07 Sep Member Spotlight: Leslie Brienza, Photographer

Leslie Brienza Member Spotlight (1)

Today we’re featuring a new member, Leslie Brienza, whose passion for photography is inspired by her Italian heritage.

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Leslie on the steps of a villa in Tuscany

Leslie is an Italian American food, wine and product photographer living in New York City. Although her work is very diverse, her favorite subjects are Italian food and products. She loves to create recipes and then photograph them in her studio. She has a keen eye for lighting and composition.
Growing up, Leslie spent countless hours in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother, and she continues the tradition of the Italian way of life in the US.  She frequently travels to Italy, where she is inspired by the aesthetics of the country and its culture.

Leslie’s work celebrates the beauty of Italy and the warmth of its food and people. She seeks to capture the love and pride that goes into the growing of the ingredients and the preparation of traditional Italian familly recipes in her sensual photos. In her images, one can smell and taste the food and the countryside, and become fully immersed in a longing for the culture. Take a look at her Instagram feed for inspiration!

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Main square, Fossalto, Italy, birthplace of Leslie’s grandfather

Leslie’s family in Italy is a huge part of her life. She frequently visits her family in Rome and Southern Italy and then travels to shoot wineries and villas in Tuscany. Whenever she visits, she brings home inspiration, new ideas and recipes from the incredible cooks in her family.Leslie continues to study the Italian language and is working on obtaining her dual citizenship.

1. How did you hear about NOIAW? What drew you to join the organization?

I wanted to get more involved with the Italian community here in New York and spoke with someone at the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) who told me about NOIAW. The caliber of members and the inspiration I knew I would get from other women in the organization is what drew me to join. I really wanted to be a part of something relating to women and Italians.

2. How has your NOIAW membership helped you personally and/or professionally so far?

I just joined and have yet to attend any events but am really looking forward to meeting other members and getting involved!


3. Tell me about your connection with your Italian heritage. How has it influenced your life and your career?

It’s a fascinating story. My grandfather left Fossalto, Italy and came through Ellis Island in 1913 with his cousin. They ended up in Ohio where they met two sisters. One was my grandmother. They both married the sisters. My grandparents stayed, the other two went back to Italy. It’s through my grandfather,  his cousin and my grandmother’s sister, that I have so many relatives in Italy, some I still have not met.

Since many of my relatives in Italy don’t speak English I’ve learned the language on my own and continue to study and spend time with other Italian speaking friends as much as I can. It has also given me a niche to my photography.

4. Do you have a favorite memory of your Italian family?

When I was very little I remember my grandmother always heating up red wine and putting that, cooked pasta and some pasta water in a bowl for my grandfather. It’s called Scattone and it was his favorite thing to eat. It’s a soup that originated in Molise, where he was born.

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Leslie in her studio setting up a shot for pesto ingredients with fresh basil from a garden

5. Anything else you’d like to share?

I feel blessed to be of Italian heritage. I embrace it fully and immerse myself in all aspects of the culture.  One of my goals is to photograph a cookbook for an Italian chef. I would also love to meet Sonia Peronaci, the founder of Giallo Zafferano.  It’s my favorite Italian food and recipe website and she is one of my inspirations. She and I follow each other on Instagram and I would love to work with her on a project someday. Every now and then she likes one of my images and it makes my entire day. Dream big!

Thanks so much to Leslie for participating in our Member Spotlight series. We’re proud to have her as a member!

If you’d like to connect with Leslie or learn more about her, you can find her on Twitter, InstagramLinkedIn, and of course, her website.

If you have a story to share, get in touch with Beth Connolly at bconnolly@noiaw.org for your chance to be interviewed here!

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