Today we’d like to introduce you to Alonya Eisenberg.
Alonya, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Photography has always been a part of my life. As a kid my little point and shoot camera was a prized possession and then in high school I learned more about the technical skill of photography and how to develop film in the dark room. I truly can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a camera and didn’t love taking pictures with it. But I definitely never thought I would become a professional photographer. It never crossed my mind.
I came to LA from my tiny Northern California hometown in pursuit of an acting and film career. But it soon became clear to me that there was so much out of my control and in order to support myself I had to take odd jobs that weren’t very fulfilling. The most important thing to me has always been to live a creative life and I just wasn’t. One day I brought my camera with me when visiting a friend and her new baby. I took a few pictures and didn’t think much of it until I looked at the pictures later and realized that they were actually pretty dang good – without my really trying. Suddenly a light bulb went off. I thought, “This is how I can support myself and live a creative life!” And suddenly all the photos I’d ever taken flashed before me and I realized that I’ve been a photographer all along and I didn’t even know it. So I poured myself into photography – learning everything I could about mastering exposure and how to digitally edit and Jozu Photography was born. When I was practicing my skills I used my two cats, Joanie and Zuzu (Jo and Zu), as my subjects. So that’s where my name comes from. Yes, I understand how silly that is. But doesn’t it have a good ring?
I knew right away that babies and children would be my subject matter. As the daughter of a midwife I’ve always been surrounded by the world of babies and birth. I adore being around tiny uninhibited people and photographing them is joyful. Plus, I love portraiture. I think it is so important for families to have portraits that mark the fleeting stages of childhood. Every family has those “famous” pictures that exemplify their family and tell their story. Pictures are heirlooms! My great grandfather William Eisenberg was a photographer and my father still has gorgeous portraits taken by him hanging on his walls. I think family photographs are the most meaningful art you can decorate your home with.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Like I’m sure many other photographers before me, I started my business as a creative person excited to make a living doing what I love, but I’d never run a business before. So of course there was a huge learning curve. When I started and just needed to build my portfolio I charged next to nothing and had lots of clients. I falsely thought it would be easy from there, but once I changed my prices to reflect a sustainable business the flow stopped. So I had to find a way to set myself apart and make my service worth it for people.
In this saturated market a person can find photography services at almost any price. But what are people actually getting? Because it isn’t just a photo shoot. What happens after? What do my clients actually walk away with? How do I make sure they get some beautiful new art on their walls? At first I was so overwhelmed by all the possibilities. I tossed and turned at night thinking about the kind of business I wanted to be and how to achieve it. I wanted to give my clients a special experience and an exceptional end product. It didn’t feel right doing a shoot and then just tossing my clients a bunch of digital files for them to deal with themselves. So I started testing out different printing companies and seeking out great products and eventually started offering printing services with all my photo sessions. I have my clients pay one price and with it comes a print credit that they can apply to whatever they want. If they want to do their own printing that is totally fine too – they can purchase the digital files with their credit. It took me a long time to figure out a system that made sense and I think I’ve finally landed on it! But it certainly took some trial and error.
The other big struggle I encountered early on is a little more personal. When I first made up my mind to become a professional photographer I was so focused on creating a successful business that all enjoyment went out the window. That’s putting it nicely. The truth is that I was so afraid of failing and letting myself down that I started to hurt my own heart. My desire to prove myself made me scrutinize my work and be upset when it wasn’t “perfect.” How quickly the excitement and passion that came with this new endeavor turned to stress and self-criticism. We are in a success obsessed culture and we glorify working ourselves to the bone in order to achieve something, but then the journey (which in reality is never ending) becomes devoid of joy. One day someone wisely reminded me to have fun with photography again and it changed everything. Once I took the pressure off, my work became better and I was able to be kinder to myself as I learned and shaped my business. Pressure and stress does not leave much room for creativity to flow. This is a huge lesson that I have applied to my life as a whole.
Jozu Photography – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I like to say that I specialize in capturing birth, bumps, babies, and childhood. So aside from photographing live births, I am primarily a portrait photographer. I do a lot of newborn sessions – which I love. Newborns are so scrumptious. And then I also offer portrait sessions for babies, children, and families along with professional headshots for actors.
How I differ from other portrait photographers is that my goal is not to get the “perfect” posed portrait, but to capture an image that really showcases the subject’s true nature and has some emotion in it. However, I don’t have an entirely documentary approach. I care immensely about composition and taking clean, simple, and aesthetically pleasing images along with making sure I get a natural and emotional capture of the subject. I work solely on location – either an outdoor location or my client’s own home, so I enter every session with a completely open mind ready to create something unique that I’ve never done before.
The other component of my business is photographing birth – from labor to delivery – which is absolutely amazing and so rewarding. Can you imagine having that incredible moment where you meet your baby for the first time forever documented with a photo? And no, I don’t hang out “down there” waiting for the head to pop out! I like to focus my camera on the connection and emotion that is happening rather than all the medical stuff. But not everyone wants to have their birth photographed, so I can also come in within the first 48 hours of your baby’s life to do a session in the hospital (or home for home births) during that precious post-delivery time.
I am incredibly proud to offer a joyful experience from start to finish. I recently had a maternity client tell me that just the photo session itself (she hadn’t even seen the pictures yet) made her feel beautiful and enjoy her pregnancy for the first time since getting pregnant. I also had a birth client tell me that seeing the images from her baby’s birth helped her heal from a difficult delivery because the images reminded her of all the love, joy, and beauty of that day. And then when I help my clients get some art up on their walls and they tell me how happy it makes them to see those images everyday – that is really rewarding for me too.
Where do you see the industry going?
I know a lot of photographers are having a hard time with that fact that everyone has essentially become a photographer with their phone. Every parent has hundreds of photos of their kid, but do they have an outrageously gorgeous portrait taken with an artistic eye that captures the true essence of their child in a single image? Probably not. So I think that this “digital age” means that those of us calling ourselves professional photographers get to really work on just being artists -which is great. We aren’t being hired just because we have a camera and know how to use it – because everyone has a camera now. We are being hired because we are artists – with a camera – who can take pictures with an eye that only we have. I don’t think anyone is ever going to stop appreciating high quality artistic images. So I actually think the professional photography industry is just going to get better and better in terms of the quality and uniqueness of the work and service.
- Website: www.jozuphotography.com
- Phone: 310.775.5790
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/jozuphotography/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/jozuphotography/
- Twitter: twitter.com/jozuphoto
- Yelp: www.yelp.com/biz/jozu-photography-culver-city
- Other: www.alonyaphotography.com
Corey Cleary Stoner for Alonya’s photo below headline