“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

BABE #181: NATALY ZIGDON, Photographer/Owner, Nataly Zigdon Weddings

BABE #181: NATALY ZIGDON, Photographer/Owner, Nataly Zigdon Weddings

As we typically do, we exchanged several emails with Nataly during the making of this interview. During that time, we couldn’t help but notice that despite the brief correspondence, her genuine and kind personality seemed to radiate through her words. Fast forward to the interview we’re sharing today, and our observation is undoubtedly confirmed. Nataly is a wedding photographer whose hustle behind the camera involves capturing people in their most magical, meaningful moments. Through her work, Nataly provides an invaluable gift — real, raw, documented memories that her clients will surely cherish forever. (Talk about a Babe.)

The Basics:

Hometown: Southern California
Current city: San Francisco, California
Alma mater: San Francisco Art Institute
Degree: Photography
Very first job: Regal Movie Theaters
Hustle: Photographer at Nataly Zigdon Photography / Founder, Self Love Event

The Interests:

Babe you admire and why?
Vivian Maier. The most humble babes of them all with the most incredible story. To put it shortly, Maier worked for about forty years as a nanny and pursued street photography in all her spare time. She was a very private person and took photos daily of strangers on the street, with close to 100,000 negatives left behind! These negatives were found at an auction shortly after her death and now brought her the fame and recognition she always tried to avoid. When I first came to learn about her story, it wasn’t just her work that moved me like I have never been before. It was the fact that she did not create work just to have it seen or shown. She didn’t care if anyone liked it or approved of it. She didn’t care if it ended up on gallery walls or in frames in homes. She simply took the photo for the sake of freezing that exact moment in time and honoring the fact that she was in the right place at the right time to hit the shutter. 

Favorite fictional female character?
April Ludgate from Parks & Rec. She is just so unapologetic and well, weird. 

Go-to power anthem?
Super Freak by Rick James. When it comes on at weddings that I’m shooting, I run into the crowd of people and literally dance like the super freak that I am. When I am having a rough day, my partner will come home and without even asking, just put it on. It’s also another great unapologetic song in my opinion. Nothing wrong with being a super freak.

What would you eat for your very last meal?
I truthfully think about this often and it is hard to choose just one. (Privileged, am I right?) It might have to be tapas-style so I can fit all that I love into one meal. It would consist of figs, caprese salad, blueberries, fried chicken, white nectarines, watermelon, and granola — the homemade kind. If you can find a way to make that all work on one plate...

If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
My grandmother. I was 12 when she passed and although that isn’t that young, I am a completely different woman now. I want to get to know her all over again as the woman I am now. She was an incredible woman with so much to teach and so much love to give.

What’s something not many people know about you?
I just learned how to ride the bike at 27 years old! No one ever really taught me when I was younger and biking with the family wasn’t exactly what our idea of bonding was. My partner recently surprised me with a helmet, a bike, and a day in the park riding for the first time.

The Hustle:

Tell us about your hustle.
I photograph couples who hire me for their non traditional, dynamic and intimate weddings. I photograph lovers who want to document this time in their lives no matter the occasion or reason. I host self love gathers that are weekend long retreats surrounded with empowering photo sessions, gathering around the table for food and wine and bonding and upfliting your fellow females. Not to mention goodies from local badass female creators because I believe in supporting local artists and makers as well.

What does your typical workday look like? What are the various ‘hats’ that you wear throughout the day?
I let myself wake up naturally with a cup of tea and start responding to my inbox about an hour later. I make sure to go through my entire inbox so I don’t have it on my mind throughout the day. I then spend an hour or two working out; it helps me get out of the house and be active because sitting behind the computer all day isn’t ideal for my overall health. I then spend some time attending to social media because as much as I truthfully want to avoid it altogether, it is a powerful and connecting tool for my business and collaborating with fellow creatives. I also spend time blogging, constantly updating my website, spreading the word about self love gatherings, and finding new ways to reach out to my ‘ideal client’ aka good people. I am always, always, thinking about ways to better my business, the experiences at Self Love Events and myself all in a day’s work.

Describe your style of photography. What inspires it, and how has your style evolved over time?
My style is slow, documentary, moment oriented, and quiet yet strong. I aim for photographs that reveal the people in them even if they are strangers to the viewer. I aim for genuine and timeless portraits that induce nostalgia. A lot of my work and why I became a wedding photographer is influenced by my street photography and portraits. While shooting street work, you have to be patient, almost invisible and be ready to hit the shutter because once that moment reveals itself to you, it’s gone faster than it arrived. I treat wedding days with the same mindset — open eyes and constantly watching for a moment worthy of capturing still.
If my style has evolved over time as all styles do, it is just focused even more on the connection and bond between the couple and the people there to celebrate them. 

Nataly Zigdon

Nataly Zigdon

What kind of relationships/dynamic do you have with your clients? 
I made a promise to myself early on in my journey into becoming a full-time photographer that I would never compromise who I am or my integrity just to please or work with a couple. A connection both ways is essential and crucial for me. That is the only way I can truly create the work that I do with my couples — and I call it a collaboration for that reason. On the other hand, I do think it is up to me to strive to find a connection with my couple no matter who they are and if our personalities align. My ideal client is simple: down to earth, leaves any expectations at home, values the important parts of their wedding day, and are independent beings who don’t see a wedding day as the beginning of their lives. I enjoy couples who are individualistic but also make a kickass team when they unite forces. 

What inspired your Self Love Event? What was the most important piece of your vision for it, and what has the process of coordinating the event been like?
I struggle with body image every single day. When I wanted to go to some sort of event that I could not only empower myself but uplift my fellow females, I noticed that many of the boudoir events I came across I just couldn’t see myself at. I wasn’t the type to arrive, get a face done, put myself in poses that just weren’t me and then receive stunning photographs that only represented one aspect of my personality, ‘sexy’. I wanted someone to capture every aspect of my personality - the introvert, the tired, the loud, the analytical, the boisterous, the quiet, the happy. The lack of diversity in personality I was seeing was what truly lead me to creating an event where you don’t need to be anyone but all your many selves. I wanted each girl to bring whatever she is carrying with her at this time in her life and document it with no boundaries. 

What is the most important piece of your vision for the event?
I think the most important aspect of these events aren’t the photos, or the champagne, or the lady love time. The most important aspect is language. The language you have towards yourself, and the language towards your fellow females in your mind. Banishing judgement and transforming your perception. I tell each and every girl that attends these events that the event is not some magical fix-all, that they won’t leave the weekend suddenly loving themselves and their body. I tell them it is hard work and it starts long before and long after these events. These weekend retreats are simply a space and environment that lets a female finally commit to loving herself and her sisters. That is what I want, to provide that space and mindset. What follows is all on them and let me tell you, they have transformed in front of my own eyes.

What would you say is your biggest career milestone and why?
Being able to feel confident and vulnerable as ever to leave my job and start a business in something I am truly passionate about was one of the biggest milestones of my career and life. I’ve been doing photography for almost 10 years now and how amazing it is that it is now all that I eat and breathe.

Who are some photographers/creative/brands you’d like to collaborate with?
I truthfully want to collaborate with people outside my own field and industry. I feel there is so much more to learn from artists outside of the work you create.

What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
The comparison on social media is real. Our work is such an extension of ourselves, it is hard not to feel personal with every image and even harder not to constantly compare our self worth and work to the highlight reel we see on social media. I’ve learned this a long time ago and have stopped scrolling on social media. Although I absolutely love supporting my fellow creators, I find it healthier for myself to spend my time and energy doing that for them in person or connecting with them individually.

Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Before I drop names, I want to explain why I am inspired by them. I am inspired by humble women in this industry who truly value the artistic aspect of what they do and not the frills that come with any industry. I am inspired by their devotion to their work and their couples/females that they choose to care for. I am so moved by their imagery inspired by so many environmental and emotional elements. Rachelle Derouin, Melissa Habegger Ryan, and Elle Wildhagen, to name a few.

What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
Passion first, money second. Integrity first, social media second. People first, recognition second. Not having the foundation of the first before the second will only lead to many burnouts and you simply won’t be happy with the job you have. I also have come to learn that it’s pretty difficult to 100% be an artist as well as make money from your craft simultaneously. Sometimes you have to put your nature as an artist aside and create work that you don’t particularly are passionate about to continue having an income. Stay humble in getting paid and create the work you’re passionate about on your own time. Becoming a full-time photographer doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a full-time artist.

What does success look like to you?
Am I happy? Am I full? Am I sleeping comfortably at night? Am I able to continue buying lens that are out of my price range? Success to me can look like simplicity, comfort, or pleasure.

Career and/or life advice for other babes?
When we stop feeling deserving and entitled of things, every opportunity and accomplishment tastes like honey and feels like magic. Stay modest and don’t let the comparison that social media brings taint your spirit in the process.

Connect with Nataly!


This interview has been condensed and edited.

In partnership with: Beyou


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