We had the good fortune of connecting with Nastasia Zibrat and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nastasia, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
To answer this question fully, I need to start at the very beginning.

Growing up in Slovenia, on the brink of war for its independence from the rest of Yugoslavia, I found solace in the arts, even as young child. When I was 5 years old, I asked my parents for piano lessons, and they said: “Sure, but you’ll have to become a concert pianist,” and so I did. I played my first solo concert at the age of 9, toured, won both national and international competitions, and continued my studies all the way to another continent, eventually receiving a B.Mus. with honors from the University of Toronto in Canada.

All the while, I collected photographs. While other children papered their walls with pop culture posters, I collected National Geographic magazines, carefully cutting out my favorite images and taping them to my wall. I imagined traveling the world, seeing its unbearable beauty first-hand and capturing those unrepeatable moments myself. I loved being a classical musician, but photography snuck its way into my heart and wouldn’t let go.

However, I knew it wasn’t meant to be. I’m extremely near-sighted overall, and my left eye is nearly blind. I’ve never had depth perception – I can’t judge physical distances, and don’t see the world in 3D, but in 2D, which in turn affects my balance. I can never drive a car, ride a bike (successfully), ski or skate. So, I stuck to piano. I practiced blindfolded, until every key was as familiar to me as my own skin, because I didn’t know how much my overall eyesight would continue to decline over the years. Whenever I could, I took photographs, but they weren’t for the world to see, just for me.

I excelled in school, hoping to find myself through my undergraduate studies, then continuing onto a Master’s in clinical mental health counseling, with a specializing in music therapy in Cambridge, MA. My career as a music therapist was fulfilling – I worked in acute inpatient psychiatry for five years, and while I loved being able to help my clients express themselves, reach catharsis, or even just experience some respite from their struggles, I hated the corporate, “profits over people” structure of the institution. Once COVID hit, I reached my breaking point and needed to reevaluate my life – I realized that life is too short to wallow in the “I can’t”. I threw caution to the wind, purchased a decent hobbyist camera, and started learning everything I could possibly find about photography. My husband offered to drive me to any shoot he could, and act as my assistant, balance helper and dad-joke provider, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.

9 months after my first paid shoot, I still need to pinch myself to remind myself that it’s not a dream. Business absolutely exploded, nearly immediately, and I finally feel like I’m doing what I’ve been meant to be doing all along. I don’t strive to just take “pretty pictures”, my goal is to capture genuine connection and overwhelming joy, fleeting moments suspended forever in amber.

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 covered many of these questions in my long-winded answer to the question about my inspiration, but if you know me, you’ll know that I always have more to say!

As much as my visual impairment is a challenge for a photographer in nearly every way, there is one aspect of it that is strangely helpful: seeing the world in 2D, means that I see it like a camera, and not like a person. I can see the shot in real-time, and have been told that my style feels very filmic. I strive for each image to feel like a movie still, rather than a posed and planned image – if I don’t get an emotional response from a photo, I don’t connect with it.

In a way, my long and strange journey as a classical musician, therapist and now photographer has been a unique advantage – I still use therapeutic skills to help nervous clients relax, to quell any brewing family drama and to help a client see themselves in a positive light. If an unexpected problem arises, I stay calm no matter what (having a 3 year old at home helps with that, too), and help the client break down a big problem into small, manageable tasks.

I want the world to know that it’s possible, even when it seems daunting, even when all logic tells you that you’re “being crazy”.
To me, photography is like coming up for air after being stuck in an underwater current. I will drag myself and my inhaler up the mountain for a perfect shot, I will meet you at sunrise, I will wade into water, and we’ll make magic together.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Until I started my photography business, I never really had the time or energy to explore the city, but now I’m all about those perfect views, even right here in the Denver/Boulder area.

If we start the day at sunrise, I’d recommend watching it from Lost Gulch Overlook in Boulder – those sweeping views just can’t be beat! After a few piping hot empanadas from Rincon Argentino Boulder, I recommend checking out any art walks happening in Denver. As much as I love the big museums, I love supporting independent artists; the RiNo district is incredible, and a mural map of is easily available online. I would 100% drag a friend to Golden Saigon, a family owned Vietnamese restaurant in Aurora, where every customer becomes instant family, and the food is beyond incredible, then go on a hike to the Calhan Paint Mines. We’d finish off the day by checking out a show at Red Rocks, which is probably one of the coolest outdoor venues in the States, A late night doner kebab, and your day is full, exhausting and completely satisfying!

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?
The absolute biggest credit to making my business possible at all goes to my husband, Derek. Due to my visual impairment, he drives me to many shoots, makes sure I don’t accidentally step off a ledge, holds my hand when I’m in an unsteady position, and helps carry clients’ props. He plays with my clients’ dogs when I’m taking photos of just the couple or family, he makes silly faces at babies and is never “too cool” to do whatever it takes to help a toddler laugh. I would not be able to start my business without his unyielding support, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us.

Website: www.nastasiazibratphotography.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nastasia.z.photography

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nastasiazibratphotography

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