Episode 104 – Unstoppable Photographic Storyteller with Marlana Semenza
Talk about a particular event shaping your life, while earning a degree in photography, Marlana Semenza stepped onto a tour bus and began an adventure and a career. In this Unstoppable Mindset episode, you get to hear from Marlana about how she was hired by WWE as a photographer and suddenly found herself on a bus going to different wrestling events as a photographer. She always liked the camera and taking pictures, but with her new WWE, (World Wrestling Entertainment), a position she took her dreams to a whole new level.
On this episode we get to experience from Marlana her many adventures and experiences not only just taking pictures, but also how she evolved her camera knowledge into telling visual stories.
For me, this episode is extremely fascinating since, as a blind person, I don’t really do pictures. However, Marlena’s exciting and commitment rub off and I very much enjoyed hearing what she has to say. I hope you do as well.
About the Guest:
While earning a degree in photography, Marlana Semenza stepped on to a tour bus and began an adventure and a career.
She uses her unique background that includes storytelling, advertising, set design and location scouting to tell her client’s stories in their most powerful way.
An international photographer and visual strategist, Marlana’s client base has included athletes, celebrities, WWE Superstars and public figures including Miss North Carolina. She photographs clients in person and now virtually through her service ‘Photographer In Your Pocket.’
She is also the host of the podcast Your Iconic Image.
How to connect with Marlana:
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Hi, once again, I am Mike hingson, your host and welcome to unstoppable mindset today we get to interview Marlana Semenza, who is a professional photographer and I think has some very interesting and clever things about photography that she wants to talk about. She has photographed celebrities, WW II, events and people and so on. And I don’t know what all being blind Do I look at pictures? No, not necessarily, but I appreciate them. Although my favorite joke is although people say a picture is worth 1000 words, I would point out that it takes up a whole lot more memory. So do it that much. But welcome to unstoppable mindset. How are you?
Marlana Semenza 02:01
I’m well thank you so much for having me.
Michael Hingson 02:03
Well, thanks for being here. And Marlena also has her own podcast and we will get to that and talk about that as we go forward. I’m sure why don’t we start a little bit by maybe you telling us just about you growing up and kind of some of the the early things, you know, to sort of set the stage for what you did with your life.
Marlana Semenza 02:21
Well, I was actually born in New Jersey, and then my mother transplanted me to Connecticut when I was about 10. We’re in New Jersey. I was born in Morristown, New Jersey. Okay. Then, when we got to Connecticut, it was in Fairfield County, Connecticut, I was in New Fairfield, which is about an hour north of Fairfield. But it was great because I never really lived more than an hour outside of New York City for most of my life. So that’s a very rich culture. And you have access to a lot of a lot of things. My grandfather, who I adored, put a camera in my hand when I was a kid. And that was his hobby. And I because I idolized him and wanted to do everything he was doing. Then it became my hobby, and then later on became my profession.
Michael Hingson 03:18
I was reading your bio, and it said that you stepped on a tour bus and began a speaking career. What’s that about?
Marlana Semenza 03:26
Well, not a speaking career. I’ve
Michael Hingson 03:27
not a speaking career but a career. Yeah, adventure.
Marlana Semenza 03:32
I graduated from college with a degree in photography. And before I went to Western Connecticut State in Danbury, Connecticut. Originally, I was going to go to Fordham for law. And what happened was, I didn’t really want to have all the college debt. So I thought, Okay, well, I’m gonna go locally, somewhere for a year and get some common core under my belt. And I don’t know why. I never, it never occurred to me that you could make a living in the arts, I don’t know where I thought all of the photos in magazines and things came from. But once I realized that you could actually do it for a living that hobby then became what I wanted to do. But about, oh, six months or so before I graduated, a friend of mine was working for WWE, which actually at the time was WWF and Stamford, Connecticut. And he worked in the graphic design department. And they were looking for somebody to work in photo editing. So I went down to apply for the job in photo editing. And my soon to be boss came into the interview. And by the end of the interview, he said to me, do you have a problem with airplanes? And I said, Well, no. And he said, That’s good, because instead of photo editing, you’re going to be my assistant and I was given the time to meet, which was in the evening. I stepped on a tour bus. I was they pointed and said this is your bunk it was me and I think it was six guys And I had never watched wrestling in my life. I knew nothing about wrestling. And the next morning, I stepped off the bus, walked backstage at the arena and looked around and went, What have I done? But it’s, yeah, it was, once I got past the initial shock of it all, it was actually an amazing, amazing experience that I’m eternally grateful for. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 05:27
So you, you started a career and certainly an adventure. No, no question about it. I had some experience with photographers after September 11. I was contacted by I don’t even remember who but it had to do with the fact that I think PepsiCo had been involved in a campaign to raise funds for the families of people who perished on September 11. And they wanted people who had become visible. And I certainly had in the one of the things that they wanted to do was to put pictures of people into ads in USA Today. And so one November day, and I lived in New Jersey at the time, we lived in Westfield, but one November day, in 2001, I went into New York and went to the photographs photography studio of Richard Avedon. Oh, and of course, Richard Avedon, with the time was probably the most famous photographer in the world. Anyway, we, he took a picture of me and Roselle, it took about 45 minutes all together, and it was done. It was very enjoyable time very pleasurable to spend some time with him. And there we were, and I still have that picture to this day, which is great, because he sent me a copy.
Marlana Semenza 06:54
I love that. And that. As soon as you said his name, several images of his just flashed through my head. Like, yeah, oh, well, um, there’s one of a woman jumping off the sidewalk, I believe that’s his image with a umbrella. And I remember, I think there was another one that he shot of, I want to say it was Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller. But anyway, there’s, there’s several different images that I that popped into my head.
Michael Hingson 07:33
It was a very, as I said, pleasurable experience. And he was a person who clearly knew what what he was doing. And, you know, a lot of people said, Oh, you’re going to be there all afternoon, because photographers take a long time. And clearly, it wasn’t that way. He knew what he was about. He got the shot set up that he wanted, and we were done.
Marlana Semenza 07:55
Yeah. And, you know, it’s interesting that you say that, because I’ve had people say to me, you know, do you work with assistants? And what kind of equipment do you bring with you to various sessions and things like that. And maybe it was all the years that I spent in studios, and lugging all kinds of gear around and things like that. But if I can’t carry it on my person than in my head, I don’t need it. And I think part of that also came from because I photograph weddings for a brief period of time in my life. And it’s just that being free to kind of run and gun and, and use whatever you see and had the fluidity and the flexibility. And also to i i don’t like a whole lot of people on set. I like it to be whoever I’m photographing and me because this is what we’re going to make together.
Michael Hingson 08:49
You talking about. This just reminds me of the times after September 11. For me, when people started wanting to come in interview me the press heard the story. They got a hold of it, especially after appearing on Larry King Live. And literally we had hundreds of people, over a few months come to our home. And we had a number of television stations from around the world. And we had everything from one or two people from one station who came set up, did their interview and so on. All the way up to 14 people from one Italian station, who came in it took 14 People they felt to do the interviews, which was amazing. A couple of people just stood around and directed and didn’t really do anything. And they had a number of camera people and it was just incredible. The number of people who came for that interview and we always wondered why but everyone is different.
Marlana Semenza 09:46
Yeah, you know, I sometimes wonder when people do that why? And you know, I have to say all of the photographer’s that took the images from 911 because I lived up in Connecticut at the time You’re right across the river really? Right? Um, I would not have been one of those photographers, because I know me and I would have been running and it would not have been a matter of, oh, let me capture this. And no, I would have been running,
Michael Hingson 10:18
as opposed to the two French photographers of the French people who actually recorded and had the first real recordings of that day, having seen the first plane go into the building, and they were there covering one of the fire stations, but they got probably the best early coverage of everything that eventually went into a documentary.
Marlana Semenza 10:40
Yeah, yeah, I give them all credit. But I would not have been wondering, yeah.
Michael Hingson 10:46
Well, I don’t know you’ve done pretty well tell us more about WWE. So they showed you where your bunk was. And there you were. So tell us about that.
Marlana Semenza 10:54
Yeah. And I didn’t even go away to college. So for me to climb on that bus and be a part of this. And for the first, I don’t know, several months or so, it was showering in the arenas and get climbing back on the bus and going to the next place. And the job was held for me while I went back and finished my last semester at school. But, you know, then after that I graduated there were only maybe, I don’t know, a handful of women on the road at that point. And so one of the producers and I, once they, once they decided, you know, I didn’t have to ride the bus with the guys anymore. I got to go actually in a rental car and sleep in a hotel, like a, like a big girl. Christina and I traveled together a lot. And so that was nice, too. Because what that also allowed I was young, I was, you know, very, very early 20s. So that allowed me to be able to sometimes fly into a location early or out of a location later, if I wanted and be able to see a lot of the country. I saw 32 states and three years and a lot of them more than once.
Michael Hingson 12:09
What was it like being on the bus with with those guys, it had to be a little bit intimidating. If for no other reason being a woman or not, there are a whole lot bigger, and they’re wrestlers. And you’re not?
Marlana Semenza 12:21
Well, the fortunate thing is I didn’t have to be on the bus with the wrestlers. That the bus that I was on, we were all of the people that had to be first at the arena. So it was my boss who was the head of production for for all the live events, my boss, the sound guys, the the riggers, things like that, that had to get the lighting, all set in the arena. So that’s who I traveled with the wrestlers. The funny thing about it is most of them became almost like Big Brother ish to me. I am not a big girl. So I literally came up to most of their chest. And, you know, it was, it was just an amazing time and an amazing experience. And a lot of them were friends of mine up until, unfortunately, most of them are deceased. Now, the people that I worked with, but it was just a great time, it was a really, really great time.
Michael Hingson 13:29
But they valued you and they respected you. And do you think that they treated the other people all the other people that you rode with sort of the same way? Or were you special to them? Because you weren’t,
Marlana Semenza 13:44
I mean, you know, you always have guys that are going to push it and and see, you know if they can get a rise out of you or, or, or try and review or something like that. And you know, we were no different. But at the end of the day. A lot of the things that other people may have experienced and I don’t know what other people’s experience was. But I know for me, I didn’t have I wasn’t put in bad positions. I wasn’t put in, you know, they were they were good to me.
Michael Hingson 14:19
What great memories, huh? Yeah, that’s cool. And then you got to go. Not on the same bus. Why did that happen? Just because you rose through the ranks and became kind of more of a of a higher end person or what? Oh, God,
Marlana Semenza 14:34
no. Just checking. I think it was just, you know, let’s give the girl a break. Get her off the bus. You know, and I didn’t really have to be there. At the time that everybody else has rode that bus had to be there. So I think it was just a kindness on my boss’s part.
Michael Hingson 14:57
me recognize that you could be more efficient doing other things rather than just sitting around or sitting around waiting.
Marlana Semenza 15:02
Yeah, that can very well be the case. Well, well,
Michael Hingson 15:06
well think good thoughts. Yeah. How long did you do that for WWE for years? Well, then what did you
Marlana Semenza 15:15
do? I’ve always been freelance my whole life. So from there, I actually got off the road and did a bunch of work for a cartooning and animation company also. Because I had a minor in illustration. So I, that company we did the monsters comic book and the Tom and Jerry comic strip and animation sells for various places that were limited edition. And from there, I got to go out to Comic Con in San Diego with them, which Oh, boy. Yeah, I’ll tell you. You think wrestling is crazy. Go to Comic Con. Tell us a whole nother experience for me.
Michael Hingson 15:55
I’ve never been to Comic Con. I’ve heard about it, you know a lot. But I’d love to hear some of your experiences.
Marlana Semenza 16:01
Um, once again, I was surrounded by people from people in Halloween costumes, pretty much in a dressing up as this superhero or that superhero. And when we went out there, it was when we were doing the monsters comic book. So we had Pat priest who was Maryland monster and Butch Patrick, who had played any monster out signing autographs and signing the comic books. And so, you know, we got to spend some time with them. And, you know, comic book artists are amazing artists, also. So, but there was a little bit of Have you ever seen the Big Bang Theory? Oh, lots. Yeah. Okay. I’m convinced. I saw lots of Shelton’s and Leonard’s and Rogers and Howard’s walking around. Any pennies? I’m very, very, very think that. Yeah, I think the pennies were mostly the actresses that were paid to be the superheroes.
Michael Hingson 17:11
Got it. But you But you saw lots of the other characters?
Marlana Semenza 17:15
Oh, yes. Without a doubt, without a doubt.
Michael Hingson 17:18
Did you ever were any of the actual actors ever? There were like Jim Parsons, or any of them today?
Marlana Semenza 17:26
No. The only other than Pat Preston. Which Patrick the only other celebrity that I recall seeing there was Lou Ferrigno.
Michael Hingson 17:35
Oh, the Hulk.
Marlana Semenza 17:39
The original Hulk,
Michael Hingson 17:40
who original? Well, not the original one, but because it goes back before the cartoons. Yes. But original series. Yeah. Well,
Marlana Semenza 17:47
I guess what I’m getting at is that dates me but that’s okay. I saw that hook. And then I used to also work with the other Hulk in wrestling. So yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 17:57
Yeah. I mean, for a while original one. Yeah, he Well, there you go. See? Well, when hoax can can protect the body so it’s okay. So, what did you do at Comic Con, you took pictures?
Marlana Semenza 18:10
No, actually, because when I worked for the cartooning and animation company was called animated arts. I was actually an artist assistant. So backgrounds and things like that the reason why they took me out to ComiCon was, so I could help be talent relations, because of my background with wrestling, and working with all of them. So that was mostly why I was. So what do you mean by that? I’m just getting people where they need to be when they needed to be there, making sure that they had what they needed. That type of thing.
Michael Hingson 18:49
So I know COVID has affected Comicon. Needless to say, but at the same time, I think we had ComiCon this year. Have you been
Marlana Semenza 18:57
back? No, I have not. I haven’t been in years.
Michael Hingson 19:02
Do you want to go back?
Marlana Semenza 19:05
I would go back to work it again. I’m not a good I’m good in production. I’m not so good in the stance.
Michael Hingson 19:18
Not a good tourist. I’m not like rather than working.
Marlana Semenza 19:23
Yeah. Let me get my hands into it. And I’m better.
Michael Hingson 19:29
Cool. Well, so as a as a photographer, you must feel you do things that that make you stand out or make you different from other people so that people want to hire you what makes you different? What do you think makes you different than other photographers in the world?
Marlana Semenza 19:51
I think part of it is background. But I would also say another part of it is at the end of the day, I’m really not in the photography business. I’m in reputation business. So, because of that, it’s, you know, photography is obviously the vessel that I use to help people tell their stories and stand out and create a reputation. But that’s really the business that I’m in, not so much the image taking for the image taking sick.
Michael Hingson 20:21
So you want to tell stories,
Marlana Semenza 20:24
I want to tell stories, but I also, my job is to take what makes you valuable and unique. And relay that to the people that need to know it in a way that will connect. So it’s, yeah, it’s it’s more than just the capturing of an image, there’s a lot of strategy that goes into it. There’s a lot of, okay, well, how can we make this effective? How can we, how can we make it connect these images connect and unique for the person that they’re being created for?
Michael Hingson 21:01
So you have to develop a good, strong relationship with the clients, the people that you’re working with? And I guess there’s, in a sense, there’s kind of two levels of clients, they’re the people who may hire you, who may not actually be the people that you interact with, but then they’re also the people that you interact with. And so there must be a lot of trust and teamwork involved and all that.
Marlana Semenza 21:26
Oh, absolutely. I think, especially as I was saying earlier, I like to be one on one with my clients, whenever possible. And because of that, I think that helps establish a level of trust, because it can be just us. And we, we know that we’re in it together. And that I value their input, I think trust is essential in because I That’s it goes back to working one on one with people. And because this is our creation together, so I value not just the person, but also their input and what we can make together. And, you know, there are a lot of people that just aren’t comfortable in front of a camera, they become self conscious, or they don’t know how to pose or how to act or how to be. And when you develop that level of trust that I’ve got you. And that’s the whole thing that my clients know is I’ve got you. I guess it’s much, much easier.
Michael Hingson 22:36
I think that’s probably what impressed me now that I think back about it about Richard Avedon, because what he really did was very quickly established a level of trust, even if not saying anything, just his attitude and the way he worked. He did spend time wanting to learn about me. And I think that helped him to him deciding what he was going to do and how he was going to do it. But it was all about trust. And I think that no matter what we do, it’s really all about trust, when people take the time to develop trust in and gain that trust, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Marlana Semenza 23:11
Right. And you know, when I photograph someone, by the time we get to that point where I actually pressed the button, we have had several conversations. And we have, really, because the first thing that I do is there’s a large questionnaire that they fill out. And then we dive into that in a meeting. And I’ve had clients cry during that process, I’ve had them you know, and what you uncover, just even at that point, develops a relationship that transcends just photographer, subject. And I just think that’s really important. Because the better that I can understand you, the better that I can know You, the better these images are going to be, because they will then be more tailored to you and more unique to you.
Michael Hingson 24:09
So what do you actually go through to get people to trust you? What, what’s your process?
Marlana Semenza 24:16
Um, like I said, there, there is a questionnaire. It’s also it’s a large level of honesty on my part, too, because am I fit for everyone? No. And that’s okay. The goal is for them to have the best photographer for them. And if I am not that, then I think I need I would be doing them a disservice to not say that. And also, I know enough photographers that I can probably point you in the direction of somebody that will be a better fit for you. Doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with either one of us. It just means that there’s somebody else better designed to tell your story and create those images with you than me. And I think it’s that level of honesty He too.
Michael Hingson 25:02
So that is part of what you have to do to make sure that you do the best job for your client, which is something that ought to be true in, in general. Trust, it seems to me is so much under attack today in so many different ways, don’t you think?
Marlana Semenza 25:18
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the other thing, too, that that’s under attack a lot, too, is humility. I look at humility as a beautiful thing, because it doesn’t mean that you think less of yourself, it just means that you are teachable. And that you you think of others before you. And I think that that goes a long way also.
Michael Hingson 25:45
So now, how long have you been doing photography and doing the work that you do?
Marlana Semenza 25:51
I’ve been a photographer for probably 25 years doing this kind of work, personal brand, things like that. I’m probably about five Wow.
Michael Hingson 26:04
So what did what did you do? So you did the cartoon work? And ComiCon as you said years ago, what did you then go do
Marlana Semenza 26:12
I also have this next for you. Next after that is I went to do some freelance work for the photo department at Ethan Allen. And because I was in Danbury, Connecticut, and that’s where their headquarters is and then from there I started to do set styling and design work for them I got to work on their New York Times ads and their style books and their training videos for their designers and their their magazines, things like that. So all of these things the the storytelling that I learned in wrestling and the creating of personas, the the thinking outside the box when it comes to cartooning and animation and creating something from scratch, the set styling and design, the location scouting, all it all of those things come together and that’s what I can pull from to tell somebody story now.
Michael Hingson 27:12
So you’ve said that you don’t work with everyone how quickly usually do you discover the you may not be the best fit for someone today,
Marlana Semenza 27:22
um, I can usually tell by one conversation and also combing their social media,
Michael Hingson 27:33
what kinds of things become cues or, or messages that somebody might be the right person for you to work with, as opposed to somebody who isn’t?
Marlana Semenza 27:46
If they are the right person, usually, it’s funny because the women that I tend to work with have what I refer to as the lashes and Lu batons factor, usually somewhere in in their story or somewhere in there. Their brand, is a bit of fashion is a bit of that beauty angle. But not always, but usually, that’s an easy key for me, it’s easier to tell who’s not a fit. I have one client who has pushed me way out of my comfort zone. And normally he would not have been a good fit for me, he has done Naked and Afraid four times. And I’m just not an outdoorsy girl. I’m not a hiker, I’m not all those things. So normally somebody like that, I have a friend of mine who also does what I do, and she is a hiker, and will you know climb mountains and all those kinds of things. That would have been somebody I would probably have, you know, introduced to her as a better fit. But it turns out he and I want to be in a good fit so far. Even though the first snake I see I might be out of there. I can’t guarantee
Michael Hingson 29:09
what what made you decide, though, that that you guys did click,
Marlana Semenza 29:14
um, personality. And there’s a lot of trust on his end for me. And I also trust that on his end, when we are in situations that I’m uncomfortable that he’s got my back. So I think it goes back to like you said, there’s a lot of trust involved.
Michael Hingson 29:39
And you’ve been able to develop that. So of course, one of the natural things it’s tempting to ask is Who are some celebrities that you’ve worked with over the years that people might have heard of,
Marlana Semenza 29:52
um, most of them would be in the wrestling vein. I’ve also had The opportunity. One of the first women that I worked with in the pageant community was a woman named Chesley Crist. And a lot of people would know her name at this point, too. She went on to be Miss USA, she went on to be a correspondent for extra TV. And she was just an amazing, amazing woman.
Michael Hingson 30:23
Well, tell us more, if you would, um,
Marlana Semenza 30:27
Chesley. When you met Chesley, she’s the was a person that you never forgot. Whenever once you met her or spent any amount of time with her. I remember, when I first walked into the room with her the first time I met her. It was like, even the air turns turned into its attention to her. She was that captivating. She was that type of a presence. And she like I said she went on to be she was Miss North Carolina, USA, then she went on to be Miss USA. Then she went on to I think she finished in the top five or 10 at Miss Universe. I want to say five. And then she went on to be a correspondent for extra TV. And she unfortunately, in January of 2022, was in the news. Because at 30 years old, she committed suicide, she jumped off the 29th floor of her Manhattan high rise. And that opened up a lot for a lot of people. Because in the pageant industry, the pageant world that I knew, and the girls that I work with Chesley was the gold standard. And so for this to happen, it sent a lot of people reeling. Plus also, if you knew Chesley when I remember, when I first saw it in the news, I thought it had to be a mistake. But what it has fortunately done, I’m hoping and I’m seeing is that it’s opening up a dialogue, that it’s okay to say you’re not okay. And for you know, the other thing that was so sad to me, because it’s a bigger commentary that I think needs to be addressed is when she was 29. She did a an article for a law magazine. And in that article, she made the statement that she felt like she was running out of time to matter in society’s eyes. And unfortunately for women, I think that that becomes a burden that men don’t seem to face. We are are faced with this aging. And it is thrown up at us more so than it’s thrown up at men. And we feel like we’re on more of a timeline or a time crunch than a lot of men, unfortunately. And I’m hoping that that starts a dialogue around that. And hopefully that can change as well.
Michael Hingson 33:06
Yeah, it’s it’s a significant issue that that is always I think, in a sense been part of society. And maybe we should be fair and say plagued society that you got to look good. And if you don’t, you’re getting too old or whatever. And you’re right, that doesn’t tend to pressure men nearly as much as it does with women even so called sexy man. You never hear the same discussion about them that you do about women.
Marlana Semenza 33:38
Right? Here men, you know, oh my gosh, look at how distinguished he looks. Meanwhile, for us, it’s good hold she looks. So yeah, that will at least start discussions.
Michael Hingson 33:50
Even if they try to make it a compliment she ages Well, still, it’s the same thing. Yeah, exactly. Which is, which is really unfortunate. Well, so for you, you. Most of your business has been in what you do traveling, or do you do most of it from a particular place? How does that work for you?
Marlana Semenza 34:13
Um, I am currently situated just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. So a lot of my clients actually traveled to me only because I have everything that you could want here as far as backgrounds go, and things like that, if you need something specific. I have traveled to clients. But, you know, during COVID, when we all got thrown into captivity, mostly photography is a face to face. Sport, you know, and it could no longer be so I had to do a real shift. And my friend Claire that I mentioned earlier happened to see a lot of photographers doing photography on using FaceTime. So she’s like, let’s try this out. So we tried it out and In. Most photographers seem to be doing it for fun. And I thought this is a business model. So I’ve since then found an app that seems to work really well. And it allows me to take over the camera on your phone. So now I can photograph people remotely all over the world.
Michael Hingson 35:16
Tell me more about that, how does that work?
Marlana Semenza 35:20
I connect, I go through the same process, get to know them, and all that type of thing. So we know what kinds of images they need to create the, and then when we decide that we’re going to connect, I connect from my computer to their phone, it’ll like I said, it allows me to take over the camera on their phone, and I can still direct them, I can still capture the image, the images come to me so I can edit them. And the plus side is you can have content from anywhere. You don’t have to worry about even if you’re on vacation, and you decide you want photos, you don’t have to worry about finding a photographer because you literally have one in your pocket. And the but the downside to it is if you’re looking for images that are going to be on a billboard, or on the cover of a book, or any of those those types of things, this wouldn’t be the right platform for that only because it the capture isn’t large enough for that. But for social media, or any kind of you can even put them on a website if you needed to, or something like that. But definitely for social media, it’s perfect. And a lot of people that’s the content that they need. They need to to keep generating. And this way, you don’t have to rely on selfies, because I got you.
Michael Hingson 36:39
How does it? Well, that’s, that’s fair, I think to ask how does that work as opposed to a selfie? What? What’s the difference?
Marlana Semenza 36:47
Um, I’m actually doing the photo. So I’m still taking the shot. So all’s they have to do is if they, you can do it one of two ways. You can either put your phone on a tripod, you can prop it up on something I’ve had people stick it in their shoe, if they’re out on a beach. And this way, I can just direct and shoot.
Michael Hingson 37:13
So when you get the shot you want you take it. Exactly, exactly. So as long as people have a good phone connection or a good internet connection,
Marlana Semenza 37:22
it it helps to have to be connected to Wi Fi. But you do not have to be you do not have to be when the images download, I kind of need you to be on Wi Fi. But but you don’t necessarily have to be for me to take them.
Michael Hingson 37:38
So what kinds of environments or scenes have you taken pictures in using this app? So I’ve done some interesting things.
Marlana Semenza 37:48
I’ve done photos for a couple on a beach in Kennebunkport, I’ve done photos for a woman who is a business coach at her home in Mexico, I’ve done some photos at a NASCAR event, a realtor out in California. So it’s, it can be anywhere, it really can.
Michael Hingson 38:10
Do you find it more difficult in any way to if you will take the picture remotely in terms of setting the scene getting things the way you want, then if you were actually there,
Marlana Semenza 38:23
what becomes more difficult is you have to be more than the photographer, you have to be very clear about direction. And because I have to kind of teach the person on the other end to be me, as well as be in the scene. So what has been helpful too is if I can get somebody on their end, that becomes what are referred to as the voice activated tripod, which all they do is hold the phone and they go up down left, right if I ask them to. And that just makes things go faster. But the app allows me to depending on the make and model of your phone to zoom in and out and really utilize the different features of your camera, which makes it fun.
Michael Hingson 39:11
And you do all that part of it. I do? Yes. Because you can control that from the app.
Marlana Semenza 39:16
What’s that called? It’s called shutter app.
Michael Hingson 39:20
And the whole idea is using the app that someone else actually takes the picture and becomes the photographer and the the active person and setting up the shot. Yeah. And then the person who has the phone is, is well are rather the person whose phone it is that you put the app on who you want to take a picture of is is still the subject but you get to still do the active things that you want to do to set.
Marlana Semenza 39:47
Exactly, exactly. And you know, there are things that it helps to have a professional do even even in a case like that because when it comes to posing and things like that. I know how to pose you, I know how to pose you quickly. I know how, you know if, and one of the things I usually ask women especially is, are there any areas of your body that you want to highlight or hide? And if, if they say, you know, well, yeah, I want to look thinner, which seems to be an ongoing thing. There are poses just little tweaks in your body that I can make, that will make you look better on camera,
Michael Hingson 40:31
is that more in adjustments that you make, or how you position the camera, or what
Marlana Semenza 40:37
it depends in, in real life, or in face to face, some of it is positioning, some of it is lens choice, stuff like that, when it comes to the phone, some of it is zooming in and out with the lens if I had that ability, but a lot of it too, is just making tweaks and of how to position your body
Michael Hingson 41:02
with a camera. photographers taking pictures have the opportunity to put different lenses on depending on what they want to do. Is any of that available for phones where you can depend on
Marlana Semenza 41:15
the model? Well, it depends on the model of your phone, too. I haven’t had anyone that has any external lenses, or any of that kind of thing that they can hook onto there. But for example, the iPhone does give you the opportunity to go wide angle, and to zoom in and things like that. So it really just depends on the make and model of your phone. What’s available to me.
Michael Hingson 41:39
But there aren’t additional hardware options that you can can add or have to It’s my
Marlana Semenza 41:44
it’s my understanding, I think there are attachments that you can get for the phone. But I’m, I’m uncertain as to what all those are. Because most of the time I’m hauling around a mirrorless full frame camera. So right, yeah.
Michael Hingson 42:06
Well, what is next for you. So you’ve, you have made changes in what you do with COVID. And you use shutter app and you’re able to do a lot via the phone now. What’s next,
Marlana Semenza 42:19
I just want to continue to work with people and make them stand out and shine. That’s what makes me happy. I don’t like to be the it’s never about me. It’s always about the people that I’m working with. And I just want to see them succeed. And I want to see them be everything that they want to be and dream about being. And so if I can help them get there, then that makes me very happy.
Michael Hingson 42:44
Which also is part of the whole trust thing. Because if you can get people to understand this is an ego for you. But that you love doing what you do, and it’s all about doing the best thing for them. That’s gotta
Marlana Semenza 42:58
help. Yeah, yeah, it’s never about me, which is cool.
Michael Hingson 43:02
What made you end up in Raleigh from being in Connecticut? Well,
Marlana Semenza 43:07
from growing up in Connecticut, the year before we moved, I have photos of my husband out shoveling the snow that was waist deep. And I had enough. I had had enough of that. You know, when winter strikes when you’re up in New England, you know that you’re gonna buckle up and you’re in for about six months and misery. And so I wanted a more temperate climate. My grandmother had been out in the Arizona area. And that wasn’t really my thing. I really liked the East Coast. So he started applying for jobs. He got a job down here. And that was the end of that. What does he do? He’s in sales.
Michael Hingson 43:55
So what kind of interesting shots well, so let me do this first. Have you had much snow in Raleigh, then do you get snow there?
Marlana Semenza 44:03
We get snow. It’s not a whole lot of snow, at least not since I’ve lived here. And it’s funny because it does turn to ice very quickly. But for the most part, when we get snow, it’s gone in a day, maybe two days. I remember the first time that we had just bought our house. And it snowed, maybe about three inches, and for lack of something to do my husband and I were out with a dirt shovel shoveling the driveway. And my neighbor came out and she stroked my arm and she said we just let that melt here.
Michael Hingson 44:37
And you kind of had this epiphany.
Marlana Semenza 44:39
Yeah, but it’s nice because it’s pretty. And it stays pretty. Because it never gets to be that.
Michael Hingson 44:48
Marlana Semenza 44:49
exactly and that that brown and you know, gray snow that has all the salt in it and things like that. It just doesn’t get to that point.
Michael Hingson 44:58
Right which is pretty cool. All, huh? Have you had any interesting pictures or shots around North Carolina,
Marlana Semenza 45:06
I have actually, I just, I had been wanting to use this one location. And I’m still searching for locations here. Because I, I feel like there’s so much and so much that I don’t know about. And I also love taking photos, and doing kind of like a juxtaposition of something beautiful in the middle of chaos or things like that. So for example, there was a shot that I did for a dress designer a few years back. And the way the dress was, it was this denim dress. But I felt like it needed to be shot in just a warehouse or something like that. Well, instead, we wound up going to a scrap metal yard. And we had the best time got some amazing images of distress in the scrap metal yard. And just about a week or so ago, there’s an location that I’d been wanting to use for years. And it’s the remains of an old hospital. And it’s fenced in, and it’s on the campus of St. Augustine University in Raleigh. And fortunately, because my relationship with the Miss North Carolina organization, I was going to photograph Miss North Carolina and and I said, How about that, and they called and made it happen. And it was, it was the most amazing place. But I love things like that, just these gems of places. And that’s why I like to shoot on location.
Michael Hingson 46:39
What’s the most interesting or unique location where you ever done a shot?
Marlana Semenza 46:44
I didn’t know that scrap metal yard was pretty, pretty interesting. The interesting it was because when we first got there, the gentleman that owned the property, we got the the lowdown on we’ll stay at that area over there, because that’s where the rats are and, and don’t go over here and and like I said, I’m not, I’m not a critter kind of girl, I don’t like critters. So that was an eye opener for me. But they were so lovely. And so wonderful. And by about halfway through the session, the manager came out and he’s like, do you want us to move anything around for you or help you out with anything? And they were they were fantastic. They’re fantastic to work with?
Michael Hingson 47:25
Is there any place that’s kind of on your bucket list that you want to do a shoot that you no matter can think of?
Marlana Semenza 47:34
I don’t know. Um, a lot of them as I find them, I’m, I’m slowly being able to check them off. I also came out of wedding retirement a few years back to do a wedding over at the Biltmore, which was pretty amazing to that. That’s quite a place.
Michael Hingson 47:55
Well, if people want to learn more about you and reach out to you, whether it’s to see if you’re a good fit, or just learn about what you do, how do they do that?
Marlana Semenza 48:05
The best thing is to just go to my website, which is Marlenasemenza.com.
Michael Hingson 48:09
Can you spell it please,
Marlana Semenza 48:10
it’s M a, r l a n a. S e m e n z a.com. And you can see all my social media links are on there. There’s a way to to reach me on their contact forms. There’s all kinds of things on there. But that’s, that’s the hub.
Michael Hingson 48:28
And we’re also putting that into the notes and into all the descriptions that go with the podcast. So it will be there as well. And we hope that people will reach out. Yeah, I
Marlana Semenza 48:40
hope so. Well,
I want to thank you once again. And thank you for listening. I hope that you found this interesting this for me, it’s been fascinating. It’s an area that I don’t directly know a lot about and don’t do a lot with pictures myself being blind, but I’m always interested to learn so it’s it’s fascinating to hear what Marlena has to say. I hope that you found it. So as well. Love to hear your thoughts. Please reach out to us at Michaelhi at accessibe.com A C C E S S I B E or go to our podcast page, Michaelhingson h i n g s o n.com/podcast. And we’d love to hear from you either way, please give us a five star rating. We appreciate your ratings. And the five star ratings are of course what we want. We love to get love to hear your thoughts, anything that you think we ought to have as far as a an idea for a podcast want to hear from you about it. Marlena goes for you as well. If you know of any one or any other thoughts of things that we should have for a podcast, I’d love to hear from you about it. But again, I want to thank you for being here and for coming on unstoppable mindset today and I know that we talked about coming on your podcast Actually, why don’t you tell us briefly about that?
Marlana Semenza 49:56
Yeah, my show is called your iconic image and it is As tools, tips, information and inspiration to help you grow a Brand on Purpose, and Michael is going to be a guest.
Michael Hingson 50:07
And how do people learn about the podcast?
Marlana Semenza 50:11
Once again, there’s a link to it on my website, or you can find it anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Michael Hingson 50:18
Anywhere podcasts are sold.
Marlana Semenza 50:20
Yeah, exactly. And also to if you would prefer to watch it, any of those people that would prefer to watch it, you can also find it on my YouTube channel.
Michael Hingson 50:30
And we’ve done that with unstoppable mindset for those who may not have looked or noticed unstoppable mindset is up on our YouTube channel as well. So find us love to hear from you. And again, we appreciate your five star ratings and Marlena one last time. Thank you very much for being here with us and for giving us your time today.
Marlana Semenza 50:49
Thank you so very much. I appreciate you.
Michael Hingson 50:57
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.