Andrea Leoncavallo

portrait photographer.

documentary producer.



When I was 12 years old my parents gave me a Nikon 35mm film camera and I was hooked. I learned how to shoot film and develop photos in the dark room. That dark, quiet space was so cathartic. I loved watching the images appear on paper like magic; the light cutting through the darkness. It was the best meditation and solace for a soul weary from peer pressures at school and a family on the brink of divorce.

In college I studied television, radio and film with a focus in photography and environmental studies. I tried to find myself. I made some short films and documentaries that didn’t quite work. But I had wonderful professors who always reminded me that the story was everything. I worked as a grip and electric on feature films and commercials in New York City during my summer breaks and after graduation. It was my dream come true in many ways. I loved the excited energy on film sets. I loved being behind the scenes and creating a whole world from light and illusion. But I became frustrated working grueling 18 hour days for directors and producers would sacrifice the health of their crew for the sake of their “art” (side note: all those directors were men and most of the time I was the only woman on the production crew).

I wanted to work on projects that made positive change in the world. Projects that shared the stories of people who were underrepresented, misrepresented or ignored. So I moved to Washington, D.C. which at the time was the documentary capitol of the country. I became the production manager and then senior producer for a not-for-profit documentary production company in Washington, D.C. called Video/Action, Inc. and I traveled around the country interviewing survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, Native Americans living on remote reservations and in Alaskan Native villages, children impacted by drug addiction, teachers working in public schools, FBI agents, social workers, attorneys, directors of social justice nonprofits and more. During this time I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from an amazing mentor, Robin Smith. She is an inspired storyteller and phenomenal producer. She founded Video/Action Inc. to give young producers like me a chance to develop their skills while doing meaningful work. I owe so much of my self-confidence and success to her. She encouraged me to join Women in Film and Video of D.C. and I served on the board for two terms. Later I would co-found a new chapter of Women in Film in Portland, OR, with another inspiring mentor, Tara Johnson-Medinger. I worked with her on the The Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival (POWFest), which she founded over 10 years ago.

In 2009 I moved to Portland to build a life with the love of my life. Tom has faithfully supported me and my passion for sharing feminist stories and images. In 2010 I photographed a woman a day for one year and asked her what inspired her. When I completed 365 days I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and self-published a full color 200 plus page photo book with a collection of those images and stories called She Inspires 365. At the same time I also completed a round of IVF to get pregnant with our first child.

Now my husband and I have two wild, sensitive children and a loving dog. My business is mostly focused on intimate portraits of motherhood: maternity, newborn, postpartum, family and breastfeeding images. I’m trying to embrace the struggle: the struggle to find the balance between my passion for my work and motherhood; the struggle to be loving and patient with my children when they are driving me crazy; the struggle to to justify raising our family with no relatives nearby with our love of the Pacific Northwest; the struggle to build a community that is supportive and that gets us; the struggle to be the best mom I can be while realizing that I’m not the mom I thought I would be.

This is who I am: Wild. Friendly. Flawed. Open Minded. Dedicated. Vulnerable. Passionate.

Motherhood: it’s overwhelming, relentless, heartbreaking, transformative and yet magical. I always wanted to be a mother. I went into this journey with my eyes wide open. I was brave and arrogant and ignorant. Nothing about it has been what I thought it would be. I have been humbled. It’s brought me to my knees, stolen my sleep, changed my view of myself. It’s made me question everything and wish for solitude after all those years of chasing my dream of a big family. I know not all women have that experience. I now understand every child is different and every parent’s experience is unique. I also believe that we have more in common as mothers than we may have had as the people we were before our children were born. That brings me comfort and reassurance. Whether you gave birth to your children “naturally” or via cesarean, whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, whether your children found you or you found them in any number of different ways. Motherhood is a universal experience and one that should be honored for all it’s intricacies, authenticity, joy, sorrow and most of all love.

My work is about honoring the journey of motherhood. It’s all important and worthy of being remembered and cherished. The stretch marks, the struggles, the quiet moments, the present moment. Little fingers, soft ears, messy beds and homes, filled with love. Love. Love. Love.
— Andrea Leoncavallo