In my photography it is my goal to capture the unique personality and spirit of each person I work with. I am learning that no matter how good I am or will be at the technical features of photography, the subject must be willing to 'show themselves' before the camera in order to get the kind of images I am looking for. It is truly a collaboration.
I met Natalia at a party meet up with the International Friends group we belong to where she was celebrating officially becoming a United States Citizen! She told me she would like some patriot style shots to celebrate. We waited until the weather cooled a bit to do the actual shoot and boy was it worth the wait! I knew after meeting Natalia that she would be an amazing person to photograph as she has such a a positive happy spirit. We shot these photos at Curtis Hixon park in downtown Tampa, across the river from the Plant Museum and University of Tampa which has a very Russian look to it. This park is a fantastic place to visit and to take photos be it during the day or into the night . Natalia wore 4 different outfits and we used the many fantastic backgrounds at this park, yet there are still more for next time! Natalia's profile is presented in Q &; A form. Enjoy!!
Where in Russia are you from?
I used to live in a large city of Yaroslavl, 3 hours North-East of Moscow. Yaroslavl marked its 1000th anniversary in 2010. People are very beautiful in Yaroslavl, and so are the historical sites. Yaroslavl is situated on the banks of the famous Volga River. Picturesque!
Is your family still in Russia?
Yes, my family lives in Russia. My parents came to visit a couple of times and we traveled to New York City, St Augustine, Disney in Orlando, and Key West. I also go back home to Russia every other year.
When did you come to the U.S.?
In 1998 I came to a small private college South of Boston as an exchange student. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been if I didn't participate in that exchange program. I fell in love with America! I made so many friends and I have experienced so many things for the very first time: ranging from cheesecake and mozzarella sticks to playing miniature golf, shopping at a mall, witnessing the poverty of Bronx, going on spiritual retreats, visiting the mountains of Utah, hills of Pennsylvania and the fantastic world of Disney of course. :)
How did you end up in Tampa, Florida?
During my first visit in 1998 I made so many friends and to this day they are my dear and true friends who have seen the ups and downs of my American adventure:) One of them I met on my trip to Florida in 1999. We kept in touch and in 2001, when I graduated college in Russia, my friend and her family invited me to come back to the U.S. for the summer and stay at their house in Lakeland, FL. I made even more friends during my stay and one year later I decided to relocate and give the American dream a try :)
Is life in Russia very different from life in the U.S.? What is the biggest difference?
Life and the daily struggles are different, but human nature is the same. Life in the States is more comfortable: things are more convenient and one feels more stable and secure here, in the U.S. In Russia, especially outside of Moscow, there are still many struggles and instability. Bureaucracy and corruption are still prominent in Russia, and this, in my opinion, hinders the progress of such a mighty and great nation. On a smaller scale, however, inside one's circle of friends and family, you will find joy, happiness, love, kindness, hope, jealousy, generosity, etc., just like anywhere in the world.
What do you miss most about Russia?
My family. My grandmother. Good old fun times with my college friends...
Do you have many Russian friends here, in the States?
I really don't. I have a couple of friends from Ukraine and speak Russian with them, but I don't have a Russian friend. I made a few great friends in the States over the years and I cherish their friendship, love, and kindness very much. I am a very lucky girl.
What do you like the most about America?
Somehow I feel that i was meant to be born Russian and make my way to America! Even if later in life I find myself living in a different country and on a different continent, I believe I will always feel American at the very core of my being. The American Spirit is very dear to me. Adventure, discovery, freedom, responsibility, hard work, growth, happiness, Christian values-these are the things I hold very dear to my heart. Once again, I am so lucky to have the opportunity to live my dream life!
Have you traveled a lot? Where would you like to go next?
During my college years I used to travel a lot. Partly because my Dad was paying for my travels, and partly because I wasn't yet a hard-working American deprived of vacation time :). I visited many States in the Continental U.S. and also traveled around Europe quite a bit. For some reason I remember Belgium being the place I'd want to go back to :).
What other languages do you speak?
I speak English, Russian, and Spanish. I do need to improve my Spanish and it has been one of my New Years Resolutions for a couple of years already :).
How do you spend your free time?
I LOVE hanging out with friends: going to the movies, hosting home-made dinners, going out for breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner :). I love to spend time outdoors. I also enjoy reading, cooking and volunteering.
What is your motto in life?
Be kind. Be cheerful. Believe in love and act out of love. Enjoy each moment-cherish and treasure it. Gather the roses of life today-wait not 'till tomorrow....
We ended the evening with Natalia playing int the mist of a fountain that normally shoots up several shoots of water high in the air during the day. In the evening it is turned down so that there is just a fine mist shooting out of it. The sky remained an amazing red-orange color after sunset providing an amazing backdrop. Thank you Natalia for being yourself and letting me capture your wonderful spirit in these photos!