Yanina May Goldstein
Age || 33
Company Name || Yanina May Photography
Job Title || Commercial & amp; Fine Art Photographer
Years Living In New York || Whole Life
Social Handles || @yaninamayphotography, @yanina_may_photo, @ympweddings & Yanina MayPhotography
Company Website || Yanina May Photography
What did you want to be while growing up?
I wanted to work with animals in any capacity. Either a veterinarian or work for National Geographic. Turns out I am not great with certain medical things, BUT I am still working on the National Geographic part!
What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out as a photographer?
The best piece of advice would have to be to stay true to who you are as a person. Stay authentic because at the end of the day there is only one you. Plenty of people can learn whatever skill it is that you do, but no one can be you.
How do you define success?
I define it by happiness. Are you happy to wake up in the morning and do what you do? Are you where you want to be or are you doing things that aren’t feeding your soul to get by? I have struggled with this for many years thinking that a lot of money and certain job titles would make me happy but I wasn’t. No matter how many raises or big job titles I earned I didn’t feel successful or happy, I just felt stuck and frustrated. I definitely don’t have tons and tons of money and at the end of the day I am just Yanina May of Yanina May Photography, but I do what I want and what makes me happy. I use the time that I have to give back to people and animals as much as possible. I found that giving back brings me a joy unlike any other. Overall, I just try to do the things that I know will make me happy but will also elevate me as a person and Photographer.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting out?
I actually learned two really big things. One — you can learn so much more from failure than success. When I started out, anytime I would make a mistake I would be so hard on myself when, in reality, I had learned something I didn’t know before. Those mistakes made me a better photographer not just technically but also as a guide for other people looking to start out in photography.
The second thing I learned was to trust myself. Trust my gut and my instincts. We have been given these things for a reason. Use them! There have been so many times where I have found myself saying, “ I should have listened to myself.” Once I started really trusting in myself I found life getting a little easier.
What is your go-to motivational quote?
“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Do you have a personal motto?
I find myself saying “To each his own” a lot. I am not one for judgement. As long as people are happy and not hurting anyone just do you.
What is your creative process like?
My creative process tends to be really organic. If it’s a personal studio project sometimes images will suddenly pop into my head and I have to create them immediately, otherwise I can’t really think or concentrate on anything else. I won’t stop until the image in my mind is there looking back at me from the back of my camera. My poor wife can confirm this.
If it’s a project involving other people or a team, I do still like to keep things organic, free flowing and fun, as I find that some of the best shots have come from a really relaxed and creative environment. One of my big things when working with others is to make sure that everyone I am working with feels heard and included.
Which women inspire you?
The list is really long, but I will go with the first 15 that pop into my head — Annie Leibovitz, Georgia O’ Keeffe, my wife Jenna Marie Townsend, my great grandmother Honey Gottleib, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Greta Thunberg, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou, J.K. Rowling, Amy Poehler, Marley Matlin, Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank, and Ellen Degeneres.
How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?
A lot of talking to myself honestly. I speak to myself like I am talking to a friend who is having self doubts. I replay a lot of what I said in the above questions like, there is only one Yanina May and to go with my gut and not be afraid to make mistakes. If I am about to do something that I am scared of I remind myself that even if I make a mistake I will have left learning something from the situation and I have still achieved some personal growth. If I do not try whatever is causing me to doubt myself I will never know if it could have been something really great for me.
I also remind myself that I am right where I am supposed to be in life and that the universe wants me to succeed. Just because I am not in a place I would like to be at the moment doesn’t mean it will not happen. I remind myself that ANYTHING is possible and ANYTHING can happen. My story and journey is mine and mine alone. I also refrain from comparing myself or my life to others as I have found that to be a really negative thing to do to yourself. I used to do that and it just made things so much worse.
How do you balance a variety of projects?
I make tons and tons of lists. If I do not write it down and get it out of my head I get really disorganized and things can fall through the cracks. I have a special binder that has a bunch of sections in it to keep me organized and balanced. The sections range from what I need to do for my clients, to what I need to do and what materials I need to purchase for my personal projects. The binder even has weekly lists of everything I need to do business related and a section just for ideas for future projects.
What is the hardest part about being your own boss?
Just making sure all of the day to day business duties are done in a timely manner and no one is waiting for me. Sometimes having to create invoices and agreements, answering people back through email, phone and text messages, driving back and forth from shoots, editing the shoots and getting them out on time, and then keeping up with social media can be quite the juggling act. You absolutely get used to it though. When I first started I felt like I was drowning a little bit with everything, but over time I really started getting a flow together and that binder I mentioned definitely helps!
How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?
I usually remove myself from the situation for 5-10 minutes. Very politely, I let whoever is near me know I will be right back and I find that going outside, sitting down, taking some deep breaths and rolling my shoulders to relieve the tension really, really helps. I am relaxing myself and my body and giving myself a moment to reboot so I can come back to the situation with fresh thoughts and feelings. I do not push myself to continuously remain in a situation that is causing me any type of stress. People need and should take breaks.
What has been the most rewarding thing so far in your career?
I know this is very broad but everything. Everything has been a reward in some way or another. Since I picked up a camera it has been a journey filled with so many lessons, friendships and experiences. For a really long time I didn’t see how important this whole journey has been, but when I sat back and made a list of all the accomplishments and experiences (good and bad), I was blown away by the chain reaction everything has had on the growth of my career and on my own growth as a person. From building my first photo studio way before my goal of 35 to all of my clients having had some sort of an impact on me, to the bad experiences that I have had, that motivated me and pushed me to do and be better, to being selected for art shows/galleries or being published in magazines which is an incredibly humbling and mind-blowing feeling, to all the friends I have made along the way.
Do you have a specific project you’re most proud of?
Yes! I actually have two I am currently working on simultaneously. One is a photographic project where the intention of the images is to shine more light on different animals on the endangered species list and to get people motivated to donate to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. The other is a photographic project showcasing nature in a very abstract way. I use things like leaves or flower petals to create really unique abstract images to catch people’s eyes and imagination. I would like to inspire people to develop more of an appreciation for nature and our planet.
How have you worked to keep female empowerment at the core of your work?
I have done this in a few ways. If you are a female I am photographing it’s important to me that we bring out the true essence of who you are as a women. No sugar coating, no downplay to make others comfortable. Let’s make who you are and what you do as a woman loud and clear.
If I am working in a team full of woman I do not tolerate an environment where anyone feels less than or they are in competition with anyone else. When I first started out, I found myself in so many situations where I had to work in all women teams and I did not fit in with everyone and it was made very clear to me I did not fit in. We are here to work together as a team and build one another up. Nothing more, nothing less. Lastly, I have recently started making some changes to the services that I offer. I would like to focus more on creating portraits of all types of creatives, from musicians to painters. My plan is to set up sessions with more women entrepreneurs so I can showcase who they are and what they are doing. I want the images I take of these amazing women to inspire other women and young girls.
What advice would you give to other women trying to enter your field?
First, try every genre of photography as soon as you can. The sooner you try every type of photography the sooner you will know what you really like to shoot and what you really don’t like shooting. This will help you to start specializing in the things you are passionate about, instead of getting stuck doing things just for money. Secondly, you do not need the most expensive gear. I promise you! It’s not what the camera can do, it’s what you can do with the camera. Lastly, remember there is only one you. No one can be you. Let who you are shine for everyone to see. Light up peoples lives the best way you can and, when you can, give back as much as possible!
What are some of your goals moving forward as a photographer?
I would like my endangered species and nature projects to get the right exposure and take off so they can motivate people to want to help all these animals and our planet. I would also like to become a well know portrait photographer photographing creatives around the world that are trying to bring change to our world. My hope is through my images people will be inspired and will want to do similar things like the people they are seeing. I would also like to become a conservationist photographer traveling around the world documenting what is going on and teaching people how they can help. Our world is incredibly fragile right now in so many different ways and I do not want to sit back and just wait for others to fix it. I want to help. I want to give back. I want to motivate others. I want to be a voice that creates a chain reaction of inspiration for those around me.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.