Adventure Photographer, Photo Anthropologist, Travel Writer , and Global Artisan Entrepreneur
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Wanderlust Travel, Andeana Hats
Where was this passion inside you was born?
Can you take us back?
She attributes it to her parents. They were both CIA and stationed overseas. Indonesia was one of the cultures she was exposed to. She has a wanderlust because of it.
It started with a conversation with her Mom when she was 13. She wanted to be a Zoologist. She was never paying attention in school. She wrote reasons why she wanted to be a Zoologist and then her Mom deduced that she should do photography and not be in a lab and studying science! She wanted adventure. It was a tool for adventure!
She went to Syracuse for photo journalism. She had a dream for shooting for National Geographic. You take on what you photograph. She was drawn to weddings due to it being happy. That led her back to travel. This was destination wedding photography. It led her on a path.
What sets Laura apart from the other photographers out there? Visually she loves punchy color and a style that is adventurous. She does whatever she has to do to get a shot. She is the Indiana Jones of wedding photography. She brings fun and adventure. And having a consistent style is important. She never deviated from that. They knew what they were going to get. You mirror energy! She learned skill sets from weddings. It helped her with her travel photography. The camera is a passport so she can be there.
She drew up in Virginia. She lived near Langley because they had to be close to the CIA headquarters.
What were some of her favorite stories and destinations? She was shooting for the Silver Sea Cruises to Antarctica and it was the most remote place she has ever been. They traveled through Drakes passage with 20 feet swells and it made her feel like an explorer and it was a highlight.
The Republic of Georgia was so amazing. While traveling to a shoot, an Avalanche took the road out, and they had to climb back up and they went to a monastery where no women were not allowed. Laura was NOT having it. She disquised in a Black monks cloak and she snuck pictures of the bride and groom and got amazing pictures and this is really rare.
Shooting in the Amazon River while being in a tree house hotel with crazy spiders brought out the Indiana Jones in her and she was fascinated.
She had to do a shoot on a floating grass island at Lake Titicaca while photographing the Chinkana Indians. A really amazing experience.
What was the hairiest moment?
She was shooting a Holi festival in Vrindavan India where women don’t partake in public but in the privacy of their homes. Laura showed up shooting the festival with her female assistant. They were white women in the middle of a male dominated festival and men began grabbing at them and they were getting crushed and it was getting physical and they had to evacuate down on the ground and go up high where no one could see them to photograph the festival. She can see how people get crushed! It was scary!
She teaches photography in an adventure workshop with a philanthropic edge.
Her new entrepreneurial edge came to fruition while she was shooting for the Artisan catalog for National Geographic. Peru is a region and she was seeing incredible hats. Her hat says a lot about a person. Every village has a different hat and tells a different story. Why not sell the hats in the magazine? Too many obstacles? Her and her girlfriend started the business.
The concept for “Andeana Hats” was born because of the shared affinity for the Sacred Valley, Peru, its culture, energy and people by Laura and her partner, Pats Krysiak. While trekking together on the infamous Ausangate trek across the Rainbow Mountains, Pats and Laura came across many amazing Andean women and were captivated with their unique hats and weavings. Determined to share the energy of the Sacred Valley with the world and to help bring awareness to these female artisans and their cultural practices, Laura and Pats came up with the concept of a hat company that combines their traditional hat styles and weavings.
Every Andeana Hat and Intention Band is hand shaped or woven out of alpaca wool by Quechua artisans living in the Andes Mountains of Peru. The Quechua language is an oral or woven language; not written, so by keeping these weaving designs alive we are essentially keeping their language and history alive. These descendants of the Inca people are practicing what National Geographic refers to a “vanishing art”; an ancient weaving or embroidering tradition that has been passed down through the centuries by the women in their culture. Without a global marketplace to share and sell these goods, these traditions will die out.
It was a logistical nightmare. When it rains, it effects the hats. Their business had to be built around the weather and the harvest.
Andeana Hats has partnered with Awamaki, a non-profit organization based in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, who work closely together with multiple indigenous communities in the remote mountains of Peru to empower women and connect them to global market places like Novica in Association with National Geographic. Awamaki invests in women’s skills, connects them to market access and supports their leadership so they can increase their income and transform their communities. Novica’s mantra is to empower artisans, connect and mentor, and preserve endangered traditions. Additionally, Andeana recently partnered with Artesanías Aylluyki, a multi-generational family run embroidery artisan group based in Ayacucho, Peru. These are all powerful, fundamentally important mantras that drive us all to work together in this shared goal of spreading global happiness through traditional crafts.
Awamaki does all the ordering and hikes to the villages, they ship the product and do translation.
Her business partner is the behind the scenes and person and she is the in front person and is really exciting. It is a for profit business that gives back.
What does the money go to in the end game? The women get paid first, then the hats get shipped. 160 women and in 15 communities. Men do knitting and embroidery. Women are the main bread winners.
The mission behind the creation of Andeana Hats is to empower women, help support global artisans to continue their vanishing crafts, and enable them to support themselves and lead their communities out of poverty.
Purchase a hat through Online or a pop-up show. They can do hat parties!
She has an impact collection while partnering with a sustainable brand and help other artisans. Bathing suits, knitted gloves, coconut shell bowls etc. They want to help artisans.
How does it change the dynamics in the family if the women are becoming the bread winners? The men have been excited. They quit their jobs and they can be at home more! This alleviates them having to hike 8 hours to go and sell their goods. Educating women only helps every problem that is happening on the planet is so crucial! It is important to give girls hope and make them less able to get involved in horrible things. It is confidence building. You can help a whole community rising out of poverty.
Laura has always mentored young girls and it was her way of giving back and helping women. It all came together.
Laura is changing lives! It starts with a ripple! She is one of four girls and does not have kids. She used to feel like she was going to miss out. But she now knows she was supposed to help these women and children. If you love one child, you love all children.
We all have skill sets and can teach something and it is important to share your gifts and knowledge. You get more when you give more. It takes time! Giving feels good!
Any parting words? Any advice?
Don’t wait until you have more time or money, have fun and give back and find a way to do more with what you are already doing. There is always a way to do more! You can incorporate it and have fun! Find a way to level it up! Now is the time! Don’t wait for permission! Laura is fearless! Get over the “I am not good enough” mentality.
Since the inception of Andeana Hats, Laura and Pats have been honored by the Embassy of Peru in Washington D.C. for their dedication to helping the Quechua people in Peru and Laura’s photography work is on permanent display there. Andeana Hats has also participated in numerous pop-ups and storytelling events including Billy Reid Georgetown, ROWDTLA in Los Angeles, and La Cosecha Market in Washington D.C. celebrating Latin American Culture. As members of the Female Founder Collective, National Geographic’s Women of Impact, and the Good Market, Laura and Pats continue to find innovative ways to create sustainable income opportunities for the artisans by launching “Andeana Travel” philanthropic trips to Peru. Their first trip launched in 2020 and was featured by Forbes as an origin trip lead by successful Women Founders and also by Matador Network as a company that actually gives back.