Women Who Inspire Series: Charissa Fay

Happy Friday, everyone! It finally is starting to feel like spring for real here in NYC, and I couldn't be more thrilled-- of course, it is right as I'm about to jet off for Europe, but still so happy to get a few sunny days coming up. 

Before I head out, I wanted to share one more awesome interview with an amazing woman who inspires! You may have seen her work in Condé Nast Traveler, Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, or Food & Wine, but if not, I'm proud to highlight and introduce a fellow New York creative's work, and who she is on this Women Who Inspire interview series. 

Charissa Fay- Women Who Inspire x Living Minnaly _15.png

So happy to introduce Charissa to you guys today, for anyone that has not come across her stunning photos on her Instagram. Charissa is a mom and a NYC-based travel, food, and lifestyle photographer.

I love how Charissa's ability to capture the true essence of what makes a destination beautiful, through her camera lens, rather than a standard doctored photo that fits a certain "Instagram aesthetic." It makes you feel transported to whatever country she is in, in that moment. She is a true original creator, which is what was so special about Instagram initially- rather than conformity, it's her unique perspective that shines through. She captures natural moments in time, rather than uber-styled and set up shots.

Without further ado, let's get to Charissa's interview!

Quickfire Bio

Hats you wear: Mom, New Yorker, Photographer.
First thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning: Look for my glasses.
Last nice thing you did for yourself: Shopped for clothes online.
3 words to describe your strengths you’re most proud of: Focused, curious, hard-working.
3 characteristics other people use to describe you: Reserved, organized, tall.
Current favorite physical activity: Running.
Current color crush: Teal
Current thing that never fails to make you smile: My family.
Recent experience on the bucket list: A recent work trip to South Africa
5 words to describe what love means to you: Unconditional, protective, intense, bittersweet, forever.
Morning bird or night owl: Morning bird.
Coffee or Matcha: Coffee
Sweet or savory: Savory.
Favorite lazy girl weekday meal: Leftovers, a ham and cheese sandwich, or takeout sushi.
5 items always in your purse/bag: Metrocard, iPhone, sunglasses, something to read.

Get Shit Done

Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so we choose our battles. What are your daily non-negotiables?
My daily non-negotiable is starting the day with coffee. I enjoy the quiet time and the ritual of it. And several mornings each week, I need to go for a run in Central Park because it really energizes, yet calms, me.  If I don't run, I sometimes feel antsy.

What is the most important lesson you've taken away from a particularly big achievement or success?
No matter what, there is ALWAYS more to learn. Personal growth and self-improvement means accepting what you don't know and being open to learning, no matter what your age or your level of success.   

What’s a habit you’ve adopted in the past year that has had a significant positive change on your daily routine?
I started doing a Pilates class every Monday morning.  I love it and always look forward to it because it centers me and quiets my mind. I feel like it kicks off my workweek with focus and purpose and makes me feel really strong. 

Mountains to Climb

Have you found that technology- especially with the real-time trend that social media is adopting (Snapchat, IG stories) that it takes away from the experience? Particularly travel or new experiences?
Because of my job and the habits that come with it, I sometimes find stressful to travel now because I am so focused on documenting it.  Even when I am not working, I feel compelled to take photos and/or share on social media.  It really takes me away from being in the moment, and I'm always disappointed in myself for that.  I have to be better about just putting the cameras down because it's not fair to the people with whom I'm traveling! It takes away from our experience together. 

Do you think you have your shit together?
Yes, I think my shit is pretty together.

From time to time, we all get caught up lusting after others lives— whether it be their travel photos on Instagram, their beautiful home, their adorable husband + babies, their burgeoning career, etc. What do you do when you fall down the rabbit hole of comparison to others in your field?
Like anyone else, I get envious of beautiful scenes from other people's lives, but then I remind myself that what we see is so heavily edited and curated, it's not "real".  You have to balance the fantasy lifestyle imagery with what you know is real and meaningful to you.

What’s a personal weakness you’ve overcome (or progressed on) that you’re most proud of? What was that process like?
I think I was always worried I couldn't handle a project or task in front of me - that voice in your head that says, "I can't do it". Now I know that if something scares me, it's often because I'm taking on a challenging project or overcoming an insecurity -- it means there is opportunity for growth.  Fear can be good.

Perspectives On

What do you think about the phrase “having it all” as a woman?
I think "having it all" is a cliche, outdated phrase.  I think it's more important to identify what makes you happy and content in your everyday life and as you get older, it is really about being comfortable in your own skin. 

Do you believe that you have to “have it all” to be happy?
You don't have to "have it all" and be deliriously happy every day.  You need to feel content and grateful for what you have and make steps towards achieving the other things that you'd like.

As much as we all like to say women help out other women, statistics still show that a majority of women undermine one another, or attempt to push away female working stereotypes away by disassociating their gender (great read here)— have you experienced this on either side? What is your take on this dynamic, as we work in a rather female-dominated industry?
In my industry, I don't really feel competition between women. I think there are plenty of assignments out there and we all have different styles and strengths. If anything, I'm competing against other photographers in general, but I'm not "competing" against other female photographers. 

We all see it— society’s increasing pressure to be so “perfect” — our outfits have to be Instagrammable, our homes have to be Pinterest-worthy, we have to be eating all-organic and healthy, our engagement shoots have to be magazine-worthy, and even our dogs have to have their own following! What are the effects on your life that you’ve noticed because of this dynamic, both negative and positive?  
There is always the trap of looking at other people's lives, believing that they are happier than you, and be green with envy.  It's great that people can be inspired by what they see in advertising and media, but you have to keep in mind that a lot of it is just smoke and mirrors.

Our bodies

Define “being healthy” in your perspective?
"Being healthy" means having good work/life balance, having self-acceptance of your body and celebrating your own unique strengths.  It also means being active, taking care of yourself and getting fresh air to keep yourself physically and mentally fit.

What is the one thing you’re most thankful for about your body?
I love being tall!

How has your perspective on your body changed since 5 or 10 years ago?
As I get older, things start to shift around, but in the grand scheme of things it is not a big deal.  I am just grateful to be healthy and still active.

It's funny because the aesthetic trends today seem to go in polar extremes— either Kardashian like makeup with the full-on contouring and hour long makeup tutorials or the fresh-faced au natural trend a la Glossier. How do you feel this affects young women’s standards of beauty and pressures today?
Whether you go glam or natural, there is still pressure to look flawless and effortless.  Everything we see in advertising, editorial and social media tends in that direction. There is a lot more emphasis on the superficial than when I was growing up, so I try to make sure my kids have a healthy perspective. 

The Hustle

What do you think is unique that you offer to your audience that is lacking out there?
I would say I have a natural-feeling, editorial, and somewhat journalistic approach in my style. I love to explore new places and capture how I see it as a photojournalist might document something, but with a lifestyle-driven eye. I also think I bring an understanding of how the magazine publishing industry works (I was a Marketing Director in my prior work life) and a mature, professional responsibility to every assignment. 

Have you had a specific moment of feeling like “I’ve made it"- or do you even think that exists?
When Conde Nast Traveler sent me to Miami to shoot a story, I felt like I had crossed the threshold from saying, "I do photography" to "I am a photographer."  As a relatively new freelance photographer, there is always an element of self-doubt, but with that assignment I felt validated at a high professional level.

Do you ever feel like you see the advice out there to “just be yourself! Produce content that makes you happy and the rest will fall in place?”— but reality is, is that there are some parameters for succeeding in these kinds of creative fields. How do you maintain integrity while also still propelling your business forward?
At the end of the day, you should never put work out there that you are not proud of and that does not represent your personal style.  As a freelancer, I'm able to decide which brands and projects I work with, which I love because it ensures that the partnership is as seamless and organic as possible.  I always listen to my client's objectives and creative direction, then shoot with my personal eye on what I see. I like to hope that's what they hire me for!

A huge thank you to Charissa for being a part of this interview! Loved her very level-headed perspective on her industry, and balance between work and life. 

All photos courtesy of Charissa and her beautiful website + Instagram.
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