noun | ˈgrōth
1) a stage in the process of growing
2) the process of growing
3) progressive development; evolution
4) increase, expansion
— Merriam-Webster

We have so many different ways of measuring and quantifying the world around us, all the scales and units we've developed over time give us the ability to quickly assess and compare things without giving it much thought. 

While it's easy to measure the physical world it's not always as easy to put a number on the changes that happen inside our minds and our spirit. Some parents dedicate a wall or door frame to measure the height of their children each year and it offers a great visual on just how much we grow from children to teenagers and finally into adulthood. For most of us our growth in height was also accompanied by gaining weight, two metrics that we easily measure by feet and inches and pounds. 

But how would you describe your growth mentally or spiritually? There are no units or scales when it comes to the realm of thoughts and emotions and more often than not it's something that only we can define for ourselves. People usually reach out to me interested to do a shoot after a particular milestone; an engagement, birthday, or maybe the birth of a child. My most recent shoot with Lydia (@lylly_casagrande) is unique because she reached out to me to do a shoot to celebrate her first year in New York City and how much she had grown during that time. I met Lydia early last year and talking with her now it's almost like you're talking to a different person. I love seeing people around me grow and be successful in all their pursuits but I think what I love even more is seeing them growing more into themselves.

I had a chance to catch up with Lydia for a few minutes and ask her a few questions, check out our conversation below followed by a few select images from our shoot. Enjoy! 

When you first reached out to me it seems like you had a good idea of the look you were going for in terms of styling and makeup. What was your inspiration?

True. That's because I was researching a lot about black girl’s looks in high fashion. I wanted to shoot something different. All of my shoots up to now have been very teenager style so I wanted to do something mature and sexy.

I think it's safe to say you definitely achieved that look during our shoot. You made my job easy because you had a strong sense of posing and facial expressions. Do you have experience modeling?

I did some modeling back home, but nothing serious or professional, it was more for fun or to help friends with fashion projects. But working in fashion, I did style for a lot of photo shoots so I was able to see how models pose in front of the camera. I never saw modeling as a real shot for me until I moved to New York. 

I'm happy you brought up your move to New York, because I met you a few weeks after you got here early last year and you seem like you're in a much different space than you were then. Growing up in the shadow of NYC my entire life and living here now for almost four years, I know I sometimes take this city for granted. What drew you to New York and how do you feel like the city has changed you this past year?

New York City has always been my dream city, since I was a little kid I always knew that I wanted to move here without even having a specific reason why. After my first experience here a few years ago, I just knew for sure that this was my city, I fell in love. As soon as I moved here I realized that living here is a totally different experience than just spending a couple of weeks and leaving. In this city you can be who you really are, nobody will judge you and you can do whatever you want to do, nothing is impossible here. But the city is though! I believe because everything rotates around money and business that most of the time relationships between people are business or career oriented. Everyone is focused on making money and growing career wise so most of the time it seems like people create fake relationships that are just beneficial for both parties. That's the biggest thing I learned this past year about New York, everything comes with a price, nobody gives you anything for free. Looking back a year ago I can say that I was very naive, and most of the time I still am, but now I can see a lot of things coming. I love the city and I’m planning on staying for quite a while, but I’m still very happy to have an Italian background and mindset.

I can definitely relate to what you said about relationships here in New York, a lot of times they do seem very quid pro quo. I know for myself it probably wasn't until this past year that I really built relationships with people that were just based on supporting and being there for each other without any of us necessarily gaining anything from it. Sometimes it takes a little bit to find your tribe. But anyway back to you, so I know you grew up in Italy but where are you originally from?

I was born in Debre-Berhan a super small city in Ethiopia and after 5 years I moved to Italy, where I spent all of my life before moving to New York. You never know what life has in store for you until you decide to make your dreams come true.

You're absolutely right, life has a funny way of taking turns that lead us to different places. The reason I asked about your roots is because one thing I've always tried to explore with my photography is identity. How we see ourselves and how the world sees us. A lot of times when I take an image I try to capture how I see the subject and how I relate to them. Do you feel like I captured a sense of who you are during our shoot?

Absolutely! That’s what I liked the most about our shoot. When I see the pictures I feel like I can relate to the woman that I see. I feel like you captured what I envisioned especially in a few of the the images. There is one of them where I really wanted to embrace myself being here in New York and when I saw it for the first time I was kinda shocked because I could read that emotion in the picture. There's another pic that I remember when you took it, I was totally dreaming about something special and every time that I look at the image I can see that. So you did a great job.

Thank you! I'm really happy that I was able to capture you the way you see yourself. I'm still waiting for someone to do that for me because I'm terrible at selfies. I always feel a little awkward on the other side of the lens. My sister says selfies are all about angles, apparently I'm not choosing the best ones. Any tips for me?

Selfies are more difficult than posing for a photographer, at least for me. Because you are taking a picture of yourself and you just see all the things that you don’t like instead of just enjoying that moment, which is what you do when you are in front of a photographer. It took me a while to be comfortable with selfies, honesty it was very strange at the beginning, no one used to take pics of themselves and now you see everyone doing it. The only tip that I can give you is to just enjoy the moment, have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously when you take a selfie and you will feel less awkward. 

That sounds like good advice. Well thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time and I'm looking forward to our next shoot. Happy birthday!

You are welcome and thank you!

Makeup Artist: @nsta_beauty 
Wardrobe: @zara 
Fur: @luckylu_milano 
Makeup: @nyxcosmetics & @narsissist
Earrings: @forever21

A year ago I left my home, my family, my friends and everything that was my life back in Italy and I decided to follow my dream. I was afraid, I was scared and I was full of questions ... What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t fit in at my new job? What if I don’t understand and what if I fail? My biggest fear was to fail, but a year later I cannot be happier of my decision, I cannot be happier of my new life in New York City. I believed in my dream so hard and worked every day to make it happen and today that is my biggest satisfaction. I want to thank all the people that made the first year of my journey in this city such an amazing one, I’m so lucky that I can live my dream and I can finally say that I’m proud of myself, but it’s not time to relax just yet ... watch out New York I’m just getting started.
— Lydia

How have you grown this past year?

What are some changes you've made or are making to align yourself to your purpose?

Give it some thought!