Photographer’s Q&A – Nancy Paiva

This week’s Q&A is with Toronto photographer Nancy Paiva, freelancer for Metroland Media Group. Her web site is


A Nia dancer performs at the National Ballet School of Canada in celebration of 25 years of Nia dancing in Toronto.


What were your first steps in the industry?

I started posting to a Toronto blog and did a short series called ‘Faces of Toronto’. It was about strangers I met while perusing the city’s streets. These chance encounters gave me the opportunity to practise my photography and get to know a subject on a more personal level. Often, we would end up meeting on several occasions or even in their homes. Having never done this sore of thing before, I grew completely fascinated by the process.


When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation and are you where you thought you would be now?

I am an American by birth and studied engineering in Buffalo, N.Y. When I came to visit Toronto at 17, I fell in love with a Canadian boy. Eight years later, I moved to Canada to start a family. In all respects, I am exactly where I thought I would be except for photography. My personal life is as planned but the camera was a total surprise. The purchase of my first DSLR three years ago has slowly invaded my free time.

I was taken on as freelancer by Metroland in Toronto and started at the bottom of the list with six photographers above me. It means that I only get an assignment when the other six are unable to take it on. It also means that sometimes, several weeks go by before I get the call or the phone rings on holidays. But when the Toronto International Film Festival is happening, for example, I get several assignments in one week. I never tell my editor “no” to any assignment.

When not freelancing, I continue to work on personal projects or cover events that hold interest for me. If none of the above are happening, I will go back to my roots, take the camera for a walk and see what fate brings me.

I am always shooting or editing, and I also work a full-time day job as an office manager for a dental practice. I wake up early in the morning to do what I love before I go to work to earn the money to support my passion. I also have three teenagers. My life is never boring. I take my camera with me everywhere i go.


Mrs. Anne Mirvish listens to a opera song that had played at her wedding in front of Honest Ed’s bargain centre on Bloor Street West in Toronto during a perfromance-filled day celebrating the life of her recently deceased husband, Honest Ed Mirvish.


What or who are your biggest inspirations?

The best inspiration for me is when I have worked hard to get an interesting shot and see the vision come alive on my computer screen in full size. When I love an image, I will bang my desk and scream ” YES! “. These shots inspire me to go out and try again. Nothing really beats getting a great shot.


Did you have a mentor? How important are mentors?

I believe mentors are extremely important. Some have used the words “up and comer” to describe my work and I am currently pursuing some form of a mentoring relationship. Do you have an application form?

I have only had my portfolio looked at three times. Chris Anderson looked at my work during a workshop sponsored by Magnum. Irv Mintz looked at my work online before I was hired by Metroland. Just the other week, Peter Power was kind to take some time to have a look at some of my links. I have not experienced a long-term guiding hand as I am a self-taught photographer. I would really welcome that relationship because I feel it is extremely important to be shown the insight of the more experienced mind. I believe there are many things that cannot be learned in a self-contained bubble.


Luminato dance perfomance on Church Street in Toronto. This photo recently won first place in a Westjet photo contest.


What was a pivotal point in your career?

I don’t think I have reached it yet, but the small successes I have enjoyed keep me reaching for it. Recently I won first place in Westjet’s Photography Contest and made the cover of a few magazines. These kinds of affirmations are helpful in rewarding my long hours.


How important is multimedia to you?

I am currently working on my first multimedia project. I am using video, stills and audio to improve my storytelling capabilities. I think it is a natural step in my progression and why not use every weapon in the arsenal? Again, I am learning these skills in my free time which seems to be shrinking.


Depiction of small town USA: diner enjoys a meal in Warsaw, New York.


How do you ensure that you are progressing as a visual journalist?

I keep shooting, I keep looking and I keep learning.


What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education).

Burn Magazine Great images in an interesting atmosphere.

Lightstalkers General insight, information and resource.

A Photo Editor Best blog for current information.


What is your favourite way to unwind?

A “Type A” never really unwinds so I am trying to become more “Type B” by practicing hot yoga.


What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?

“Don’t stop.”



Category: Photographer's Q&A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. Please be patient.