Have you ever met someone whose demeanor immediately puts you at ease? Or a person who you’ve never met, but the first time you talk with them it’s like you’ve been friends forever? How about that person where conversation flows freely–no holding back, no hiding–just speaking from the heart? Lavona Gelardi is this person! Within minutes of meeting her I understood why she has focused on photographing women. Lavona is a Woodland creative whose purpose is to help women see themselves as everyone else does through portait photography. She speaks from the heart and has an honest approach, using her past to connect with her clients. Her photos are magical and are sure to be herilooms for anyone who has the chance to work with her.
What’s your name and what is your business?
My name is Lavona Gelardi and I am a portrait photographer. I specialize in the photography of women of all ages, but particularly tweens. I also do personal branding, if you need pictures of social media or professional headshots, and generational photography – grandmother, mother, daughter. Think, best Friends, cute tweens, gorgeous 20’s, Stunning 30’s, Beautiful 40’s, Defined 50’s, Fabulous 60’s and the 70’s encompasses all these adjectives. Each stage of our lives is so unique and we are always evolving.
What inspired you to take up photography?
I’ve always been artistic. I had an interior design business in town for years. I love the creative outlet and I was always good with composition and color. When my middle son graduated from high school I bought him a camera as a gift. I then when right back to the camera store and bought myself one. I immediately started studying the art of photography, I took darkroom courses, and then digital came along. That was a whole new thing. Although I loved being creative in the darkroom, I found with digital I could take a photo and then bring them to life with my computer. It’s kind of like painting, only with my camera.
I started photographing kids and my own grandkids when they were babies. Then I did landscapes and clouds, which I love. Somewhere along the line I decided I wanted to push myself with portait photography. I would go to classes and meetings in Sacramento and they had print comps at the end of the meeitng. They are cruel, very exacting! I would come away thinking they are so techincal and I didn’t know if this was for me. Then I got hooked and decided I was I’m going to learn how to do this! So, portaiture is not easy. To get a natural exprression and connection, to have everything so it looks beautiful and relaxed is hard. It’s taken me a while to get it, but I’m pretty confident in my skills at this point.
What inspires you to focus on the photogrpahy of women?
I believe I offer something unique. A lot of women– we are photographed in school for school pictures, we are photographed in snapshots by family members. And oftentimes as we get older it’s never just about you and pampering yourself with a beautiful portrait. Also, I have no photographs of my mother. She left my life when I was very young. So I’m especially passionate about it because I don’t know what she looks like. And I believe that if you’re 50 or whatever, you might not think you need a portrait of yourself. A lot of women say, “What do I need a picture of myself for?” It’s like, it’s not about you, it’s about your generations after. Your children and your children’s children. I mean, what’s the greatest thing to find in an old box? Photographs!
I also had the opportunity to go to New Zealand after my husband passed away, and while I was there visiting my friend, I was just looking at other photographers in the area. I came across this woman named Sue Bryce. She was in Auckland, then she moved to Australia. I told my friend, “This is what I want to do. I want to do portraits of women like this, or my version of this. So, I’ve taken quite a few classes from Sue. I went to a three-day intensive workshop a year ago where we learned how she poses women – curvy women, thin women, because it’s all different. I learned what angle to hold the camera, all of these little technical things. It’s made such an incredible difference to actually go to the class and work with these women.
What can a client expect from your services?
The first step is to meet so we can get to know each other. I’ll show you my products and talk about why you want to be photographed and how you want to be photographed, because everyone’s different. I had one gal that wanted to be photographed with her horse, out in the country. Everyone’s different. Some people don’t know how they want to be photographed. They come to me because I’m supposed to be the professional, right? And hopefully because they’ve seen my work and they want a creative process with it. So we have a meeting, and we talk about how to prepare for your session. You would come with clean hair and clean and moisturized face and skin. I’d like you to make sure your nails are done, because there’s all these little details that make this an experience. I can plan your outfits, if you want help with that. Or you can go to my Pinterest boards to get ideas. We then set a date, and if you have any questions in between, then we get together again.
What do you want Woodland to know?
I hope to be able to show you you’re beautiful –you’re uniquely beautiful–and all the faucets of who you are as a woman. I was going to say I’ve been a daughter, a step-daughter, a motherless daughter, I’ve been raised by grandmothers and step-mother. I’m a sister, an auntie, a mother, a stepmother, and a single mother. I am a grandmother, a friend, a wife, an ex-wife and I’m a widow. I feel like I have empathy for women, and I’ve been through a lot of experiences which helps connect with other women. And I think that’s one of my strong points, in addition to having the technical skills to do what I do and the artistic eye. I think what I would want to tell Woodland is to not wait until you’ve lost that five pounds or whatever your excuse might be, that you deserve to be pampered and to be able to look at beautiful portraits of yourself. It is empowering, because it makes you look at yourself in a more gentle way.