplated moving to LA, Atlanta, Chicago... and it was literally serendipity when I stumbled upon a directory of creatives called "Le Book" and flipped through the pages. All I saw was photographers based in NYC, and right then I knew that was going to be my new home. Three months later with two suitcases, my computer, and camera, I moved to the Big Apple.
Liz: That's so courageous and exciting! So now you have been there nine years. What are some of the highlights for you in developing your photography business into what it is today?
Amy: Mostly consistency and hard work. I think a lot of the younger generation are all about overnight success, which does happen to some, but not most of us. Building a business takes blood, sweat, and tears. When I moved to New York, I literally knew no one in the "industry." But my parents taught me that a closed mouth doesn't get fed. So I started going to networking events. I interned at a talent agency that represented Beauty + Fashion Photographers, as well as hair and makeup. Three months in, I was hired on as a junior agent. I would say that working at the agency was a real building block for my career, since I got to learn the ins and outs of the advertising world and what it takes to put a campaign together. I didn't know then how much this would help me in putting together my own business and creative path.
I worked at a small women-owned agency, so I got firsthand experience on how to deal with clients on so many levels, as well as the behind-the-scenes managerial/office stuff that no one ever really talks about. And from a creative perspective, I have always drawn influence from the fashion industry, so being able to work so closely to that helped me refine myself as a photographer. It taught me to really see the details and know that consistency and polished work is what will keep me getting hired.
Liz: Thank you for sharing those details. So when did you officially launch your own photography business?
Amy: In about 2004, I made my first business card, so I guess thats when I first started it. But it wasn't until 2008 when I moved here that I was like, okay, Amy, let's get serious.
Liz: So what does your business look like today, nine years later?
Liz: That's great to hear. And reassuring to all of us who are younger in our businesses.
Amy: I've had opportunities that I never would have imagined nine years ago. I moved here with 2K in my bank account with a hope and a dream. I had no apartment; I slept on my aunt's couch for months, but slowly I've made a way. Nine years later, I live in a brownstone and make enough money to support myself, my family, and then some... So that makes me proud of myself.
Liz: That makes me proud to hear. You are a role model for many of us. So do you primarily photograph weddings?
Amy: Awww!! I hope that I can inspire, even if it's just one person, to not give up on a dream. Yes, weddings are my main focus, but I do shoot with commercial clients as well.
Liz: So today is Woke Wednesday. Do you consider yourself woke, feminist, or otherwise a social justice advocate?
Amy: Hell Yeah! (laughs)
Liz: What does it mean to you?
Amy: I'm extremely aware and sensitive to all aspects of human injustice around us. I can go blue in the face talking about it. I think growing up as a minority, you're automatically sensitive to how you're treated as "different" even if it's subliminally. So being WOKE to me is not sitting silent when you're presented with injustice. It's being empathetic to another human regardless of sex, color, race, creed, or disability. And it's staying updated and aware of what's going on all around, not just in your own life bubble. It's lending a helping hand wherever you can. It's giving someone a smile and compassion on the street because you never know how shitty their life situation may be.
Liz: Totally. And how have you been able to incorporate these values into your business?
Amy: I think I summarized it pretty well in a post I made on Instagram after #45 was elected.
Liz: I love that. Representation is powerful. Do you have any advice for someone who is perhaps marginalized who is just starting out in the wedding industry?
Amy: Stay true to who you are. Don't feel like you have to conform to the trends of today. Cuz they are just that: trends. Find your niche and stick to it. Don't feel like you have to be the jack of all trades...or Master of None. (laughs) I love that show by the way. But remember that you should always be growing and refining yourself because what works today might not work tomorrow, so you have to be ready to keep up with that.
Liz: I love that. Is there anything else you would like to add or say?
Amy: Hmmmmmmmmm. (laughs) I think it's important to be your own source of happy and encouragement. In today's social media age, it's so easy to get lost in thinking you're not good enough. Know that there is ALWAYS going to be someone who "looks" like they are better then you. But looks can and are usually deceiving. Be proud of your accomplishments, even the small ones. They are all stepping stones to your bigger future.
Liz: Those are words of wisdom. Thank you so much, Amy, for taking the time to chat with me.