I Am... Nina
Photo of Nina | Used with permission
Folks in the LGBTQ+ community are usually lumped into one category; however, we're all different in our own special way. The "I Am" series interviews folks, from all over, who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and so on in hopes to bring awareness to the differences and similarities we share. Participants are asked the same questions as to highlight how one question can have unlimited possibilities. Editing is limited to maintain the integrity of the interview.
What are your pronouns?
Where do you live? (General area or state is fine - internet safety is important): New Jersey
What’s your story? What do you do / what are your hobbies / fun facts about you / things you like to do in your free time?
Hey, I’m Nina! I’m a wedding & elopement photographer based out of New Jersey. I love to travel and take my passion for photography all across the U.S. where I get to meet so many different couples along the way. My partner and I live in a cute little loft where we have a pet hedgehog and a pet snail; adopting and caring for animals has always been a passion of mine, along with photography. In my free time, I love to find new hiking trails in my area and visit my family on the coast of CT where I was raised. I’ve also been a vegetarian my whole life and plan to keep it that way!
If you are an artist/musician/entrepreneur/business owner/etc, please explain what you do, how you got started, how your work has progressed and why you do it.
It all started when my dad gifted me a camera in middle school. Wedding photography was his side business for many years and he’s the reason why I got into it in the first place. Through high school, I took every photo class that I possibly could and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in photography with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from Columbia College in Chicago. The first wedding I ever shot was right after I graduated from high school in 2011 and it’s crazy to think about how much I truly loved it right from the start. Ten years later and I still feel like I still learn or think of new ways to serve my couples each and every day.
My wedding photography business became official in 2018 while I was simultaneously working at a bakery where any couple looking to order a wedding cake would be met with my own business cards in case they needed a photographer. Kind hearted connection is the basis of my business and making each and every person that trusts me by stepping in front of my camera feel confident and comfortable is always my goal.
It’s a vulnerable act to display affection in front of someone with a camera, especially for queer couples since visibility is still so limited on social media. I freakin' love the business I’ve created and how it allows me to connect with so many diverse couples and families.
The weddings that I focus on are more intimate weddings where it’s about each other rather than putting on a show for 150+ people. Travel Elopements are something I’ve always offered but more so recently have proven to be where my true passion lies. I plan to take my business in that direction going into the new year and am so excited to see where it takes me!
How do your identities (sexual, gender, racial, ethnic, religious, political, etc) influence your work, if they do at all? If there are other influences not identity-based, please feel free to share those, too.
I’ve always believed that every single person’s gender and sexuality fall somewhere on a spectrum. My studies in college definitely helped solidify that belief and I would say that my own queer identity has and is still evolving. The word “queer” makes me feel most empowered and is probably one of the only labels that just feels right.
When thinking about how my queer identity influences my work, I would say that if anything, it has pushed me to really think about inclusivity in not only the language I use in person and on my website; the poses that I help my couples do throughout our shoot that feels true to their relationship; and the importance of visibility. The more queer couples that I work with, the more couples will feel validated and represented in a world of Instagram posts and Tik Tok trends.
What has your journey been like to become comfortable with who you are as an LGBTQ+ person and/or artist/musician/entrepreneur/business owner/etc?
A large part of my family still doesn’t know that I’m queer. Many of you reading this may know that there’s usually a reason for that and sometimes you just have a gut feeling of who you can and cannot trust to understand you.
The ones that do know about my queer identity have supported me and made me feel super accepted and for that I am grateful. I’ve always been a bit of a private person and have never felt the need to make something so personal such a big deal. I can honestly say that once I let go of the pressure to come out to everyone, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. The people that know, know… and the people that didn’t until right now… well, now you know!
There’s far more to me than my gender or sexual orientation and once I stopped caring what people thought of me, I finally became comfortable with who I truly am. It also helps that I’ve had a partner of 7+ years that has supported me every step of the way.
Where and how would you like to see your work progress?
I went full time with my photography business less than a year ago, before that I always had some sort of supplemental income but now that photography is my full time job, I’m so excited to see where it takes me in 2022! There’s a lot to navigate between shooting, marketing, client calls, emails, bookkeeping, travel, editing, and social media but I’m really proud of how far this business has come and I hope that it continues to grow and I can fully book out my calendar each year!
What are your dreams and aspirations with your work or life?
Something that I’m currently manifesting is to be able to solely photograph elopements and more intimate couple sessions all across the country. A recent trip to Sedona, Arizona, sparked something in me that I can’t shake and I’d love to be able to connect with couples that prioritize their own dreams and creative ideas when thinking about how they want their wedding to be. I’d also love to own an A-frame cottage in the middle of nowhere Maine (my fav state) and have lots more animals and maybe even a human child as well lol.
Where can people find you online? Please only add links that you don’t mind strangers following you on!