Gina Danza (@wildgina) is an intimate landscape photographer, SciArtist and Sony Alpha Ambassador. She’s also a television and content producer, writer and host, with her work currently featured on Discovery’s digital platforms. She’s created her own series on Instagram called, “Botany Bites,” that’s enjoyed by her following of nearly 90K. The series really caught our attention, as Danza uses it as an opportunity to dissect her art to educate her audience about plants and the biodiversity of our world. We love this blending of nature, art, creation and education, and we just had to connect with her to learn more about her vision and process. See what she has to say and watch some of her "Botany Bites."
Product Preview – In This Article You'll Find:
-Sony Alpha 7R IV
-Sony Alpha 7R III
-Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G
-Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
Finding Art In Nature & Using It To Educate
If you’re familiar with Danza’s work, you know that her photography takes an intimate deep dive into nature, educating others through her life experiences as she explores the outdoors. “I’ve been using this art form of blending my art and education for a little while now,” she explains. “Not only do these intimate moments in nature make me feel more connected with myself, but I get to flip the switch and educate others about the tiny details of nature in a more grand sense.”
Danza’s “Botany Bites” series extends beyond your typical nature show. In it she continues to use her photography as the foundation for educating others about different aspects of nature, creating a fusion between the creator world and the science world. “I’m creating this educational forum for my viewers to connect with in order to learn more about nature in ways we really never thought of before. Another piece of this, in addition to educating others about nature, is proving that you can create art out of anything you step over. That’s what I want to highlight as well. There’s such grandness to nature and the biodiversity in our world in its whole form, and I want to show others that they can create anywhere.”
No Plan Needed, Just Curiosity & Creativity
When we asked Danza about how she plans what to photograph, she laughs and says, “There’s never a plan. I’ll just wake up one day and look out my window and see a tumbleweed rolling. Then I’ll think to myself, where did that tumbleweed come from? And that’s where it starts. It isn’t a plan, it’s more me just tapping into my child-like curiosity, and educating others through how my life and creativity flows.”
She continues, “And that’s why sometimes I have nothing to share, and that’s OK. Many creators are seeking out things that they have to do and plan, but for me there just isn’t one. I know that may sound unconventional to a lot of artists or photographers, but I prefer to create through my intuition. A certain nature event might be popping off and everyone says you have to go, but if I don’t have that inkling to go, then I don’t need to. I’m learning to not force things and I think that’s when some of my best work happens.”
When capturing nature imagery, Danza uses either her Sony Alpha 7R IV or Sony Alpha 7R III combined with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G or Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. “I need to get those tiny details, which the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G is perfect for. It's something I specifically like to use because I can use it without a tripod. Since I'm an intuitive, on-the-spot creator, it enables me to just click and go. I can create a ton of art within 15 minutes and I feel like the 90mm helps me achieve those goals of creating art that I visualize with my own eyes.”
Botany Bites – “Let’s Dissect My Art”
So how did the Botany Bites series come to be? Danza says she was working with Discovery at the time and they wanted her to pitch some ideas. She wanted to do something with her botany team and came up with Botany Bites in the middle of the night. “I liked the idea of a botany bite, just a bite-sized piece of education through my art,” she explains. “I wanted it to be the spark to make people want to dive deeper to learn more. Get people interested with this small bite and make them want to go do more of their own research. Then the next time they’re out in nature, they think about it differently and see things they hadn’t seen before. It’s my way of starting the conversation on these topics.”
The series also explores fauna and their connection to plants. She has an episode on the Atlas moth because it thrives off of plants. “It’s all about showing how plants are really the centerpiece of Earth and what connects everything. I like to use the phrase, ‘Let's dissect my art,’ for the series because that is what we're really doing, is taking art and visually dissecting it so that we can learn more about biodiversity and the world itself within nature.
To come up with an episode, Danza takes a look at her recent photography to see if there’s anything interesting. “From there I do some research to see if it’s actually feasible for me to create an episode. If it is, then I write a script that I’ll typically do as a voiceover and go out to get some video footage. I try to make it pretty easy on myself. There’s a part of content creation where you always want to do these Oscar-worthy pieces when really simple can be best.”
She continues, “I don’t need to create this masterpiece because that's not my job or what I’m trying to do. My job is really just to do the work that I know how to do, which is educate and create art. These short simple videos are perfect for what they are. Who is to say it won’t grow into a bigger production one day? But again that’s not my job, it will come when it comes.”
Danza brings up an interesting point. Many creators let perfection paralyze the process, when starting simple and doing what’s available to you in your life at that moment, with the resources you have, is the way to go. There is always time for growth, but you have to start first. “That’s why many times there is no plan. It’s more about, ‘Where is my life right now? What can I create right now?’ I can put together a Botany Bites episode in a day if I need to. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and act on right now. If your creative intuition is telling you to do something, do it.”
Never Stop Learning
Creating these videos is about more than getting comments and likes for Danza. The work is important for her, as she’s a major advocate for the inclusion of Black narratives across the outdoor space. “It's also something for me as a Black woman to be doing this work because there isn't really anyone doing something like it. It's not coming from a scientist, it's coming from an artist. Just like scientists might use creative methods in order to learn, I’m doing a role reversal because I’m an artist first. I’m trying to understand the science behind my art. It’s rare and as a Black woman it’s even more rare.”
Danza hopes her work sparks that childlike wonder in her viewers, making them realize that learning and fun doesn’t have to stop just because you’re out of school. “It doesn’t always have to be work. It can be fun. I always tell people that if you are still trying to figure out your natural style in photography, put the camera down and try painting or another art form. Maybe photography isn’t even your thing. Maybe you just need to go for a walk and get outside. Stop chasing and instead attract what it is that you want.”
See more of Gina Danza’s work, including her Botany Bites series, on Instagram @wildgina.