Tell us a little about yourself! Where did you grow up and go to school? Did you always know you wanted to go into photography?
I grew up North of Atlanta in the ‘burbs and attended University at both UGA in Athens and CUNY Hunter in New York City. I did not intend to become a photographer, though let me be real honest with you, it’s trended toward the ONLY thing I can do. I know that sounds dramatic. I have a degree in Marketing and Film Studies, and also Studio Art with a concentration in Photography and Ceramics. When I lived in NYC, I worked in film production, managed photo studies, and was a Digital Tech (a super intense form of photo assistant). When I lived in California, I was a freelance writer and graphic designer prior to becoming the Creative Director of 7 branches of YMCAs. Photography, though always a side hustle, was the thing that never burned me out of left me feeling the gap between my taste and abilities. Photography allowed me to hone my craft and voice. Photography allowed me to excel. Photography granted me independence.
You work in the wedding industry and also with brands. Do you have a favorite type of client?
I love working with people who really align with my work and want to work with my ability to be in the moment, to play with light, to stop and think “what are we REALLY wanting to show, here ?” It makes it worth it. Hiring a photographer is not an interchangeable plug. With that being said, my favorite shoot ever were 10 days of 14-hour shoots with REI. Heaven.
As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats! What helps you stay organized and calm when you’re having to do accounting, website development, or other things that aren’t directly related to your creative work?
A good surf session. Matcha lattes. My dog. My partner, Wyatt. It’s a lot, and I’m not going to pretend like owning your own business is sunshine and rainbows. The beginning of COVID reschedules this year had me losing sleep. Some people were kind, some people were mean. For me, my business is something I nurture but don’t force.
Why did you want to work for Juniperus? What did you find in the vision for their photoshoot that you responded to?
I got to meet with Amber and Alicia and learn about who their clients were and how they were trying to make a difference in the world through branding. Their WHY resonated with me, and I wanted to help them visually translate their WHAT.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered while being a woman in business?
I’m pretty chill and I’m a woman. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that I’m a pushover, but I’ve done a beautiful amount of work on boundaries. The way other people work is not my mess. I also have no problem saying “no.” Maybe that’s just your 30’s.
Is there a lot of diversity in your industry? If not, what do you think needs to be done to support more women and BIPOC in your industry?
Great question. In Atlanta, I’m a part of some photography groups that I feel adequately represent the city, there are perspectives and gigs shared by Black, brown, Asian, immigrant, white, LGBTQ… and a no-bullshit tolerance for trolling. Outside of Atlanta, in the greater photography community, I’m not sure. I did read, during the protests, a call to hire Black photographers (mainly pointed to news outlets), as a lot of white photographers were being hired to cover the story. This is important, as we all know, because what we call “the gaze” is both a representation and a literal feature of photography. Black views need to be seen, heard, digested, appreciated, and respected. As for the POC component of the BIPOC, I’m mixed (½ Japanese), but white presenting, so I have no clue where I “count.”
The other day, a wedding photographer shared a story on social media where a client tried to get their deposit back and end their contract because the photographer had posted in support of Black Lives Matter. The photographer responded by noting that the contract was legally binding and that the photographer was going to donate their deposit to BLM. Have you experienced any pushback from sharing your personal beliefs on social media?
That’s gross. And I’m glad the photographer held their ground. Sooo, my Instagram is for me. It’s my diary. My Facebook is for sharing with friends and family. My website is for clients. Everything I share on social media is from a human, not my brand. The type of people who would retort: “all lives matter” probably unfollowed me a long time ago and never hired me in the first place!
What is one thing you’d tell your younger self?
Nobody is hung up on this, stop obsessing over it. Follow your heart, you’ve got a good one, and you won’t be wrong.
Want to work with Gianna? Check out her pages!
Founder. Women’s advocate. Diversity expert. Amber Keating has worn many hats throughout her 32 years. To this day she credits her entrepreneurial spirit to her mom, who instilled in her that the worst thing that can happen is you land back where you started.
Amber started Juniperus to amplify the voices of people who are making the world a better place. She has already worked with the likes of Adobe, the Sierra Club, and numerous political campaigns—with many more exciting opportunities on the horizon.