Interview with Angela Acosta, founder of photography business Angela Atelier
Find out how Angela Acosta went from blend-into-the-wall corporate analyst to an empowerment force for women with her photography business Angela Atelier.
How did you move from idea to actual business?
It started well before I knew I wanted to run my own business. When I first picked up the camera 15 years ago, I only wanted a creative release from my analytical world in the office.
But as I experimented with my photography and the years passed, I just started growing frustrated with the rigid structure of the corporate environment, starting with the 40-hour work week, which didn’t leave much time for creative hobbies which required any amount of energy and time.
From there, my frustration grew, and I started keeping mental notes of things that no longer aligned with me. I knew I wanted something else; I didn’t know what. I wasn’t convinced that photography was a viable business at that time. I was on photography forums where photographers charged unsustainable rates for their work, and I couldn’t see myself in those shoes, so letting go of my salary wasn’t an option.
But then, I found the right mentor and the right group of photographers, which helped me see it was doable, so I put a five-year plan in motion.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
I started my corporate career 30 years ago. I was hired as an immigrant (I was born in the Dominican Republic) and a woman of color, so the corporate version of me never felt I belonged. For the first 20 years of my career, I had a dichotomy to me, a personal and professional side, a dual vocabulary too.
The environment has become more inclusive since then, but the damage has already been done. I walked in wearing colorful clothing and gold bangles and walked out wearing a polo shirt and khakis — completely transformed in good ways because I learned a lot of discipline and skills — and in not good ways because I lost what makes me unique.
Being a photographer also plays into who I am because it involves being behind the camera rather than in front. All of this came to a head when I set my intention to create a different life for myself. In 2018 I niched down my business to serve women only. I wanted to use photography as a tool for women to step into their power.
But as you can imagine, I wasn’t doing a good job of it yet. I had yet to figure out who I was before I could start deconstructing and rebuilding the woman that could achieve this. So, my biggest obstacle was finding my authenticity and leaning into what I wanted. All these years, I’ve been telling myself so many things to stay small and safe, but my greatest wish was to inspire and empower other women, and you have to be bold and seen to do that.
Could you tell us about your business?
I launched Angela Atelier in 2018, but it’s been in the last two years that I’ve taken it to its heights in messaging and marketing. Our mission is to empower women to celebrate their own journey through photography with transformational portrait experiences and show up for their brands with personal branding.
Many people ask me about the name because it’s not named after me. Still, ultimately I wanted to serve a greater purpose – so the Atelier part of the name represents the safe space in my studio and the inner work we all do to live a more fulfilled life.
What is your greatest appreciation of the process?
How messy ideas are by nature. When I launched, I had ideas but didn’t have the skill (or knowledge) to connect them together, so everything seemed random. But then I started leaning into my marketing, starting with creating a plan, and my ideas started aligning into the cohesive brand it is today. I have a greater appreciation for that messiness of now, and when one strikes, I’ll go after it without hesitation, without fear.
Can you tell us how women can use photography to step into their power?
I tried family photography to find the genre that best suited me for my business, and one thing became clear: women will photograph their kids every year but never once think of photographing themselves. No woman ever approached me about a portrait for themselves.
One of the primary factors is the self-critic that resides within all of us, constantly whispering that we are not enough for various reasons. Women often struggle to recognize their significance in the world and within their own families. Being photographed is a form of acknowledgment, a validation that says, “I am here, I am important, and I deserve to be seen.”
Encouraging women to prioritize self-care and self-expression is crucial, and photography can play a significant role in this process. By celebrating their individuality and capturing moments of self-reflection, women can tap into their inner strength and redefine their self-image. Photography is a powerful tool for self-discovery and empowerment, reminding women that they are more than enough just as they are.
Find out more about Angela Atelier.