New York based photographer and videographer, Anastassia Whitty (SayWordStaz) was born in Queens and raised in Long Island where she says she learned “to never back down and to hustle constantly.” As a professional photographer she aims to tell a story through her work. Anastassia has captured moments for major brands and artists like SXSW, Curren$y, Complex News, and The New York Times.
Was photography always your thing?
Photography became a passion that grew over time. I would like to say I am a renaissance woman in ways— I create art in my free time and I love acting. One of my dreams in fact— since I was a kid was to become a voice actress.
What did you study in college and is there a direct correlation to what you do today?
I received my Associates in Radio TV and Film, and got my Bachelor’s in Media Communications/Digital Arts soon after. They all correlate with what I do now as I am highly skilled in communicating with folks on social media and with my photography services. I’ve shot with many companies that needed social media today to market their brand— including my own.
Photography is one of those professions that can be quite expensive. You truly have to invest in yourself. How did you navigate this when you were first getting started?
When I first gained interest in photography, I knew it was something I had to invest in— time and equipment. Not having money at the time, I started with a small point and shoot camera I had and used that to take pictures everywhere. I utilized Photoshop trials and YouTube tutorials and taught myself how to edit. I decided shortly after to go back to school to do Radio TV and Film where I would have the equipment available to me to use and could learn more about media and photography as well. I was gifted my first DSLR after graduating and went ham on projects I created. Traveling to the city to connect and shoot work for others was an every weekend type of thing. I literally made something out of limited resources.
Let’s talk more about your brand, SayWordStaz?!. What inspired the name and how would you describe the content that you capture?
SayWordStaz?! actually came from my old poetry name I made for myself. I wanted to use it for my TV personality name at the time, however I fell more into the photography and production realm and decided to use it for that purpose instead. In a way, it’s to wake up viewers to the cool content done by myself. I capture the candidness in a photo. I like the photo to tell a story for others to see, and view what I see when I shoot. I also enjoy creating a cinematic feel to a photo that’s to the point and simple enough for someone to understand.
Considering your style and perspective, what is something that you cannot compromise when it comes to your work?
I cannot compromise doing free work and lowering my worth for anyone. That is a lesson I’ve learned over time and thank God I’ve realized through unnecessary hardships. There were times I was offered gigs for “exposure” and no compensation. Thinking about those times, it would be good for my portfolio, etc.; however, I realized I did that too much and was taken advantage of in those experiences. The experience didn’t elevate me or get me anywhere. It is alright to say no to things that you feel won’t elevate your growth. People should understand that you are a business and your time, work, and effort is very valuable. Those are a few things I’ve learned over time that I cannot compromise.
How has growing up in New York impacted you as a creative?
Growing up in New York taught me a lot: how to never back down and to hustle constantly because there will be a time where you may face a test and being prepared is always imperative.
You also spent time in Texas. Did you enjoy your time in the south?
I would say it was a new challenge making that transition from New York to Texas. The friends I was able to make taught me so much about the southern culture and what to watch out for. I will always respect them for that. The great experiences I was able to have, like shooting for SXSW was a blessing I would never take for granted. I will always have a second home there, however there is nothing like being home in New York.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with major brands and big names, something that many creatives dream of. What have been some of your favorite events, artists, or brands to work with?
It is crazy to think back and realize the people I’ve worked with and enjoyed working with. One of my favorites would have to be the SXSW fest. The vibes in Austin, Texas were on point and truly amazing. Shooting Curren$y concerts were always a dope time for me as well. He definitely knows how to move a crowd. I would say the New York Times assignment was the most epic so far, too. There were so many others, but those were just to name a few.
I think it’s important to reflect on how we got to where we are. Take me back to a time where you faced adversity in your journey. What kept you grounded?
I’ve had many times where I’ve faced adversity, but I was always able to keep it together by standing up for myself and learning to say no when situations seemed a bit suspect. As long as you are true to yourself and stay strong through it all— nothing else ever matters.
What have you learned that can serve as advice to those in the same field who may be hesitant, but want to pursue photography or videography full-time?
I would tell them this— stay consistent and true to your craft. When you feel like no one is looking at your work and you know you produce quality stuff, there will be that one person who is looking. Keep shooting, keep creating, and keep reaching out to brands that correlate with what you do. We have social media platforms to help showcase our work more on now. People are looking so don’t give up and learn about the algorithm. You got this!