Girl Crush: Photographer Margaret Leyva

We caught up with dreamy photographer, Margaret Leyva, on body positivity, her creative process, and how she balances photography and being a mom. Also peep a new editorial she shot of The Howdy Top

1. How did you know that you wanted to do photography as a full-time career?
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted her to grow up and be inspired by however I lived my life. I wanted her to see me not only living out my dreams, but those passions sustaining us. So at nineteen I began to fixate on photography. It wasn't a hard decision. A lasting career doesn't sprout overnight, especially a creative one, so I still work daily to achieve the goal of "full-time creative" and living off that financially. But I knew I wanted to pursue a full-time career in photography because it's something I love and luckily have a natural inclination towards. I will say the true goal is to be active in multiple creative careers with photography as my base. 

2. Who/what inspired you to pursue photography?
I don't think it was one thing at first, but now my daughter is that driving force. I started shooting at eight years old and from then on kept it as a side interest. I grew up dancing so I didn't want to admit that I was stronger at something I didn't spend a lot of time doing. So I guess before my daughter, the underlying passion I had for photography drove me to always keep up with it. 

3. I see that you have done a few gallery shows, is there one coming up soon?
There aren't any shows coming up for me, no. I pulled together a group show in June and then a solo show in December, so I'm good on planning shows for at least another few months. Right now I'm focusing on creating new works. 

4. What is your preferred method of photography? Film or Digital?
The age old question. I honestly don't think it matters at the end of the day. Me, personally, I shoot film because I like the process. I like loading the film, developing the film, scanning and printing--all of it. Because it makes me feel like I'm putting more of myself into whatever it is I'm working on. With that said, an image can be just as meaningful if shot with digital. It's also way more affordable that way, right? I went to a lecture put on by Canon, and a well establish photographer was arguing with my mentor about film vs digital. He said something that I live by when it comes to this debate and that is, "it doesn't matter how the image was shot if it speaks to you." 

5. What is the biggest issue when it comes to posting your content onto platforms like Instagram, do you feel a sense of censorship with your explicit content, especially in the newest series you're working on?
Well of course, a massive part of me wished the world worked differently and that I wouldn't have to post and worry about engagement in order to gain real life work opportunities. But! that's the way it is, so I try my best to manage my own mental health and not obsess over numbers and comments. That's not real life. As far as censorship, I find it annoying but not surprising. And thankfully I don't think it hinders the message I'm trying to convey through my new series.

6. What is the creative process when conceptualizing ideas for shoots? 
What I like to do is build off of one detail. So if I know I want to use certain lighting, I'll start to conceptualize what the rest of the set will look like. Then I keep adding in small details until I have a whole solid idea.

7. What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with pursuing their passion in artistic fields such as photography? Start small, I mean that's what I'm doing. If you're just beginning the journey, then take those unpaid opportunities. There's this new weird wave of beliefs where some people think they should be paid major money for things they don't have true experience in. Of course value yourself and time; however if you've never been on set, take that unpaid PA spot to learn what it's like. Also understand that a creative career, at least in the beginning, has so many ups and downs. I have had months where I make more than enough off shooting, and others where I barely can afford rent. I've had cents in my bank account and want to cry, feeling so hopeless, and then some blessing comes along and I gain another amazing opportunity. So I guess my advice would be: realize everything won't happen overnight, but stick with your passion because it'll be all the more rewarding once you "make it." I don't know if I believe we ever "make it," because we're always growing and trying to do better but you get the idea. 

8. What inspiration did you draw from for the Loteria series?
My daughter has a little Loteria book, so I saw that and thought it'd be so cute to recreate a few. At the time, I was feeling really uninspired. Makeup looks inspire me, so I knew I wanted my friend, Crystal, to create the looks. Ultimately those would be the center of my inspiration. It's ended up being an amazing little project between the two of us and I couldn't have created it without her. I'm putting out onto my website April 18th 2019.

9.The newest project I see that your working is about body positivity and showcasing “real bodies.” What kind of impact did you consider making when this series is finished?
For this project, I don't really care about the larger impact. This series is for myself, the woman I shoot, and the women that see the photos and can relate. That's it. 

10. The conceptual aspect of your work consist highly of minimalistic props and backgrounds is this done on purpose to highlight the people being photographed?
It's a little bit of highlighting the person and a little bit of I just don't have a lot of props around me when shooting. I also don't like when photos have a ton of props and none of them look like they should be there. So until I can use props they way I want, I'm not gonna use them. My friend, Tula, has the most amazing bedroom full of the cutest knick knacks. And I think that would be my ideal set up with props. Everything looks like it's meant to be there, and the details just get better and better the more you scan the room. 

11. Who are the people you photograph and what do they mean to you?
The people I shoot for personal works tend to be my friends/people that are around me. From time to time, I'll have some cute internet girl reach out and I'll use her for test shoots or just put her in something like the Loteria series. I'm always grateful for the people I shoot, because I think having your photo taken is very personal. So I'm happy people trust me in that. I love meeting people and getting to know pieces of them.

12. Being a full-time mom and running your own business, what kind of obstacles do you face when juggling both? 
Oh, I honestly don't even know because it's just my life, you know? Any obstacles don't feel like obstacles or at least don't make me want to stop. I love my daughter and I love photography, so the hard days don't dim the feeling I get on good days. I guess maybe when my daughter wants my attention while I'm shooting, but we work through that. The people I shoot are always understanding, which I'm forever grateful for. It's hard work but nothing really comes to mind when I try to think of obstacles.