How everything started
I remember that on every family trip my father was always taking pictures of my mom with his Pentax MX. When I was old enough to hold the heavy camera, he explained that the camera was a precious treasure and I needed to be verrrry careful when holding the precious camera. He also taught me to look into “the little window” and to move the little “wheels” slowly from one side to the other until I got the “green light”, which meant it was ok to take the picture–just imagine a 3 ft high little girl holding a camera bigger than her head. Yes — that was me — and that is when my curiosity for photography started.
I got my first camera when I was in fourth grade; since, then I was the photographer of my class. Every trip, party, birthday, and school event I was always there with my camera capturing all the fun moments of my friends and the other students. During high school I took several classes about oil and watercolour paint, mural drawings, and graphic arts. That’s when I knew my future was going to be something related to the Arts. During the 90’s, Costa Rica didn’t have a photography university, so I went on to study graphic design in university, where I had the opportunity to take a few black & white photography and dark room courses.
After getting my degree, I spend several years doing graphic design for commercial ads, magazines, websites, newsletters, logos for different industries from fashion to sports. It was a cool and interesting time of my life, and it went well. However, as funny as it sounds, most of the projects I had were somehow related to photography. Photography kept popping up in my life; so, I decided to complete a bachelor’s for photography and do what I love the most professionally.
While living in Costa Rica, I did graphic design and art direction for local companies, and I also started a part-time photography business. I had the opportunity to shoot models, events, weddings, fashion shows, and even a calendar photoshoot.
But what I wanted to do was to travel.
As a child, my parents took me to San Andrés, which is a little island in the Caribbean. They taught me the value of travel and experiencing new cultures.
For my 15th birthday present, my parents gave me the option of having the traditional big party, or to travel. Guess what I picked? I switched the fancy dress and big party, for a plane ticket. My mom took me, with my best friend, to Disney World in Miami, and to a cruise around the Caribbean! We visited different towns, ate delicious food, and experienced many cultures. It was an amazing experience, and although I was young, I realized I loved to travel.
So, when I got my first job, I immediately started saving up money because I wanted to be the first one in my entire family to travel to Europe. And a few weeks before my 21st birthday, I got a plane ticket to Spain. I asked for vacation at work, and just a couple days after my birthday I was already in Madrid. Oh, what a city! The history and the architecture there was breathtaking.
I spent a few weeks travelling the north of Spain by train. Madrid, Toledo, Salamanca, León, Oviedo, Gijón… all of them had a special history, which made me easily fall in love with the Spanish culture. Everywhere you see, there is a little detail, a stunning building, and historic church. I came back home with more than 30 film rolls of 36 frames of all the beautiful places I visited.
But the travel bug didn’t go away. Since then I travelled to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Panamá, Guatemala, and the United States.
After my 25th birthday, I started thinking about travelling again but this time I wanted to spend more time away… a lot more time.
So, the plan started. I was going to save up as much as I could, and then travel.
Although my first option was going back to Europe, I also wanted to learn and practice a new language while staying relatively close to home. After looking into a few options, I decided to go to Canada.
I arrived in Toronto, just a couple weeks after my 26th birthday. I was planning to stay for 4 months exploring the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. It must have been destiny, at my landing the immigration officer decided to extend my work visa to 15 months, opening many opportunities.
Canada was so multicultural that it blew my mind. I met so many interesting people in just a couple months, and I decided to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and stay for the 15 months.
Canada gave me new friends, new food, new weather, and a new language!
But it also meant, I needed to find a new job to help me support myself in a new country. I worked as a web and graphic designer for one of the biggest shoe companies in Canada, and I added fashion to my graphic design resume.
After the 15 months, I was so in love with this country that I extended my stay but this time for another couple years. I continued working as a web and graphic designer, however I also worked as a senior photographer for a Canadian magazine.
Long story short, I grew roots in this place, and it was now time to start my own photography business all over again but this time in Canada. I started doing portraits and maternity photoshoots on weekends and evenings, while having a full-time job. And slowly the photography took over. [ Want the whole scoop on my professional background? Check out my LinkedIn page.]
Some years later, I met the love of my life and although I am from sunny Costa Rica, I now live in Toronto, Canada with my wonderful husband and a sweet puppy, Maggie. [Maggie is more famous than me (lol) and she has her own Instagram’s account. Check out Maggie’s Instagram account].
Do I miss the beach and the all-year warm weather, absolutely! But Canada is now the place I call home. ❤
The day everything changed
On Christmas day, 2015, I woke up with a horrible pain in my head and face, I thought it was a bad migraine so I went to bed early that day thinking if I sleep enough I will feel better the next day.
How wrong I was.
Early next morning, I was already in the hospital. I suffered a “nerve failure” (something similar to a stroke) leaving me with half of my body paralyzed. (Including a severe case of Bells Palsy). It took me over a year before I started to get better, and another year to recover to 80% health.
As a self-entrepreneur photographer, who needs her body and eyes fully functioning to work, doing photoshoots and portraits was almost impossible. Not being able to do what I love was killing me. So, while I was still in bed, without being able to move much, that’s when I started the online store. (Go here to visit Cristina Photo Store). I needed photography in my life even when I was not able to walk.
During those two years, I kept running my online store, photographing for a few clients, doing volunteer work for cancer survivors, and giving every drop of energy to those who put their trust in me.