PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We'll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come from running a creative business.
Photographer Christina Gressianu has built a business that not only shows her subjects how beautiful and loved they are, but makes them feel it, too. She's a champion of female empowerment and draws her inspiration from her fascination in people.
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
My first proper job was a production artist in an ad agency when I was 17. I lived in a regular little town, so I was excited when I learned we had an agency in town. I called them and asked if I could work for them. Oddly enough, they asked me in for an interview and said they’d try me out. I had no clue what I wanted to do as a career, so it was fun to try it out.
Has photography always been in your blood?
I guess so. I’ve always treasured photographs. As a kid, I thought the coolest thing in the world would be to get paid to travel and take photographs.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
I’ve never been ready! It was totally by accident and then necessity.
How did you go about starting your own business? How did you secure your first clients?
My very first portrait client was my boss at my college work-study job. She had a baby and we went to the park to photograph her. After our session, I handed her the roll of film. People liked those photos, so it kinda rolled.
What is your typical daily routine like?
Coffee, breakfast, walk the dog, office/ editing / computer time, yoga, afternoon shoot, dinner and netflix. Sometimes it’s a morning shoot and computer time is after yoga.
How do you decide which kit to use? Do you have an allegiance to a particular type of gear?
My dad bought me my first digital camera. It was a Canon…from there, it was just easier to upgrade piece by piece and stay with Canon. I’m not so much about the gear – I just want it to work.
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to pick up your camera and shoot the world around you?
I can’t say that I have that compulsion any more than anyone else with a camera phone. However, if I don’t have a portrait session for a few days, I start questioning the meaning of my existence in that heavy, angsty way.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
No! The whole point of doing what I do is that it’s how I connect with other people. I only feel alone when I don’t work.
You say that ‘My mission in the world is that every woman knows how amazingly beautiful she is. Because for us, beauty is tied to self-worth, confidence, empowerment… all that important good stuff. ’ Can you explain how this manifests in the way you work and run your business?
I tend to be a self-esteem-cheerleader when I photograph women. In a realistic way. Like if a woman feels fat, I don’t say ‘no, you’re not fat'. I talk to her about beauty being in her spirit, her joy. I ask if she’s noticed how beautiful her eyes are when she’s smiling. Yes, there’s a part of beauty that’s in taking care of yourself, but it’s not about the skin-suit. My work is about faces, expressions that show joy, wisdom, mischief… women have 100 expressions they don’t even realize they’re making. It’s amazing. I also gave this Tedx talk about this subject.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m inspired by my clients. All the experiences and emotions they have. The relationships they have. The clothes they bring. How they like their hair. People are fascinating.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Relax. Don’t take everything personally. If it’s not going to matter in 50 years, it’s just a choice.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I’d love to be someone that people remember how beautiful / loved / amazing I made them feel.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
I don’t have one best moment. My business is a journey of tiny victories.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When clients come back. They can say they loved me and my work and all that, but when they come back a year later, that’s the proof.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is that I’ve hated having money stand between me and someone I’d love to work with. Charging for my work has been the absolute hardest thing I’ve learned to do. I’ve had a lot of help along the way; clients who paid me more than I asked, friends, business coaches, books and the bills have to pay.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Value yourself and others will too.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Annie Leibovitz – her work rocks my soul and reading her books felt like talking to an old friend. And she’s the exact same age as my mom.
All images by Christina Gressianu.
Web: Christina Gressianu
Facebook: Christina Gressianu Photographer
Want more? Head this way for more PROfile interviews.