The landscape photographer talks about self-expression, inner visions, and how we honor those who came before.
– KEYS SOULCARE
As a Black woman, influencer, and visual creative, Gina Danza (a.k.a. @Wild Gina to her followers and fans of her work) isn’t just making a name for herself in landscape photography. After making the jump from corporate creative life to nature photography, she’s creating a whole new lane in an industry traditionally dominated by white men. Her undeniably stunning images capture the beauty of desert flora, color-splashed sunsets, as well as moments hiking and basking in the sun.
As it turns out, Danza’s vision goes way beyond her final photos; her work speaks to themes of ancestral sovereignty and reclaiming the spaces we all must learn to honor and share for our greater good and ultimate survival.
What’s inspiring your photography right now?
Right now, I’m focusing on small scenes, which means florals and vegetation. I’m currently in the desert, so I am working on desert landscapes and working with the sun. I [feel that I] was drawn here by my ancestors.
What are typical days like right now?
They’re not typical. I was working for so long towards other people’s dreams, and creating things that were not connected to who I am. I’m now able to laser-focus and say, “My broad agenda is to create art out of florals, vegetation, and small nature scenes, in order for me to connect with my ancestors.”
[I want to] bring stories to other people’s homes. I want people to buy my art and put it on their wall. I want them to be able to tell a story from their personal experience, or have someone walk by [and say], “This reminds me of that one time…” or “This makes me feel…” I want emotions flowing through people when they see my art because that’s how I feel when I’m creating.
When do you feel most like yourself?
I feel most like myself when I have a camera in my hand. It’s like a spidey sense. Sometimes when I don’t have a camera in my hand, and I’m just driving about, I see something and I want to capture and create art out of it. I’m like, “Ooh my gosh! This is who I am. This is where I’m most myself.”
You often speak out about how exhausting it can be as a Black woman in digital visual spaces. How do you measure out your energy with intention?
I’m exhausted every single day being a Black woman, especially in the landscape photography space, which is a very white field. I don’t know any other Black women [who are] landscape photographers. I don’t have anyone to look up to. It’s a very lonely world. It’s hard to be able to go to people [when] I’m having an issue because I went outside. [For instance], I was driving through a national park and I got out of my car to take a photo and the park ranger stopped me and [said], “Oh, we thought your camera was a gun.” But, I’ve seen at least a dozen other white people holding longer lenses than [mine]. Did [they] stop them?
I’m always holding this anxiety and I always remind my audience, too, that whenever they’re buying my work and see my work, there is always trauma and anxiety behind the eyes that are taking this photo. I’m usually shaking up the shutter. I’m usually looking behind my shoulder every five seconds while trying to be still with nature. That’s my everyday, and I have to keep reminding my community of that [because] people soak in this type of information for a couple of minutes and then forget.
How do you take care of yourself as a response?
There’s one thing that is kind of consistent: my skincare. I love taking care of my face. I love trying out new products. It just makes me feel renewed and refreshed. I feel like I’m stripping away a lot of my anxiety and it makes me feel beautiful, like my soul is becoming more beautiful, so I try to work with skincare mostly. That’s the number one thing that I can say that I’m doing for myself. [Some people say] “Oh, Black girl luxury.” And there is no such thing as Black girl luxury. It’s supposed to be normal for us to take care of ourselves.
What is your highest vision for yourself and your work?
I’ve seen visions. I know where I’m going, but I just want everybody on earth to know [who] Black women are. They take photos of nature, too. I tell people I’m an outdoor photographer and they immediately don’t think of art. They immediately [ask], “Oh, what brands do you shoot for?” I’m creating art. And there’s a difference.
I literally shoot mountains and sunsets, and they don’t see Black women doing that. I want that to be normalized. I just want more Black women nature photographers out there. I have to be the leader in this space because I don’t want the next Black person to feel as lonely as I do right now.
Do you have any advice or any words of wisdom, even to yourself now, about being a Black woman in this industry, as a creator and a creative person?
Intuitively go after what you feel is right, which can include not creating. Don’t feel pressured because you think that there are a bunch of people that are ahead of you. You’re in your own lane. They’re completely separate. This is why I’m [on] this path. I see people in the lane next to me, and they’re way, way, way ahead of me because they’ve had generational knowledge and the wealth in order to do that. So, just don’t give up! Keep going. You may get off on the wrong exit or think [you’re going] the wrong way, but you’re going to learn something anyway.
What’s your creative legacy? How does your work help build a better path for others?