leaving a legacy | by LeAnna Azzolini
My name is LeAnna Azzolini and I live in a small beach town called Dana Point in California with my amazing husband and wild little four-year-old girl. I'm incredibly sentimental and feel the need to try and bottle up every moment of life with my favorite people. This leads to full hard drives and more photos and videos than I know what to do with...I'm also a horrible pack rat. I'm very connected to and driven by music. I cry when I'm inspired or touched by something, which happens a lot (and can be quite embarrassing). My favorite childhood memories are of summertime camping at the beach and in the mountains with my Mom and Dad. Those were the best days with them and I hope to recreate those times with our daughter.
What most people don't know about me is that I've experienced my own personal rock bottom in life and come out of it a changed person. This low point was the result of a violent attack which was a near-death experience and wake-up call for me. I never talk about it anymore because it's very difficult for me to articulate and also very emotional for me to relive. I feel like I was given a new lease on life many years ago, and it has shaped and changed me to make me who I am today.
Back in my twenties, my life wasn't going the way I wanted it to. I didn't believe that I had any power to change it...until this traumatic event stopped me in my tracks. After that incident, my whole world basically blew up in my face and I was forced to confront the fact that my actions and choices were what had gotten me into danger in the first place. I spent several years healing, rewiring my brain, and working on changing my patterns. Although it was the most difficult thing I'd ever been through, this past experience has brought me to where I am today and I am thankful for it. Much of my current self-portraiture is a result of the growth that I experienced after that life-altering event. I use my photography to celebrate and express my gratitude for this beautiful life that I've created with my family. It is also my way of leaving a legacy behind for my daughter.
I've been in love with photography since I was very young. Growing up, I was always the girl who had her camera at every party and had everyone rolling their eyes as I made them line up for a photo. I always had a deep desire to create, but was not fully aware of what that meant or how to go about it. This need for creating brought me to pursue acting as a career straight out of college, since that was the only art form that I believed you could make any money doing at the time. I spent 10 years in show business and was able to support myself through television guest appearances, commercials, and odd modeling jobs, but was never truly fulfilled when I was working on set (which is the actual goal!). I felt like I was only sticking with "the dream" because I didn't want to be seen as a quitter...and that's no way to live a life. After my life-altering event, I left everything that I had built (for over ten years) as an actress in Los Angeles. I even stopped teaching elementary school in the inner-cities, which was something I had begun in order to bring more meaning into my life. I left everything artistic behind and began a career in business, selling real estate. In hindsight, I realize that it was my way of parting from my old life and emerging as someone new. As much as business just wasn't in my heart, this time in my life was necessary to bring me to that place where I invited art back into my world.
My breakdown lead me to a breakthrough. After several years of healing and changing my habits, I found the love of my life and we were married in 2011. He encouraged me to follow my heart, drop real estate, and pursue photography as a business. I began working at a celebrity event planning company as an assistant to help create the events (but my secret goal was to become their photographer). After a few months of working behind the scenes, I was given the opportunity to shoot a group of actresses for a charity event that was being featured in US Magazine. That one job turned into those women calling my boss and asking if they could hire me personally to photograph their friend's baby showers and similar events. I also became the main photographer for all of our private events. Talk about faking it until you make it! As much as I loved the opportunities I was being given, I didn't have much creative control and I wasn't allowed to share most of my work because these people were famous.
Photography was definitely in my heart and I felt it was my calling, but I realized that I was probably in the wrong genre.
The light bulb moment happened when I became pregnant with my daughter two years later. I've always been obsessed with the beauty of pregnancy and I wanted to capture my own so badly, but didn't feel comfortable posing in front of someone else. I bought myself a tripod and an interval timer from Amazon and I shot some self-portraits. From there, I did a few free shoots and started branching out to shoot more expectant moms, which turned into families and so on. Fast forward to now. I've cut back significantly on client work in order to be present for my daughter, but I still need to keep the creative juices flowing. Self-portraiture does that for me. I have found such a love for creating these portraits that it's become my main source as a creative outlet. My ongoing self-portrait project has not only allowed me to find my voice, but it has also brought me to some recent teaching opportunities that I'm very excited about. If there's one thing I'd like to do with my photographs in this world (besides leaving a legacy behind for my daughter), I would hope to inspire someone to throw caution to the wind and just go for it. Life is short and we only get one chance. Create your art. Do it your way. Your people will get it...and they're the only ones who matter anyway.
If I were to describe my photography style in three words, it would be: "Emotion, Color, & Light".
My photography goals for this year are very simple. I aim to keep shooting everything that I love, no matter the style or genre, and begin to slowly formulate my business plan for when my daughter begins full-time school at the end of 2019.