Story-Telling and Photography: An Interview with Danielle Wirsansky

Thu, 03/30/23
Photographs from Dirac exhibition

A Ph.D candidate here at FSU, Danielle Wirsansky’s studies center around the World Wars and the Holocaust.  Danielle’s other interests include telling stories through theater and photography! Danielle is the managing director of White Mouse Productions, a student theater company, and owns her own photography company called 3 Muses Photography.

Danielle first started photography in high school as a way of promoting her family’s jewelry business. She discovered through these promotional shoots that she really enjoyed staging and creatively directing photo shoots. In 2016 Danielle started doing styled theater promo shoots and developed an interest in using photography to convey stories. After getting her MA, Danielle worked in a professional photography studio in Jacksonville which furthered her love for creative photography. 

Danielle says that at her core she is a storyteller. This compelled her to look towards various forms of media to understand how stories can be told in different ways. For Danielle, the visual impact of photography- the ways that quick glimpses and deep insights can contrast so beautifully- was an entirely new way to think about storytelling. With only access to imagery, how can we share narratives and emotions? This question captivated Danielle and led her to an interest in photography. 

Danielle first got started professionally while pursuing her MA but had been developing her craft before then.  For busy times of the year like wedding or grad seasons, Danielle does more commercial photography to meet the demand. Then, in between bursts of activity, Danielle gets to play around with recreational fine art photography. Danielle’s philosophy is that both professional and creative photography ebb and flow and running with the trends is the key to success! This works out great because the commercial opportunities allow her to afford to do fine arts photography. 

Danielle’s first exhibition was a virtual show in the fall of 2020. It was the build-up to a photography career goal plan that she had developed. Danielle’s goal for her first year was to have her photography published in literary magazines. In year two her goal was to be published in fashion magazines. Last year's goal was to have her photography exhibited, and this year’s goal is to have her work carried by local stores (you can already find some of her work at Common Grounds Bookstore in Tallahassee and the Rust and Rose in Monticello)!  Last year's goal, just like the rest, was wildly successful as Danielle’s work was in 25+ exhibits just in 2022!

The current exhibit at Dirac Library continues to tell the story Danielle exhibited last summer at the Vandroff Family Gallery at the Jewish Community Alliance in Jacksonville with 30+ photographs of Israel. She wanted to expand on that exhibition and showcase these pieces in a different way with a different audience. For this exhibition, Danielle was free to choose which style of photography would be shown. Although generally Danielle does portraiture, this time she challenged herself to use landscape photos. Danielle had to find a way to create deep narratives in landscape pieces to make them compelling and to fit the theme of “home”. 

Danielle’s favorite photos are the ones she took at the Western Wall. Specifically, Danielle took a picture of an elderly woman praying intently at the wall itself, back facing the camera. Danielle says she was captivated by the story that could be told in the woman’s posture and body language. You can see all of the notes and prayers people wrote and placed on the wall surrounding the woman, a deliberate nod to storytelling.  

Danielle shared a hilarious story explaining the photograph of camels pictured kneeling in front of the sunrise. She was staying in a desert camp that night with freezing temperatures and was told to wake up at 4 a.m. to witness the beautiful sunrise. When she woke up, freezing and tired, she waited for the sunrise and was supremely underwhelmed. Just when she was about to give up, she turned her attention to the camels, and all of a sudden the scene was set and the sunrise was beautiful! One of the camels later nipped Danielle, but she still looks back on the experience fondly!

Danielle’s biggest advice for amateur photographers is to start slow - take your time to figure out your style and passions. This means spending a lot of time with your camera! Learn how to use it and get comfortable developing your skills as a storyteller; this is a great way to succeed! Another tip is to develop your ancillary skills like editing, framing, printing, and more! Developing these skills yourself will allow you to get comfortable with all aspects of photography.