We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristi Neilson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristi, do you have a budget?
I am not financially savvy. I use a shoe box to hold my tax information for the year. BUT- I was raised to be financially responsible. I was put to work on my farm at a very young age and was paid for my work. From age 8 and on I was paid for my time and my parents taught me to save that money. I was a kid, what did I REALLY need? Nothing. I carry that approach with me now in my career and adult life. If I don’t really need it- I don’t buy it. I don’t spend money I don’t have and I pay off my credit card bill in full 11/12 months.
There are exceptions of course. But as a freelancer, you need a savings, You need backup if god forbid theres is an accident and you can’t work or you hit a lull. I have a savings account that I would never dream of touching. Savings are for emergencies or for whatever it is you have been saving up to buy that will enhance your life.
In 2018 I saved enough money to take myself on a trip. I had never been out of the country and I went big. It is so very important to have experiences. We have one life and there is no point is pinching pennies the whole time. We must have experiences that enrich our lives and help us grow as people. BUT- living paycheck to paycheck is a stress that really impacts your health and if you can find a balance between being financially secure/responsible and still spending money on things that make you happy and fulfill you- you’ve figured it out.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am currently reeling over a fine art photo book I am creating. I grew up on a tobacco farm on the east coast and have been photographing it on film for over ten years. I finally collected those photos and many photographs from my childhood and used the pandemic as a time to put this body of work in motion. I teamed up with a photo editor named Alexa Miller to help me with the project and she has helped me create something I am SO excited to share with the world. Working on this personal project has also helped me with my fashion/commercial work. It has allowed me room to breathe and flourish and has me excited to shoot more portraiture and fashion.
I think our personal projects are key to the success of the rest of our work. It lets you relax. It lets you create. It allows you be really true to yourself.
I am so happy and grateful for this process and I really cannot wait to share the book when it is completed.
My brand and story come from a broken place. It sounds cliche but my ability to create and work with others has been so therapeutic and important to my own growth as a woman and an artist. I didn’t start taking photos so I could photograph pretty people. I started taking photographs to heal from deep childhood wounds and it just so happens that now I enjoy taking pictures of beautiful, interesting people and things.
At the end of the day, I want to connect with my subject and get just as much out of the experience as they do. I want to feel good about the art I am making and I want them to feel excited and confident in it as well. If that happens, it’s a success.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Okay here is a run down of my LA MUSTS! As far as the westside goes I would drive them through Malibu and do a beach day with a lunch stop at Malibu seafood.
On the way home if we were still hungry I would stop at Mitsuwa for my favorite Ramen or hit Leos Taco truck for El Pastor tacos on La Brea and Venice.
Rooftop drinks on a sunny afternoon at Mama Shelter is always fun for someone who has never been to Hollywood before. Detour to downtown to The Last Bookstore and Oysters at Grand Central Market with an agua fresca to wash it all down.
Chicken thighs and drinks at Hippo in Highland Park and a hike to Debs Park. And if you’re on Fig and are down for more oysters, then go to ETA!
Museum wise the Getty always wins because its so beautiful to be there for the day and see the city from up high!
Also downtown is my favorite restaurant in the city- The Exchange Restaurant. Words can’t describe how incredible it is.
A Hike in Angeles National Forest and the trip is complete!
Oh! and NBC seafood in Monterey Park for Dim Sum if you have a fun group of people that are willing to drive east 🙂
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Theres lots of people that got me where I am today! My first photo internship was with Tamar Levine and if I didn’t love her and my time here in LA so much I wouldn’t have moved after college! Once officially moved to LA I got another internship with Art Streiber who taught me all about Hollywood and introduced me to an incredible network of amazing people. One of those people is Kevin Vu who took me under his wing and really taught me light and how to balance work life while also nurturing personal fulfillment.
Photo of me is by Alyson Aliano