Beyond The Wanderlust » Inspirational Photography Blog for Storytellers Worldwide

The Narrative Society: Educator Interview with Aniya Legnaro

Most artists have a point in their life where they knew this was meant for them. Do you have that moment?

There was no defined “ah ha” moment when I KNEW I wanted to be a photographer. The moment I knew I loved photography was when that 1984 cover of National Geographic came to my door and the cover was the Afghan girl. I was drawn in. Reading National Geographic and LIFE magazines consumed all of my time. I loved the raw reality that these magazine showed through images – all the stories of people from all over the world, was mesmerizing for me. My sisters collected perfectly beautiful pictures from Vogue and Vanity Fair, I collected not-so-perfect images from my magazines.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Documenting our children’s lives is so important. What is your secret to not getting bored with your daily life?

I certainly don’t pick up my camera in my home as much as I should. I own a photography business on my own and it’s hard. When I have off time, I don’t want to be squinting behind the camera, I want to live the moment with my daughters and husband. But then, I have to push. There is ever only one time Ella will shave her armpits for the first time, only so often Adi will want to reach for my hand. My secret is the CONSTANT reminder that I’m not on my time, it’s not up to me when things come to an end. So I have to document everything, not just for me, but for them.

documentary photography, the narrative society

If there was only one moment you could photograph for the rest of your days, what would it be?

Bedtime. It’s the culmination of the craziness of the day, ending, not with a bang, but with pure serenity. No matter what happened in the day, there’s a promise of a new one, but not before we gather ourselves with our kids, spend the last few moments together before lights out, and close our eyes. No matter how old my kids get, bedtime will always be my favorite time. 

documentary photography, the narrative society

Personally I find more inspiration from things outside of photography. Where do you find inspiration most?

Reading. I have been to so many places and seen so many amazing things in this world through books. It’s absolutely incredible how words can conjure up the most magnificent things in your imagination – because that’s all you can rely on when you read. No pictures, just what you’ve created.

documentary photography, the narrative society

We all go through periods of mental blocks. How do you push past times of not finding inspiration?

This happens to me – a lot. More than I care to admit. Very rarely do I give into these blocks and remove all things photography from my life. Even if for a day – I just can’t do it. As nerdy as it sounds, I think of something I’ve always wanted to learn about photography, or a photographer I heard about, and I sit at my computer and start googling and YouTubing away. If I don’t want to shoot, I’m going to learn something online. This always gives me the kick in the pants I need.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Who in your life inspires your art the most?

My kids. I’m making images for them. So they can see how much they were adored and loved. I’m not going to be around forever, and I need them to know how special they are to me.

documentary photography, the narrative society

What inspires you more - light or movement?

Light 100%.

Documentary and lifestyle photography are different to some. How would you define them?

In the beginning of my career I struggled with these terms so much, and I would carelessly interchange them.  Now, I see such a clear distinction:
Lifestyle is staged production of sorts. A play that is orchestrated to seem like it’s real life, but in actuality, it’s been pre-planned, and carefully crafted. Say for example, I have a lifestyle family session – which I do – I decide with my clients what they wear, and what activities they will do in the session, and put them in great light. It may be banking cookies together, or jumping on the bed, or making sandcastles at the beach – all create gorgeous, genuine connections with each other, but it’s not documentary photography.
Documentary photography, which I use synonymously with photojournalism, is when the photographer does not direct, instruct or pose or place the subjects, rather, photographs reality as it happens. I’d go even further to say, that when you are really engaging in documentary photography, as a photographer, you cannot interject yourself in the images at all. For instance, when I photograph a day in the life session for families, I am strictly 100% a documentary photographer. I do not allow myself to move anything, switch on or off lights, or even pull a curtain or open a door. These are the limits I think documentary photography should work within in order to create genuine storytelling, compelling photographs.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather continue with your life or restart it?

Continue! However, I wish I could rewind, knowing what I know now, with the confidence now, to go back and start my career earlier.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather reverse one decision you make every day or be able to stop time for 10 seconds every day?

Stop time for 10 seconds every day – can I lump the time together and get it all back at the end?

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather never be able to speak again or always have to say everything that is on your mind?

Always have to say everything that’s on my mind. I’m a huge talker. This would force me to think before I speak.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather have no internet or no cell phone?

Oh man this is tough. No internet. I can call someone and ask them to Google something for me.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather lose the ability to use GPS for the rest of your life or lose the ability to use a debit or credit card?

I have no idea what I would do without GPS…But then again, how can I online shop? This is a toughie, and I am truly stumped.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather have eyes that can film everything or ears that can record everything?

Eyes that can film everything. I’d rather see my kids running with huge smiles into the ocean, and guess with awesome wonder what they are whispering to each other about.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather have unlimited storage space on your iPhone or unlimited storage space in real-life?

iPhone – I seriously need to declutter my life.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather walk the Great Wall of China or Amazon River?

Great Wall of China – hands down.

Would you rather win an Academy Award or an Olympic Gold Medal?

If photography was a sport, give me the Olympic Gold. If not, I’ll take the Academy.

documentary photography, the narrative society

Would you rather be fabulously famous and poor or unknown and rich?

Unknown and rich – I don’t care who knows me if I don’t have to worry about my kids university fees!


Aniya Legnaro of Life Photography by Aniya
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