Photography has been used for so long as symbolic imagery of expression, dialogue, commentary, or even shared understanding, that it has evidently become as pervasive as any other language. This is particularly true for photographer Daniele Aquino, whose photos continually transport you to a surreal landscape that is unlike the previous.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, the Southern California-based photographer’s is best characterized by a one-of-a-kind combination of composition and post-editing. Whether it be astronomical images that look like they were shot in space or putting subjects in a bubble, there’s no shortage of fun to explore. Beyond her work behind the lens, Dani’s resume as a producer is equally impressive, working with the likes of Trippie Redd, Tai Verdes, and Saweetie among others.
“Art thrives in good energy and that’s always my priority when I am creating. There are some people that I will never work with again simply based on the fact of their bad or pretentious attitude no matter how talented or ‘clouted’ they are. I do photography because it is my happy place, I am a person who craves connection and authenticity,” she tells us.
Below, Dani chats with us about how she fell into photography while working towards her degree, her eye-catching aesthetic, and what goes on behind the scenes and post-edits among other topics. Continue scrolling to read our conversation.
To begin with, can you introduce yourself and what gravitated you towards photography—what is your first choice or something you stumbled upon by accident?
Hi! I’m Dani, a photographer based in Downtown Los Angeles. Originally from the Bay Area but I now have been living in SoCal for the past 8 years. I say SoCal because prior to moving back to Los Angeles, I was attending UC San Diego for a couple of years. UCSD was actually the reason I got into photography in the first place. Growing up, photography never really caught my attention, I was more so into sports, conceptual art, and fine art like drawing with charcoal and graphite. While attending college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and for some reason, becoming a computer arts designer sounded the most feasible at the time.
While working towards my computer arts degree, photography happened to be one of my electives during the course. I ended up having to borrow a DSLR from one of my friends because I definitely did not want to buy a whole camera. In short, slowly I fell in love with photography. Not because I enjoyed capturing imagery, but because it was one of the few activities I could really do alone while adventuring the world. I didn’t have to stay cooped up at a desk and work to finish an assignment. I could set out any time of the day on my bike and gallivant the streets wherever it took me. Just thinking about it makes me smile.
Although photography started to become my favorite hobby, never did it cross my mind that I would be able to make it into a career. I owe all my thanks and gratitude to my professors who would showcase my work in front of the class as an example of ambition and attention to detail. Every time my work got picked I would be shocked because I honestly was just having fun.
To this day, even though I have been making a living as a full-time photographer for the past 4 years, I still don’t know how “seriously” I take it. I’m just having fun shooting people, meeting new individuals, creating imagery, and exploring the various angles in the digital world of photography.
Given how oversaturated the market can seem thanks to social media, how do you navigate the world of photography, and ultimately, what inspires you to pick up the camera?
Yes, not only is the photography market oversaturated, but I feel as though the art industry itself that lives on social media has completely changed our art viewing experience. It’s beautiful and concerning at the same time. For instance, you don’t need to be validated by a gallery to get your work to have any exposure, you can simply do it yourself at the palm of your hand.
It’s a game-changer for artists! However, that also means taking intellectual property is just as easy and that’s how “trends” begin to form. I try to do my best sticking with my own photography style and aesthetic and it motivates me to strengthen that aesthetic as I continue to grow as a photographer. As I said before, I love photography, it doesn’t take much for me to stay motivated because it is my creative outlet. It keeps me sane amidst all the other responsibilities in my life.
Over the past several years, your artistry as a photographer has certainly evolved and taken a life of its own. How do you continue leveling up?
Truthfully, I feel that the progression in my photography has a lot to do with the incredible new creatives I continue to meet and work with over time. From stylists, to make-up artists, models, set designers, and hairstylists. Each photoshoot with a different team always has its own energy and when the vibe is right, the photoshoot just flows so easily and everyone is bouncing ideas off of each other, it’s the best feeling.
Art thrives in good energy and that’s always my priority when I am creating. There are some people that I will never work with again simply based on the fact of their bad or pretentious attitude no matter how talented or “clouted” they are. I do photography because it is my happy place, I am a person who craves connection and authenticity. I know that my photography will keep leveling up if I continue to lead with my heart and keep close the creatives I vibe with who love this shit just as much as me. It wasn’t that long ago where my photography “leveled up” as you said, it took a while for me to actually believe in myself.
Once I stopped caring about other people and learned how to love myself unconditionally, the confidence overcame me and the inspiration and new ideas would come to me in dreams and at the most random times of the day. It sounds cheesy but learning to love yourself causes everything to come together.
Moreover, the subjects and muses that you work with oftentimes blend seamlessly with your style of shooting. What compels you to work with certain subjects and how often do you rely on post-editing effects?
Hmm, I never really thought about this too in-depth but I definitely have had people point out my curation of subjects that I choose to photograph. For me, everyone I shoot is unique in their own way. Whether they believe in that themselves or not. When I am photographing, it’s highly important for me to let my subject’s individuality speak. They are the star, they are my client, and I am here to make them feel comfortable and confident and look good to the best of my ability.
When it comes to post-editing, it’s actually the fun part for me. However, oftentimes, it takes me a while to post-edit because I wait for the composition idea or inspiration to hit me. I prefer not to force it because through experience, when I try to edit without inspiration I tend to get really frustrated with myself when things don’t look right to me and I end up editing for hours, then trashing everything just to start over again and the cycle keeps going. It gets pretty discouraging so I try to just let the ideas happen naturally.
Owning your own studio, especially in a major hub for creatives such as Downtown LA, is a major accomplishment. What’s been the most rewarding part about it thus far?
About a year and a half ago, I jokingly used the hashtag #danicribo to tag photos that I shot in my home studio. From there the hashtag just stuck and I now use it as my photography business name. Hands down, what has been the most rewarding of this experience, is my discovery of being able to shoot studio portraiture. Before moving in here, I knew nothing about studio photography. I literally found myself as a photographer in my own home and I’ve grown tremendously as a creative, photographer, person, and professional.