2007_01_agarrett1.jpgAnya Garrett may describe herself as “a 23-year-old girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life yet,” but that hasn’t stopped her from making her living taking photos, doing web design, and generally immersing herself in the local comedy scene. After getting her B.F.A in Film/Television/Radio from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she struck out on her own, with a little help from people like David Wain, who she befriended snapping photos at his comedy shows, now Garrett can be found performing any number of tasks, from film production to directing sketch comedy, and acting, though she’s at her best snapping her way through New York City with her digital camera and eye for the zany. The “self-taught web nerd” has designed sites such as Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale’s Invitethemup.com and JulieandJackie.com, and has appeared on Stella as a cashier and in short films and onstage skits, harkening back to her acting days. Throughout her work, she shows a playfulness and creative zeal, such as in her cradle project, humorous self-portraits, or backstage antics. Whatever she's capturing, Garrett makes you wish you were there, laughing right along with her.

When did you first pick up a camera, and was it love at first snap?
My first experience behind a camera was shooting sketch comedy with my brothers, just as I was approaching puberty⎯the moment you truly want captured for posterity. At the time, my brothers were kind of distant from me (as older brothers are sometimes wont to do), so of course I loved it. I loved just being asked to get involved. My family is involved in many artistic endeavors. We like to create.

Still photography didn't pique my interest until my first year in film school. Living in New York, you can't help but pay attention to people, and people became my focus. My first photo project was a portrait series exploring the psychological effects of colors, a subject I haven't retired and probably never will.

You were originally planning to study theater and wanted to be an actress, then switched to photography and film. Are the two related in any way for you?
Well, they both involve people and capturing moments, which are two things that interest me very much. When acting, I worked with great directors and not-so-great directors. While it is a very personal and introspective craft, I have learned that having a great guide when acting can mean a world of difference.

I very consciously made the switch to guiding, but I'm still incredibly drawn to performing. I guess it's wanting to hear both sides of the story, wanting to understand both parts of the equation. What is an artist without a muse? What is a muse without an artist?

You still do the occasional bit of acting, having appeared on Stella and in various independent projects. Do you ever see yourself going back to that full-time or do you like the balance you have now?
I love acting. It will always be a part of my life. For the moment, however, I very much enjoy the variety of exploration. I love doing so many things. I suppose I'm still in the stage of my life where I am deciding which thing (or things) I love doing the most.

You support yourself through your video and film work, photography, and web design, yet are also involved in various other projects of your own and with friends. How do you balance the paying work with the other projects you do? Where do most of your clients find you?
If it will make me happy to do something, without fail I will do it. If there's a concept I love, more often than not I will be onboard. There is obviously a point where working with your friends can be trying, but who wouldn't enjoy doing something they love with their friends involved? If other people like it⎯in turn it will bring in more clients. Word of mouth and simply having your work visible are powerful things.

Much of your work revolves around the local comedy scene, whether photographing shows like Invite Them Up and The Kissing Booth, press photos and head shots of comedians, and promotional material. What drew you to the comedy world and how did you get so immersed in it?
I've always been drawn to comedy⎯particularly sketch comedy, characters, and absurdist theater. I like the weird, the dark, and the zany.

While I was at NYU, I took some photos at a couple of Stella shows, and David Wain contacted me to help promote the re-release of Wet Hot American Summer in theaters. He kindly took me under his wing and brought me on to a couple of shoots, and directly or indirectly introduced me to everyone in comedy that I know now.

Once I figured out that there was quality free comedy everywhere in the city on every night of the week⎯the lure was intoxicating. Who doesn't like to laugh?

What makes a given subject photogenic? Is there anything people can do to make themselves more photogenic?
There are definitely people who look consistently good in every photo. Sometimes it's good genes, sometimes it's charisma, but more often than not they tend to be the people that are incredibly comfortable in their skin. Relax, be yourself, and have a sense of humor about it. If you just plain feel uncomfortable, chances are good that you will look uncomfortable.

You have a lot of random snapshots as well as posed photos on your site. What are your favorite kinds of shots to take?
To me, the difference between photos and snapshots is a matter of intention. When doing portraiture, I am trying to capture a visual - to build an aesthetic design or concept. When I take a random photo - I could be inspired by a person or an event, but quite generally it's about capturing a memory. While snapshots can be universally appreciated, I think their true meaning is much more personal. I like them both - the photos are my art, and the snapshots are my life.

You do a lot of headshots for comedians, actors, and other performers. What's your goal when crafting the perfect headshot? How do you make your subject stand out?
I like my subjects to feel connected to their environment. When you are somewhere you relate to, you will find it easier to let go. Some photographers ask their clients to pose in uncomfortable, but flattering poses. I prefer to have them get comfortable and find the best way to shoot that situation. I should be the one working... you should just be your natural, beautiful self.

When you're doing a professional shoot for a headshot or album cover, how many photos do you typically need to take to yield the perfect one? Do you usually know when you've gotten that perfect shot, or does that come later in the sorting process?
For every great photo, you have a dozen mediocre ones. You can usually feel a good one. I have definitely had subjects respond to a shot with "That felt like a good one!" Or sometimes I feel it and I react to it, and then my subject laughs at my reaction. Then I get another good one - the honest smile. Occasionally, you sort through and find something you forgot, or you encounter a wonderful accident.

You shoot photos almost exclusively with a digital camera. Why do you prefer digital, and are there ever times when you're called on to work with film? What are the major differences in how you work and the outcome?
I first learned on film. I love film. It is absolutely gorgeous. Occasionally people will ask for film, but more often than not they'd rather not pay the fees associated with it. Digital is more accessible, often just as nice, and is definitely more useful in terms of experimentation.

You're more apt to try an idea you've never done before if you know that you don't have to pay to develop something disappointing. Also if it's a commissioned portrait, by instantly reviewing you can tell not only what you like, but what your subjects like as well. You can proceed together, and the final product will feel more like collaboration.

2007_01_agarrett2.jpgYou have several photo projects you've been working on, most extensively the Cradling Project, in which you've cradled 54 friends to date. How did that gets started and what are you going to use those photos for?
My friend Craig Baldo was having a shitty night, and to console him I offered to cradle him like a baby boy; he agreed to it. My friend Marianne Ways took a shot, which I found hilarious. In that moment "The Cradle Project" was born.

It became a quest to see how many of my friends I could cradle. Craig is one tall fellow, but I love a challenge. I've been a little lax in the quest, but it's still going. It will only end when Marianne lets me cradle her, and Baldo takes a picture of it.

I don't know that anything will come of the photos, but it amuses me to no end and ultimately that's its importance.

What are some of your favorites of the photos you've taken and why?
So many of my favorites are family, for those are the faces I truly love the most.

This is Liam, my godson, and a favorite moment from a lovely day with him. I love his scar, I love his shirt, I love his lion's "Roar!"

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A promo shot for sketch group Party Central USA because it incorporates three of my favorite things: whimsy, NYC, and my friends Michael Terry, Brianne Halverson, and Mike Condrick.

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And also I like when comics make themselves smile. This is one of John Oliver, a new favorite standup in NYC, at Broin' Out.

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You've taken some self-portraits where you're dressed or made up in various poses and styles. Are those as interesting for you as snapping other people?
I've decided that the best way to learn a skill is by doing it every day. If I don't shoot someone in the day, I shoot something with myself. I have plenty of photos of myself as I am, why not make an image of myself that I can't see while looking in the mirror each day? Also, maybe it's my actorly narcissism shining through, but I like myself. I like seeing what I come up with by myself.

What advice do you have for someone just starting out in photography, whether as a hobby or a potential full-time gig?
In several ways, I feel like I'm still “just starting out,” but if pressed to comment I'd say do it as often as you can, do it with passion, and try anything and everything⎯you never know when experiments will turn into beautiful images, or when an accident will morph into your calling.

Find out more at www.anyagarrett.com.