Nadia Boujarwah: Tell us a little bit about your journey as a photographer, how you started, and what it’s been like to grow and come up in the industry?
Anastasia Garcia: It’s interesting when I was a photography student, I went to art school and studied photography, majoring in fashion photography. I just was obsessed with the great photographers of the last hundred years. And I just had this notion that I wanted to be this famous fashion photographer. I didn’t really think at that point, about the images. And how looking at fashion imagery growing up, was actually really painful for me because I never looked like any of the girls in the pictures. They certainly didn’t represent the women in my family or the way we looked. And so, when I was studying photography in school, I just wanted to be like one of those fashion photographers. I didn’t care that the pictures of the women I would be photographing didn’t look like me. And my first job out of college was with an e-commerce conglomerate. And I remember being 21, fresh out of school, and sitting at this table with all of these people who were 20 years my senior. And we were discussing the launch of the plus-size brand within that website.
I’ll never forget when the producer turns to the table and is like, oh, well, we can just hire straight size models and pin down the plus-size clothes to fit the straight size models. And first of all, that horrifies me, obviously. And it was one of those things where I just screamed and I didn’t mean to. I [said] “Oh my God, no. And everyone slowly turned and looked at me and I was sweating. But my boss looked at me and he asked, why do you say that? Why are you so passionate about that?”
And I just began to have a conversation with him about being a plus-sized woman. And how unhelpful it is to see garments on a body that would never be reflective of mine. It doesn’t inform the customer on silhouette, shape, fit. And he listened because I represented that woman in a way he could never understand. And so, he just inherently trusted me. And I’ll never forget, he turned to me and said, “okay, you’re handling this launch. You’re shooting all of the editorial imagery, and e-com imagery, and you’re handling the casting. Have fun.”
And I was terrified. That was such a big undertaking for my experience level, just coming out of school. But I was really excited, and that was the first lightbulb in my head, where I realized that not only could my experience as a plus-size woman inform my work, but it should. If there wasn’t a plus-sized woman at the table that day, that launch would have gone live on straight-sized models. And it just would have been a painful experience for my community. So that was the first time that I realized that I had something important to say.
NB: I feel there are three important lessons in that story that you just shared. One is the importance of representation around tables where decisions are made. Which is just so important in every dimension. Two, I think is the importance of speaking up, even when sometimes you may be the quote unquote, “least experienced person in the room,” or at the bottom of the totem pole, or wherever it may be. That you’re at the beginning of your career, the importance of speaking up about things. And then three, I think, as you come up in your career recognizing the pivotal role that you can play as somebody who’s just starting. By handling a moment like that correctly. And how much you can change the course of somebody’s career and work by really lifting up those voices when there’s the courage and passion to speak up. So what a great story. Since you’ve started, how would you describe how much the world of fashion photography has changed?
AG: It’s changed a lot in some ways and not a lot in others. I think right now with plus-size bodies specifically, it’s this tokenized thing where, maybe they have a curvy girl in the issue once a year or twice a year. It’s such an outlier, it’s not really the norm. And when we do see it, it’s not diverse body types, it’s one body type that’s celebrated. And so, I think that there has been evolution in terms of the representation that happens. But I think there’s just so much more room for us to grow, and so much exploring that needs to be done.