Danika Miller | Iselin + Hale
Most people can recognize Danika from behind the camera and scenes of The Balanced Blonde, but oh does she do so much more! As a lifestyle photographer, Danika also balances the writing of her own blog and the title of content creator + curator over at Social Reality. This 24 year old Cali babe is absolutely killing it with her camera skills and perfect social media personality!
Tell us about the path that led you to where you are today.
I started my blog a little over two years ago, while I was in the heat of the worst heartbreak and identity crisis of my life. I had nothing to lose so I created a Word Press account with no direction other than to paint a clean digital page with my unfiltered words. During that time, I was studying to be a screenwriter. It naturally seemed as if writing with a broken identity was the most cathartic healing process. I slowly saw that people from all over the world subscribed to my blog. It was extremely freeing to write stories that wasn’t in a screenplay format. I fell out of love with screenwriting and fell madly in love with the digital story space that is the blogging world.
One of my best friends was friends with Jordan Younger from The Balanced Blonde and I had always taken note of Ms. Younger’s killer, no-BS spirit. I joined her team as an intern, with no intentions other than to learn and support this woman who made her blog into an empire. I then started taking photos of her recipes for the blog, and then I started taking photos of her. I then really really liked doing both of those things. Before we knew it, we were creating beautiful content on The Balanced Blonde. She became the base of what is now my brand aesthetic at Iselin + Hale.
It is funny how I had my mind set on being a comedy writer a year and a half ago. You know, I wanted to be the next Mindy Kahling, Lena Dunham or the queen herself Tina Fey. I wanted to tell stories about women, feminism, and really funny stories that deserve to be told. In the strangest of way, I am doing exactly that; however, instead of the storytelling being in the form of a 30 minute television show, it is in the form of capturing digital influencers, and people who have voices of courage, intelligence, sisterhood and some serious style.
Have you always been one to be behind the camera?
No, oh trust me, I loved to pose. I think everyone wants to be in front of the camera. It is those who want to behind it who hold the vision.
I started to get behind the camera when I traveled internationally with family and a study abroad experience. I enjoyed capturing the people, places and things just the way that I saw it. The next level of “being behind the camera” was when I left playing college volleyball at 20 years of age. Anyone who plays or has played sports knows that it is a world of imitation and repetition. In hindsight, photography is very much like sports. Instead of sitting in the stands enjoying the game, I started capturing it, and imitating it like I normally would as an athlete. I got extremely hooked on the repetition of capturing the movement over and over again until I got the shot that I wanted. It is true when they say that it takes 10 images for every one good photo. Unless if you are me, then it takes 30 images for the only photo that you want.
What keeps you inspired and your creativity flowing?
Routines are healthy, but routines of creativity are hazardous. Just because I was inspired one way yesterday, doesn’t mean that I will be inspired that way tomorrow. I choose to try my best everyday to deconstruct and reframe the world that I see, take it for what it is, and what my imagination can manifest from it.
I drive a lot. Sometimes I have to get creative about thinking creatively. Paying attention to patterns of words and rhythm from rap songs and poetry constantly reframes my creativity when I drive.
An afternoon at an art gallery, spending hours flipping through a fashion magazine, people watching and the sound of the ocean are all immediate inspiration boosters. Going on 10 minute walks in the middle of my work day, without my phone is extremely important. I try to tell myself to find inspiration in a simple and minimal way. Like the way a child finds a rollie pollie, is the way adults should find creativity, you just have to look at the world differently and that creativity will always show up and ready to play.
When it comes to inspiration as a motivation I look to Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino and Gray Malin as the best. Like when Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, you just knew that it was Annie Leibovitz who took that stunning photograph. You just knew it. Those photographers are my inspiration. They are my dream. I want to work hard enough to get to the point where an audience can look at my photo and say, “Wow, that is a photo by Danika from Iselin and Hale. I just know that it is… But wait, let me ask Siri just to double check.” But instead of pronouncing my name as Danika, they will probably pronounce it as Danica. But hey, I won’t stop until I get there… as Danika or Danica.
Any crazy stories from a shoot you’ve done in the past?
I was in Chicago last summer for the Create and Cultivate conference as Jordan’s featured photographer. I had just graduated from college and was living on minimal money. And by minimal, I mean broker than broke. I literally had to borrow money from my parents to buy the flight to get from Los Angeles to Chicago. I was sitting next to Amber Fillerup, and yes, she is a thousand times more gorgeous in person. Anyways, I was sitting next to Amber, as I was checking my bank statement and saw that I was running out of money faster than I had anticipated.
I realized that the whole “fake it to make it” statement wasn’t just a statement, but a freaking reality for me. I was in VIP and surrounded by some of the most influential bloggers and digital influencers like Hannah Bronfman, Whitney Port, Nadia Aboulhosn, Hillary Sawchuck, and Jenny Cipoletti. Yet no one knew that my biggest worry was “How am I going to financially survive for the next two days?”
I quickly pushed aside my embarrassment of the situation. I really picked up on the understanding that I had been put in this situation at the exact time, for a very important purpose. The day after the conference, I had negative 46 dollars in my bank account, with a maxed out credit card and the only money to my name was 5 dollars of credit on my Starbucks app. My meal for the day was a tall coffee and an everything bagel with cream cheese.
I don’t have a crazy story of me being swept away by the oceans tide or jumping out of a plane for a shot. Yet, I really had my most insane moment as a “photographer” when I was surrounded by some killer women to impress. But what I learned was that the biggest impression that I made was on myself. In that, if I can fake it, then I can really make it, and I have made it. I now get to make anything! That is the best realization of them all.
Coffee or tea?
I love tea in the mornings while I am on my way to work. I love a shot of espresso in the afternoons. And I always love tea before I go to sleep. I guess the real answer is hot or cold? And– well, that is a no brainer, cause I like my caffeinated beverages like I like my men… hot and steamy.