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Meet Trailblazer Anastasia Velicescu

Photo taken by Paige Strabala

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anastasia Velicescu.

Anastasia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Several years ago, I was still studying at USC. I was very passionate about the music scene. I was majoring in communication and minoring in music industry in hopes of getting in festival production. At first, I really wanted to be an experience creator. I loved going to concerts and festivals: being a part of them and watching people connect with their favorite musicians on a more personal level.

My sophomore year, I was having a really hard time finding internships at the companies in the music world that I thought would help me get where I wanted to be. One of my friends happened to be the photo editor for The Daily Trojan, the school’s newspaper. She suggested that I pick up photography and go to concerts as festivals as press for USC’s newspaper as a way to meet people in the industry. She emailed managers and festivals for me inquiring for press passes and I was able to get access to a lot of different musical experiences and meet a lot of different people working in the industry. My friend and I even ended up flying out to a festival in Canada because she made the mistake of applying and confirming press passes to a festival she thought was in Ontario, California. At first, we weren’t going to go because the idea just seemed so ludicrous. Flying all the way to cover a festival in what seemed like the middle of nowhere in Canada for a school newspaper that existed 2,500 miles away? It didn’t make any sense at all, but we were craving an adventure and decided to go. Somehow, we ended up convincing some artists on the lineup to pay us to take photos for them and we ended up getting some real work out of it aside from just shooting for the newspaper. This was one of the best risks I ever took and it ended up benefiting me a lot later down my career path. It was a pretty crazy experience, and it gave me the courage to start emailing people on my own. I started sending emails to managers and other promoters trying to see if I could find some more photo work to expand my network. I started shooting for this party called Space Yacht. They threw a party every Tuesday night and were notorious for bringing out pizza on the dance floor at midnight. I was lucky, I emailed when I did because the party was still in its infant stages. I met so many musicians, managers, agents, and promoters who eventually became my friends. I saw these people every week, and I felt like I had a family outside my real one and my friends at school. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with documenting the live experience more than creating it. I continued with my major in communication and minor in the music industry but decided I wanted to be a photographer instead.

Since then, I’ve worked with various event companies, record labels, and artists. I started taking artist portraits and slowly fell in love with trying to find innovative ways to capture the artists or models I was working with. When I was just starting out and shooting festivals, my favorite thing was always capturing the attendees of the festival; their energy, their love, their excitement, and their connection with their favorite artist. I loved finding that atmosphere and preserving it in my photographs. So, it seemed natural to progress into shooting more intimate portraits of people as well. Today, I’m happy to say I work as a freelance photographer.

Has it been a smooth road?
I think one of my biggest struggles along the way has been the occasional wave of self-doubt. Creative blocks are a real thing for people in my role, and for me personally, they have often thrown me into a state of depression and anxiety. I have found that at times like these, one of the most important things to remember has been to not compare yourself to others–being caught up on Instagram scrolling through others’ idealized images can have a negative impact on your sanity and mental health. The only thing that has truly helped has been going out and creating more; reaching out to friends or random creatives to find cool projects to do together. I’m lucky to have found some really amazing friends along the way and watching them grow as artists, humans, and business owners has been a huge inspiration that has always helped me push through.

Overall, it definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. It’s a difficult path and it doesn’t get easier. Don’t believe what you see on social media and don’t expect some big artist, brand, or company to come your way and give you a ton of money to lavishly travel around the world taking photos. Work countless hours, and go beyond your comfort zone. Be open to any new experiences that come your way because you never know where or how far one could take you.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
My last bit of advice is to know your worth, and don’t be afraid to demand what you think you deserve for a job. Today, so many photographers often shoot for free in hopes of getting a connection or an opportunity to work with a big name. It’s just a scam for people to get free photos. If you let one person take advantage of you, others will do it too. It can be difficult to navigate through male-run industries as a female photographer. If there are ever men in the industry you’re just trying to work with who don’t take you seriously or see you as an equal, just say bye and move on. They’re not worth your energy or your time. I find the more I’m able to tolerate and work past the bs, the stronger and more confident I feel when these uncomfortable situations come up. Find new projects to work on with other people: people who will respect you, hire you, and pay you what you deserve.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I specialize in event and portrait photography. I feel like I’m really good at capturing raw emotion or someone’s essence. In a lot of my work, I love to play around with artificial lighting to capture this essence as well as using it to find a unique way to portray it.

It’s taken me a really long time, but I feel like I have a very strong and diverse portfolio. Aside from shooting events and portraits, I also shoot landscapes and these types of photographs are some of my favorites I’ve ever taken. Once I grow my business a little more I will probably sell these as prints. I’m really inspired by the dreamy landscapes I’ve seen in animations like in those of Hayao Miyazaki. When I photograph landscapes I find myself shooting and editing them in a way that reminds me of the other-worldly, nostalgic scenes I see in animations.

I’m also really proud of my side project Raveloids. I don’t really shoot festival as much as I used to. It’s really hard on the body. But when I do work or attend one, I like to bring my polaroid or 35mm point and shoot and take photos of my friends or fun and interesting people. At first, I was only taking polaroids at raves, hence the name ‘raveloids’ but now I have my film camera on me at almost all the events I attend, even random house parties. These photos are a constant reminder for me of how I got started and of my love for what I do.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
I like to go through photo books of my favorite photographers every now and then for inspiration: Helmut Newton, Ren Hang, and Petra Collins to name a few. Reading about the lives of other photographers and their stories can sometimes help give you insight on your own. I also love reading articles on I-D and Nowness. I often find a lot of empowering stories and images when I’m browsing on those.

My favorite podcast is probably Ted Radio Hour. I’m always learning something new whether it’s about how the world works, technology, communication, how to deal with internal struggles, or just how to get through obstacles in life. Every time I listen to one of these podcasts, I learn new ways to handle problems.

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Image Credit:
Anastasia Velicescu

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