Art Academy Mentorship: Astra

“Photography became my thing when someone told me I was really bad at it.”


Hello! My name is Grady and I’m a junior in highschool. I live in the Bay Area in California. I recently interviewed Astra Brinkmann for a project for my Art Academy class. The picture on the left is the portrait I made of her. Below is my experience while skyping Astra during class. Astra is a freelance photographer in San Francisco, CA. The project was given to me by Katy Atchison, my mentor for this experience. I asked her a series of questions that focused on her career.


After all the questions I asked Astra I think I got the best response from, “Tell me about your family.” It took Astra aback, she told me I asked her questions no one has really asked her. I was always told I asked a large amount of stupid questions, so I wasn’t sure if she was being sarcastic or not. But, the fact that she was happy with the questions I asked her made me even more excited.

I found that Astra and I had a lot in common, especially with our parents and personalities. Astra’s mom was her biggest supporter, her dad was a bit unsure about this career. He wanted her to go to college, and have a nice job. This was similar to my family. My dad was the artist and always loved my art as a kid. My mom was fine with it, but didn’t want me to pursue it in the sense where it was the only thing I did. She said I could major in art, but she thought there was no real career in it. Astra’s mom sadly died last year; my dad died a few years ago. Plus, Astra got her first professional camera from her dad, and I had gotten my first one from my mom. We both didn’t excel in other subjects or sports, art was apart of us in a special way. Our lives were eerily similar and it made me happy when talking to her that I could be like her one day.

One of the big things that stood out to me about Astra was how cool she was. She used film photography, which was super interesting to me. There’s this one series Astra had called “Ghostgirl” where she took pictures on top of each other without changing the film. It caused these beautiful portraits of people, that I honestly still have as an open tab on my laptop. Astra had beautiful hair that was bursting with color. And her home looked like it was from a bohemian chic magazine. Her life made me jealous but optimistic. I wanted to be like her so much.

Astra is inspiring for a lot of artists. She went to 3 different colleges, didn’t graduate, and STILL is amazingly successful in her field. She proved those who preach that a college education is important wrong. I look up to Astra a lot because of how much she has persevered. Plus, she loves what she does and that’s the most impressive thing you can do. If you want to learn more about Astra, I will link her social media down below.


When first receiving this picture I had no idea how to make it look good. It was supposed to reflect Astra’s personality. I sat for days just staring at the black and white picture. I was completely and utterly stumped. And then one day I had it…

I used a layer mask when putting on the small images on top. The cat is a picture from one of Astra’s series. At first I had the entire cat in the portrait, but my digital imaging teacher, Ms. Campisano suggested I just use the head. The camera in the middle is the camera Astra uses for her pictures. And the legs are apart of the “ghostgirl” series. The colors in the background reflect the colors in Astra’s hair. I wanted to show the audience how colorful Astra really is in person. Then I burned a heart into the crystal ball Astra was holding. I put a light purple color around it to make it pop. Then I used the dodge tool to make the crystal ball brighter.


Although I wasn’t happy with my final product at first, I’m slowly learning to love it. Astra Brinkmann is a colorful, beautiful person, and I did achieve that message. My draft of this blog included me bagging on myself for “not doing a good enough” job. But, honestly, I’m proud of myself. I was able to make a piece using tools I love. I’m slowly but surely getting into this whole digital art profession, and I’m happy.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my creation. Tune in next month for my next profile.

Astra’s social media-


Instagram: @astratakesphotos

Grady’s social media-

Instagram: @gradientgrady