Ana Cuba: It’s been over 3 years since we met in NYC and we haven’t managed to cross paths since then! I remember being in your beautiful flat (or loft!?) and going up to your rooftop, and some strange dancing performance was going on in there. I also remember walking around the riverside at dusk and talking life. You seemed very happy! Are you still living in that beautiful place? What’s changed?
Amanda Jasnowski: Three years! It’s impressive we haven’t managed to cross paths since then. Unfortunately I’m no longer living in that loft and in the last three years, so much has changed. The last time we crossed paths feels like a different lifetime, at the time I was indeed very happy – experiencing a very kind and generous year. In the context of this conversation – the last four years working as a freelance photographer have been more or less a snowball effect. I’m learning more and more about how to move with the ebbs and flows of the industry, how to stay employed, how to keep my dignity and my practice sacred while simultaneously trying to support myself comfortably. I feel as though these are themes that come hand in hand with being a freelance creative. Moving here shortly after my 20th birthday straight from my parents home in rural Ohio I had no expectations and didn’t quite ever consider the ways that I might feel once I arrived here and the years passed. Would I still be satisfied? Would I still want to be working as a freelance photographer? I guess at the time those questions didn’t matter – my biggest priority was getting out of where I was. I also didn’t consider on a personal level what type of questions and feelings my early twenties would bring, that I would simultaneously be wading through those feelings while wading through the early stages of a freelance career. Ultimately I am probably more uncertain and a little less optimistic, but eager to find my answers – I am certain that they are out there – and progress forward.
AC: You moved from Ohio to NYC in 2012 at the age of 20. I admire how brave you were showing up in NYC and starting off freelancing from the beginning. Did you have any side jobs while starting off? It must have been very difficult both financially and also with the early 20’s personal battles going on – which I personally don’t miss for a bit.
AJ: I didn’t have any side jobs going into it. I had it so worked into my head that I would do things this way and any other way meant straying from my goals. I spent the year prior to moving saving up money working retail in a camera shop, although my first apartment in NY where I spent four months was under $200 a month, although for a reason. It’s funny, I think about picking up side jobs now, freelancing and working out of your apartment can get lonely. Over the years the jobs have been a snowball effect, you get what you put out there in the world. It was slow in the beginning – and nearly five years later it can still be slow, it’s a constant ebb and flow. When I arrived in NYC, I was really adamant about reaching out to people and I was shamelessly eager. Instagram was a very effective tool for me then in regards to making industry related connections. It was a vocal and quick-turnaround type of tool in showing the world, particularly those in the industry, that I was here and I was making work, that I was earnest and committed to my craft. Since then not a lot has changed other than the fact that more individuals know me or my work. I feel lucky to have “come up” in the industry in a digital era where the chances of visibility in a “competitive industry” are higher and therefor in my eyes the whole idea of working in this industry is more possible, approachable. Granted this digital relationship comes with a dramatic over-saturation, I still believe that if you are trying hard and truly challenging yourself to make work that speaks then regardless of how many people are in the industry, it will still reach eyes.
I think when I was first starting everything felt a little bit out of my experience. I used to get really nervous and doubtful before each gig – I still do, but for different reasons. Ultimately I think it served me well to take things on that I didn’t feel 100% comfortable doing due to my lack of experience, and it proved to be the only way to grow.