Coping Mechanism is a column by Mackenna Manidis exploring the care practices of creative people she finds inspiring.
Normally the Coping Mechanism interviews happen over cocktails, or coffee, or both, but given the current circumstances, for this month’s iteration Veronica Crawford and I went with the most personal, safe option — a Zoom meeting. Veronica joined me early one morning for coffee and snacks, me from my mom’s bedroom in Phoenix, her from a sunny bedroom in Pasadena. And although it’s not the same level of intimacy as a real life meeting, I got a different level of closeness: The chance to see different pieces of her life through her room’s decor.
Her space felt warm and cozy when she took me on a little digital tour of it, full of artwork her friends had made, little mementos, and photos she’s taken of friends or places she’s visited. “I like to surround myself with a lot of personal things,” she explained during our chat. “It makes it feel happier and more homey.” Seeing Veronica’s emphasis on surrounding herself with personal totems — both ones that she’s created and ones created for her — makes perfect sense when I think about who she is.
Currently a full-time photographer, who formerly shot mostly for the interior design blog, Style By Emily Henderson, Veronica is now fully freelance — and has even done some recent product shoots for Cinnamon. Growing up in San Diego with creative parents (her mom is also a photographer), she remembers always feeling drawn to creative work. “I would assist my mom at shoots growing up,” she explained. “But I seriously started getting into photography my senior year of high school. I started taking senior photos of my friends and ended up at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena studying photography.”
As a photographer, Veronica’s emphasis on capturing her subject’s authenticity is apparent in both her own demeanor and examples of her work. “I’m a storyteller,” she asserted. “For me, photography is a collaboration that’s emotional and vulnerable. It allows me to tell stories through a series of golden moments.” The ability to capture the warmth of products, interiors, and humans gives her a certain edge behind the lens, priming her for work in any facet of the industry.
But when quarantine set in, this spring became a period of not only personal change but also professional growth for Veronica, as she transitioned to freelance. But becoming self-employed during quarantine has actually been a pretty natural process for her, as she leans more toward being an introvert. “I’m definitely a homebody,” she said. “But the creative freedom of freelancing is something new to me. As far as insecurity when it comes to creating, something that’s helped me is realizing that if what I’m creating is important and meaningful to me, and I’m stoked about it, then I don’t mind as much whether others love it or hate it. Because it’s special to me.”
Hearing Veronica separate what she makes from its reception is an aspect of creative work that’s come up time and time again during discussions for this column. Still, I admittedly struggle with that emotional boundary. So I asked Veronica to get more in-depth with me about her thoughts on that topic: “The best advice I can give is to let people in,” she said.“I know it feels like something’s wrong with you, or dealing with it yourself is just easier because you don’t want to feel like a “burden,” but letting your friends and family know what you’re going through is really helpful.”
Especially during the current moment, when the world can feel so lonely inside of lockdown, remembering the importance of letting people know what I’m feeling is clutch. I’ve been trying to shoulder so many of my own feelings alone, and creating has been on the back-burner, despite the fact that I’ve had more free time than ever. Knowing that others are struggling, too, and not wanting to add to their stress has made isolation feel… even more isolated. But hearing Veronica’s perspective, and her positivity about navigating freelancing in quarantine is especially uplifting. Her view that this new world is exactly that — a new world to navigate and adapt to — fills me with hope. Hope that I can do it, too.