Story 41: Andriana Nativio

What is your backstory?

I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I got into photography at a very young age, maybe around six years old. My father is an artist, and he always kept a Polaroid camera on a shelf in his studio. I was so fascinated by it. I began sneaking into his studio, taking it, and using up all of the film by photographing my cousins and friends. I would even dress them for their photographs, and then I would make little booklets by pasting the polaroids onto construction paper. My father would sometimes act like he didn't want me to use the camera (as I said, I was using all of the film), but then he would place it on the same shelf (fully loaded) that was just a little too tall for me to reach, but manageable. This made it even more fun for me to sneak the camera out of his studio. I'm not sure, but I like to think he knew exactly what he was doing. It has also come full circle, because my current work was inspired by reliving my childhood with my girl cousins.


What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I go back and forth between using my 4x5 camera and my Canon 5D Mark IV. I am so not a techy photographer; sometimes I wish I was, but I'm truly not. I just like being out in the world and making photographs. I do love my Zeiss lenses though.


How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

Of course, light is always key. However, when it comes to photographing people, specifically children, I like to give them more credit than we usually give kids. I believe they are so self-aware, and so I tend to treat them like adults. I think this has a significant influence on their facial expressions when I photograph them. As a woman, I know what it is like to want to be taken seriously, so I take them seriously as well.


Could you tell us the backstory of some of your photographs?

This body of work is still in progress, but I'll take you through how it started. I grew up surrounded by femininity—my mother had six sisters, and each had daughters of their own. I spent my summers traversing the lakes, creeks, rivers, and woods of Northeast Ohio with my cousins. While exploring together, we wanted to claim these spaces and make them our own; while we wandered these landscapes, they became the entirety of our world—a world that was just girl and just us. I met Jae and Jeni in LaFollette, Tennessee, a little over a year ago, and began photographing them immediately. At first, I was unsure why I was doing so before realizing I was reflecting on my own girlhood and experiences with my cousins. Now I'm playing with the idea that Jae and Jeni are various characters all by themselves in this world that they have created and allow me to join in. Perhaps there was no Adam and Eve, but two young girls instead, or perhaps they are Cane and Abel at times. Girls are so interesting, and the way we raise girls is so complicated. We are each other's support system, but we are also each other's rivals. We love each other, but we also resent each other. We help each other, but we also see each other as competition.


What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

You can create your work wherever you are in the world. I think that aspiring photographers tend to get overwhelmed and intimidated by seeing so much good work being made. They compare themselves to their photo heroes and think, "How can I compare? What do I have to photograph that would live up to this? What's the point?" This way of thinking can halt their process. I went to undergrad at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. It's a small town with flat land all around and made up of cornfields. My photography professor, Lynn Whitney, would always say to us: "If you can make photographs here, you can make them anywhere." She was right.


Andriana Nativio


Story 42: Sophie Schwartz


Story 40: Drew Sangria