Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on the figures who have nurtured and shaped our paths, guiding us to become the best versions of ourselves. Join us as we interview Dallas-based editorial photographer, Shayna Fontana, where she shares the importance of authenticity in her roles as both a mother and artist.
Shayna Fontana is an editorial, commercial and fine art photographer from Chicago and now living in Dallas, TX. Shayna is a self-taught photographer who was gifted her first film camera at 20 years old. Inspired by music culture and fashion, Shayna aimed to capture that dynamic, surreal energy in all her photographic work. She worked as an editorial fashion photographer in New York for several years before moving to Dallas.
Over the past decade, Shayna has branched out beyond fashion editorials and has brought her aesthetic and point of view to fine art photography. Shayna’s perspective as a photographer reimagines ordinary things in an otherworldly way.
What time were you born? What time was your child/children born?
I was born at 4:20 AM, and my son, Ollie, came into the world at 11:20 PM. In many ways, he is my foil—an inverse and intensified version of me; all of the soul with none of the inhibitions.
Support can come in different variations. Who are the people that have given support when you needed it most?
I’ve been lucky to have many people support me throughout my life in different ways, but I have to give the most credit to my mother. She was a single mom who structured her entire life around being able to take care of me and my brother in every way that we needed.
But the most important way in which my mom has been there for me is that she saw me for who I was and for my distinct point of view...probably even before I understood it myself. She was the first person who supported me as a photographer. She saved up to buy me my first film camera. She believed in me and my desire to pursue an artistic career, even when there were more practical and financially stable options available to me. She did whatever she could to invest in me with her very limited resources. Her faith in me is the most precious thing that I’ve carried with me throughout my career.
"...I have to give the most credit to my mother. She did whatever she could to invest in me with her very limited resources. Her faith in me is the most precious thing that I’ve carried with me throughout my career."
Have you been able to balance time for yourself? What does that look like?
I definitely carve time out for myself and am working on not feeling guilty for doing so, as so many moms do. Time is a finite resource, so it’s hard not to feel that time spent doing things for myself is time that I’m not spending on my son and my responsibilities as a mom. Sometimes I think I’m wired to feel guilty for spending time doing things that feed my passions, but it’s incredibly important for my physical and mental health to safeguard my self-care.
I’m lucky in that I can balance my work and family responsibilities relatively easily as a freelance photographer, especially compared to other careers with more rigid time demands. But to remain creative, I have to make time to socialize, surround myself with other creative people, hear music, go to galleries, etc. Motherhood can be isolating if we’re not careful. And guarding against isolation is important for me as an artist so I can continue to engage with the world around me and maintain a sense of wonder and perspective.
"Every setback can be a reframe or a fresh start. I love this dynamic perspective on life. It helps me stay curious and open-minded, and makes it a lot easier to move on from losses."
What is one thing you encourage when it comes to raising your child/children?
Can I mention two? First, I encourage authenticity above all else. I want my son to know himself, accept himself, and love himself as he is. And then I want him to treat others in the same way. The second is empathy. I truly believe that empathy can change the world. We talk about authenticity and empathy all the time at home, and I’m doing my best to model both for him.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Someone once told me that you never know when what you think is bad luck or a bad situation could be a turning point to something much better. This has stuck with me. Every setback can be a reframe or a fresh start. I love this dynamic perspective on life. It helps me stay curious and open-minded, and makes it a lot easier to move on from losses.
Do you have any advice about motherhood?
It’s tough to give universal advice on something as personal as motherhood because we all have our ways of doing things. But I guess that’s the advice I would give—focus on authenticity. Remember who you are and help your children understand who they are. I’ve tried hard as a mom to invest in myself as a human being and an artist separate from my role as a parent, and that’s been my lifeline. I wouldn’t be able to model authenticity to my son without that. And I hope that I can see my son as his authentic self without imposing any of my expectations on him. I hope that I can see him just as he is and as he wants to be seen.