From body positivity to plus sized success stories, we were lucky enough to have a candid conversation with the photographer helping to break down the barriers of the fashion industry
When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer?
I’ve been into photography my entire life since I was a child, but I didn’t understand that a photographer was a job I could actually have! I literally just thought people did it for fun. There’s a really funny story in my family from when I was a child, my mum had purchased this beautiful 35mm film camera, and I was five years old, took it while she wasn’t looking and brought it to school with me, because, I was like, ‘I want to take pictures of my friends, this seems fun!’ And then I actually ended up breaking it while I was at school and got into so much trouble. Luckily, now, it’s a funny story and my mum even says, “Well, that was literally the beginning of you getting into photography!”
What was your exposure to photography before you studied it?
Well, like every other kid and teenager, I was mostly exposed to photography through general media, through magazines and advertisements – I actually didn’t even understand photography was even an art form. I would always look at fashion and art magazines and that’s how I would take in all the photography I was seeing.
Who were the first photographers that you found inspiring? Is there an exhibition, book or image that you remember for the first time really responding to?
I really, really love Annie Leibovitz. I’m so inspired by her because she was a military kid and so was I – she actually wrote this book called ‘At Work’ and it’s all about as a child how much time she spent in the car. In military families you’re always on the move and you’re always driving around so much and it really does change your outlook on the world. It totally changes your frame because you’re always looking outside of a car window, and I was like, ‘wow, that really resonates with me’. She was also one of the first women to actually do the high-end celebrity portraiture and fashion portraiture work and I always found that really inspiring. I think, if you don’t see someone doing it, you don’t think it can be done. So, for me to look at this woman creating this beautiful work in a traditionally male-dominated environment and industry, I found that so inspiring. Plus her work is just absolutely gorgeous.
Can you pin point a particular image that spurred on your interest in photography?
So, I was super familiar with Richard Avedon’s work. He is just so iconic for the way that he used to interact with the people he was photographing, particularly the portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Even if you’re not interested in photography, what he does allows people to immediately interact with his images. He also did a series of portraits with white backgrounds, and it was kind of amazing. Because there was nothing else around to distract you so you literally have to look directly at the person. And it’s not just the celebrity stuff he did, I mean, yeah, he shot celebrities and presidents on white backgrounds but he also shot all types of people from all walks of life and I thought that was amazing. I also really love his original work; the old portraits of Twiggy were just beautiful and so inspiring to me.
Tell me a bit about your favourite shot and the story behind it?
That’s such a tough one… That’s literally like asking a parent to pick their favourite child! I guess they’re each so special in their own individual ways… But I can talk about something I’ve been working on recently, I’ve been working on the swimsuit campaign for Chromat. They approached me to do a shoot, it began because we were working with an ad agency and they’d thought up this idea where we’d be creating the ‘pool rules’. Going to the pool can be a really sensitive point for some people especially if you feel like your body type isn’t welcome. So, Chromat’s brand and her message has always been about empowering women, and, really, everybody on the gender spectrum. So we wanted to create a shoot that would help to re-define what going to the pool meant. We should be empowering people to go to the pool and to wear their swimsuits with pride whatever your body type and not feeling like you had something to hide. We had this incredible cast of people who represent so many different aspects of diversity, was a totally diverse cast. We had Denise Bardot, she is absolutely incredible. We shot this woman Gina, Erica Hart, Emmie, Mama Cax, I’ve been photo-crushing on her for such a long time now so I was so excited to shoot her! It was just a really special day, it was almost all women on set and that was so empowering even as an image maker, to see all these women standing together in one place was so special, I can’t even describe the feeling. And, honestly, the photography industry has been so male-dominated for so long. It’s been a long time that fashion photography has been shot through the male gaze so there’s really something to be said for women to be put in charge of imagery for women, because we approach it from a way that’s completely different, you know? And I just feel so blessed to be able to work with people that are all for empowering women, we need to change the industry in a way that makes people feel ok to be themselves.
“I’m slightly concerned that this is just a moment in time where diverse bodies are just trendy and that it doesn’t necessarily make a prominent change. I want to make sure that this isn’t just a moment – that this is a movement.”
Tell me a bit about your view on the industry in general, have we got better in being inclusive with curve models?
So, I have really different feelings. A huge part of me is seeing a lot of progress and I’m really happy to see the changes I have done. I’ve been so refreshed seeing these photographers who have never shot plus sized models, who are now shooting plus sized models for lots of high-end fashion campaigns. H&M I think are amazing at the moment in using plus-sized models, I look at those things happening and I really celebrate them because even five years ago, that wasn’t happening. In part, I’m really excited, but I’m also slightly concerned that this is just a moment in time where diverse bodies are just trendy and that it doesn’t necessarily make a prominent change. I want to make sure that this isn’t just a moment – that this is a movement. And that this is something that continues to happen so it gets integrated into the fashion industry so that it’s something that lasts, because right now, seeing a certain type of body, it’s very destructive for young girls, young women, and men! We really need to change the industry and create a new normal, but the truth is, diverse bodies are normal and the fashion industry has just excluded and neglected that, but this is where people like me are here to illustrate that. Plus-sized, diverse, curve – these are not buzzwords! These are people’s lives. And we need to treat it with that kind of respect.
Hunter McGrady for Curva by Anastasia Garcia
“Plus-sized, diverse, curve – these are not buzzwords! These are people’s lives. And we need to treat it with that kind of respect.”
It’s notorious that we as women can be our own worst enemies. You seem incredibly confident on social media, how would you describe breaking through those insecurities?
I get asked this question a lot, people are always like, “Omg, you seem so confident!” And I think, we being people who work in the body positivity sphere, self-love is made to seem like this destination you’re meant to just arrive at, like, one day you just wake up and you’re completely comfortable in your skin and everything is fine but that’s just not true! Well, it’s certainly not true for me. It’s definitely a difficulty for me to try and love my body and that’s something I have to try and learn to do every single day. I don’t feel beautiful every day, I really don’t and I don’t feel at peace with my big stomach every single day and there are tough days that I have to really work on it. So, for me, part of myself opening up about that on my social media is my way of trying to show women that, yes, you see these images on social media, we tend to get the highlight reel on Instagram and they just want people to see the perfect picture. But, behind every single one of those images are massive insecurities, even though I work in this environment and even though I’m surrounded by all these incredible people, I still struggle with it, it’s a practice, not a destination and posting that imagery is just part of my practice. I try to put myself out there and celebrate myself just like I celebrate those other beautiful models. That’s a massive part of my journey, for me. Everyone around you is insecure, it’s just not spoken about, and that’s crazy! Especially when you’re young and in high school, you might feel like you’re the only person that feels that way but you’re really not. Everyone is freaking out! And that needs to be spoken about more than ever.
Anastasia Garcia in Her #ELVIinclusive Look
What is one message you want to get across in your work?
I hope that my work encourages women to see the beauty within themselves, and to understand that their flaws are something not to be ashamed of, they should be something to be celebrated, because they’re the things that truly make us beautiful. Beauty is not defined by the way that you look! And you are worthy of love and acceptance, because of who you are and that’s what makes you beautiful and that’s what makes you special. And I hope that with my work it helps to break down those stigmas around disabilities, around age, race, all these things that women feel that makes them less than. I want my audience to celebrate those things, because that’s what makes them so special.
QUICK FIRE ROUND:
What five things are in your fridge?
Ginger ale, string cheese, yoghurt, apple juice (because I’m perpetually five!) and spinach.
What’s your phone wall paper?
Going to disappoint you and say it’s actually just the generic iPhone wallpaper. Nothing exciting, here!
What’s the last song you listened to?
That song that’s like, “Baby, Why don’t you just meet me in the middle!”
What do you keep on your bedside table?
My bedside table is so cluttered, but at the moment it’s my lamp, a plate of crystals, a candle, whatever book I’m reading at the time, and always a bottle of water.
What’s the last thing that made you cry?
Oh my gosh, I actually cry so much. But the last thing that made me properly cry was about this horrible algae crisis on the west coast of Florida right now, sugar companies have been allowed to dump sugar into the lakes and it basically just kills of all wildlife but in mass, it’s so upsetting. So there’s just thousands of dead fish floating in the water, manatees are washing up on shores, I was watching that and it was honestly just making me sob the way that we treat our planet.
Keep up with Anastasia’s world:
Words Danielle Kerwick