Dream Big and Leap: Moving to NYC

A few weeks ago I started tweeting with this hastag #dreambigandleap. It said everything for me; I’ve continued to use it as a source of inspiration for myself.

After I did creativeLIVE in May something changed for me. I had a serious internal shift (I know this sounds crazy but I did) After opening my heart and being completely vulnerable to 200,000 people online and many of you I was forever changed. The act of opening myself up like that gave me the most incredible gift. It emboldened me; it actually made me more courageous and brave. Like Eve Ensler says, “the big door inside of me flew open.” For me it flew so open it made me brave enough to see myself and to see what my next step needed to be to reach my own dreams. But more importantly, it gave me the courage to say them out loud and actually do something about it.

We all wake up at different times and over the years some of my mentors have told me that I needed to be in New York for many reasons. I never really heard them or considered it. But when I was in Boston last month, after a serious conversation with someone I respect in the industry I finally heard it. I woke up.

I realized that if I wanted to push myself- my career- even further it was time for me to go back to New York City and throw my name in the ring again at an entirely different level.

Years ago, I started my career there after graduating from college. Full of enthusiasm, hard work, and ready to sweat I pounded the pavement as a photographer. I was at the bottom of the bottom. Assisting commercial and magazine photographers in New York. Barely making a living, squeaking by to pay my rent and bills while sharing a 2-bedroom apartment with 2 friends on the edge of Alphabet City and the East Side in Manhattan. My parents, convinced that I couldn’t get good tortillas and salsa in New York City would send me monthly care packages filled with corn and flour tortillas from their favorite tortilleria and there would always be homemade salsa. A little bit of home.

After a few years doing that I left the city and photography for a small period, maybe 6 months. I travelled to Central America, wrote a lot and thought really hard about what it was I wanted. In the end, well… we know how it turns out. I came back to photography.

And so, here I am. Having hard but beautiful conversations with my loved ones, family and friends about being inspired, creatively growing- dreams- and reaching for them.

I am moving to New York City as a professional photographer, but this time the game is different. I’m established with years of experience under my belt and working relationships with some of the top editors and publishers in the industry.

I say to all of you, whatever it is you want to do, let that big door inside of you fly open, be brave enough to hear it, see it and have the courage to actually do it.

Come with me on this journey, dream big and leap.



Filed under About Penny, New York City

93 Responses to Dream Big and Leap: Moving to NYC

  1. Fantastic! Can’t wait to see what unfolds – jump and the net will appear!

  2. Yes! Yes! And one more Yes! Resounding sounds of positive yes from this side of the country! All the best to you and I know NYC is definitely the place to tap into everything that makes your heart move and vibrate.

  3. Always with you in spirit Penny. Your heart is too amazing not to let those doors fly wide open ;) Miss you and much love.

  4. How exciting! I just wanted to say that you have been an inspiration to so many others as well – including myself. I love food photography and following you on twitter and seeing your photos has inspired me to move forward with my own photography! I can’t wait to follow along and watch your journey. Thank you for being so open and so willing to share your experiences with all of us!

  5. Leonardo

    Only my best wishes to you! :)

  6. Woo hoo!!! Congratulations, Penny — this is such exciting news. :-)

  7. You go girl! That is the right place to be. I have thought about it many times and even spent a month there last year. My problem is that I also love Hawaii and there is a lot for me to photograph here. Making decent money is another story. I split my time between writing, photography and ceramic art.

    You will love your life in NY… and hey, I made my own tortillas there. http://mymanhattankitchen.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/handmade-tortillas-in-manhattan/

  8. Yay!!! I, too, live in NYC. Welcome to the neighborhood! I saw you on CreativeLIVE and since then have been following you. You are an inspiration. And now since we’re going to be neighbors, I would love to pick your brain a little in exchange of a tour in the big apple. :) Welcome!

  9. Claudette

    Thats amazing Penny! I wish you every success with your dreams I know you have been a huge inspiration to me since I watched you on creative live. xx

  10. Congratulations on your decision and bon courage! It takes a courageous person to imagine a new way of life is possible for them and to trust their own great abilities! NYC will be lucky to have you!!

  11. So proud of you! I took the same leap of faith eight years ago and it’s opened up doors that I never would have even seen, let alone been able to open without being in this great city. You will soar like an eagle in NYC.

  12. I’ve been keeping up with your blog but have never commented. Just wanted to say I am thrilled to follow you along this journey and see some gorgeous photography (as usual) in the process! Congrats on taking a leap of faith!

  13. congratulations! I love the hashtag #dreambigandleap…thanks for reminding us to continue to live by it.

  14. Hello Penny! you are such an inspiration to me and a proof that everything is possible. I live in New York and I really really hope I get the chance to meet you one day! good luck

  15. So, so awesome. I’m making a similar leap myself … moving from Utah to Seattle just cause I feel that pull for a change in my life. I think that, as creative people taking risks (like this) is almost necessary. Best of luck to you … not that you need it lol. ;)

  16. Congratulations! May your life be full of success, laughter and joy!
    Your post touched me deeply, at a time when I am still not daring to dream big…I have to change that. Thank you :)

  17. Babs Perkins


  18. Welcome back–we’re ready for you!

  19. Good luck in New York Penny! I discovered you through the CreativeLive session in May and it changed my life a little. Change is good.

  20. As a fellow creative I totally get what you’re saying. I loved how you said it. We are constantly changing and our work evolves as we do. I love what your doing. Best wishes.

  21. Oh Penny, I am so psyched for you. This is going to be such an amazing experience–I can feel it in your nervous excitement. I know it’s generally tacky to link back to yourself in a comment, but I felt compelled to share this with you. I left a really amazing job in finance about a year and a half ago to focus on developing recipes, improving my photography, and writing my blog. Where you are right now reminds me so clearly of that time, and this was my public announcement when I decided to make the leap. I’m actually moving to the edge of another cliff right now and reading this back in conjunction with your always inspiring words is helping me to feel as excited as I am scared. Enjoy the fall into this wonderful new adventure, Penny. That dizziness swimming into your head from the pit of your stomach? That just means it’s right.

  22. Christina Gomez-Mira

    I recently read…”To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Your courage to take risks and follow your passion has always been an inspiration and what has led you on this wonderful journey. Your loved ones support you whole-heartedly…know that we will always love you and will be there with you in spirit.

  23. We will miss you in Austin but I know you will be back often! Also, I visit NYC quite a bit so will look forward to getting together there.


  24. Now that I’ve gotten to know you better, I more fully appreciate the boldness of what this means. It’s about so much more than a change in geography. It’s so inspiring, I’m wondering if maybe it’s time we made some kind of bold move, too.

  25. judithbishop

    We are in the process of moving from one edge (portland, or. to providence ri) to another. I was unable to watch your creative live in real time but purchased it and the seminar has been keeping me grounded through the transition. Even though we are from the east coast after 14 years away it still is taking time to get up to speed. Love your tweets, insights, and enthusiasm! Happy Trails, Judith Bishop (queen artoeat).

  26. Ingrid

    Congratulations Penny. Best wishes, looking forward to following along on your journey : )

  27. Kristen

    Son proud of you. Continued success as you follow your passion and your heart!

  28. As a lifelong resident of the NYC metro area, we welcome you. Reach out to any or all of us for whatever you need, whether its help in schlepping your stuff around or merely translating the local language for you…

  29. Penny – I can’t tell you how much your CreativeLive workshop meant to me. Of course, I’d seen your photography many, many times before in Saveur and other places, but to get to “meet” you through that workshop and experience your workflow was just incredible. Your generosity of spirit and willingness to share your knowledge really blew me away. And now, here you are at your “dream big and leap” moment. I simply can’t *wait* to see where you go from here! Thanks for the inspiration.

  30. Rachel Garrison

    Congratulations, Penny! You are an inspiration on so many levels. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your talents. I wish you all the best on your new adventure!

  31. Penny, I am so happy for you that you’re doing what you need to do, what you’re being called to do, what is right for you and that you’re forging ahead, and taking leaps and strides and growing and doing what you want and feel is best for you, right now.

    I will never forget our chat on the park bench on our last day in Mexico City. Thank you for sharing so openly, honestly, and for talking about this all.

    Best of luck on your move!!! After Mexico City, I came home and 24 hours later moved into our new house. A whirlwind, but I love it, and so worth it.

    Good luck finding a place!!

  32. Congratulations on your decision and all the best. I love your enthusiasm about the move … and the hashtag #dreambigandleap :-) Thanks for sharing your dreams and leaps with us.

  33. Yay! All the best for your move!
    I watched your creativelive workshop and have been following your work and blog and twitter ever since. Thank you for being such an inspiration!

    Love your #dreambigandleap hashtag! I should do this myself…

  34. Cathi

    Penny, wishing you all the best in this next chapter of your life. As beautiful as your photographic stories are, your writings are surpassing them … ever-more-great things lie ahead for you! Wishing you much good fortune and safe travels, always.

  35. What exciting news to hear. You can “hear” the excitement and nervousness in your post. It will be so inspirational to follow along on this new adventure of yours. We cannot wait to hear what you will be doing! Good luck and just take deep breaths along the way.

  36. Penny, I feel silly writing to a complete stranger, but I have to tell you that your very being, your honesty, your big heart, your willingness to let the door fly open wide and leap has a profound effect on people you don’t even know. I am sure, SURE, that you will able to accomplish all that you wish! and many things you never even knew to dream of. I slog away at photography and think of you almost every day as I do, and make little changes along the way….step by step.

    I’m apartment hunting in NYC this month for my kiddo at NYU. I can tell you that the city for him has been so much more of an education than a college degree could ever be. They don’t call it the BIG Apple for nothin’. I just keep thinking of the West Side Story song for you….’who knows? could be? ….somethin’s comin, I don’t know, what it is, but it is, gonna be great! the air is humming, and something great is coming!’ to you, Penny!

    p.s., Tortillas are alive and well in NYC, they’re just a little harder to find in the Northeast–I’ll post you on it later :)

  37. Woohoo! A big welcome from the Big Apple! I made the move to NYC 23 years ago from Kansas and haven’t regretted a moment. You’ll love it after the initial adjustment period. After having a craving for Chinese food at 4am… and getting it delivered in 15 minutes… you’ll wonder how you ever lived anywhere else! :-)

    You opened my eyes with your wonderful creativeLIVE workshop. I feel privileged that I’ll be living in the same city where your bright light will be shining!

    All the best, Penny! #dreambigandleap

    - Michael

  38. Pam

    Wow, look how much support and love you have wishing you the best. I have lived in NYC for several years but I remember how overwhelming it was the first year. Just be open and take part in the cities activities and free events, there is never a lack of things to do. A new website was just launched called City Maps that will be able to help you organize the city and feel more in control. Best of luck, your making a great choice!

  39. Just reading this has inspired me to let that door inside of me fly open too…
    You are a huge encouragement to all of us, Penny!
    And I’m so excited for your big leap and I know it will be an incredible journey for you.
    You go, girl!

    Another one of your stalkers ;)


  40. “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”

    Here’s to knocking down the walls of NYC, and finding only doors wherever you walk.

    And here’s hoping you remember I’m not too far away any time you need company for a photowalk, coffee, random conversation, sushi, military brat stories, or tamales. Or tequila.

  41. Bravo Penny for this move. To me, you’re already a star – if you can grow even more by moving to NYC, then sky’s the limit! I hope better tortillas will be there to greet you, and you can make your own salsa to celebrate. Cheers to you and good luck on this new adventure!

  42. I just want to say that you are true inspiration..I can’t stop reading, looking and listening…
    Thank you so much for sharing your passion and knowledge with the world!!! Best wishes on your new journey!

  43. I love your voice: both the spoken words and the images you create. Recently I’ve found myself at a dramatic turning point in my life, given little time to make huge and life altering decisions. Above my desk I have a piece of paper with the words “But what if you are good enough?” tapped on the wall, words I first heard when you shared on CreativeLive. I look at it every day and I think about it often. I can honestly say that the leaps I have taken have been both inspired and encouraged by the words you’ve shared. I can sit here and read the blogs of “take the jump!” or “live life to the fullest!” and they often times just seem like fluffy cliches by people with ulterior motives….but to see you practicing what you preach, sharing so openly with others…it doesn’t seem cliche. It’s raw, it’s real, and I believe it and believe in myself. Thank you so very much for taking the time – truly you’ve impacted at least one life in a most extraordinary way. And though a tiny HTML box can’t convey the gratitude, please know I wish you only the best in life and in your career as you take this next step. Joy and blessings to you.


  44. Carlos Bruno

    Congratulations for the decision! NYC rules! For so many reasons who lived/lives there knows.
    Some time after you show up on that interview with Chase, I sent a message to you and him that he MUST HAVE you in a CreativeLive. For sure my msg get lost among others 1,000,000 – but I didn’t care … like Sting sent his MIB I did the same with a little very little hope to be listen to.
    For sure already they had this plan, but they did it! They put you THERE.
    Not so far to your “show” went live, I already had all magazines and articles of yours I could put my hands on. Definitively you are intended to back to your “origins of your beginning” to a “new” start … in a new position, with new goals and intends.
    Lucky for you gurl … big … THE HUGE ones I can send my wishes from here.
    Just BE CAREFUL.
    How high, how aimed and “fragil” you’ll become.
    Don’t forget your family and partner will be there for you … even looking distant.
    You’ll nail it.
    In another way.
    With another vision.

    Your “lost friend” in piles of messages.

  45. Penny, if a shining star like you still want to dream big, then the rest of us have no excuses not to harbor the same aspiration! I lived in and loved NY when I was younger and out of college too, but now that I’m out in Asia, it just seems too far of a leap…. or is it?

    Best of wishes on your move, NY already welcomes you and now you must soar like an eagle! Or at least be happy like one… :-) .

  46. Penny, I wish you the best in your new journey. Thank you for always inspiring me and I can’t wait to see what happens in NYC! Go gettun girl!

  47. I’m late to the party but I did want to add my voice to the crowd. Congrats on the big move. Judging from some tweets a while back it’s something that’s been on your mind for a while and I’m sure there was a lot of back and forth in the decisionmaking. From what I’ve heard and read, Austin’s a pretty cool place with some amazing creatives, and I loved your piece in L Style/G Style. New York presents so many great opportunities and challenges and I’m looking forward to seeing where you go with them. I also expect to see lots of great Instagram shots from the streets of NYC. So happy for you and looking forward to the next chapter. I have some dreaming and leaping to do of my own. It’s time for a push.

  48. I worry some times that all I ever do is dream! My dreams seem to alternate constantly- but they are forever. Since I can remember I’ve wanted to live in NYC (and Italy I must be honest).

    Looking at your story makes me think that may be dreaming isn’t such a bad thing- and instead the driving force we need!

  49. ChileRosa

    Hi, Penny,
    Great news: after many years of waiting, NYC finally has a tortilleria! http://www.tortillerianixtamal.com/ Thank you for your blog. Each and every entry always inspire me.

  50. Congratulations! It sounds like an exciting opportunity. Let me know if you would like some help reorienting yourself to NYC.

  51. Whoo hoo, welcome back to NYC Penny! Your CreativeLive workshop was a defining moment for me, hope we cross paths.
    p.s. Tell your parents not to worry as there are sone darn good tortillas here now (e.g. Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens) :)

  52. Penny,
    You are so talented and young and have the whole future of your life ahead of you! I am thrilled for you … that you are stretching and growing and I want to thank you for taking us all with you on this journey.
    It takes guts to step outside one’s comfort zone – yet you are obviously a gal that relishes the adventure and the newness of what is around the corner. I look forward to seeing it all thru your eye(s)…
    Your talent is apparent – and I look forward to seeing you take on the next levels in your career.
    You are an inspiration to so many – and are so generous with yourself.
    Thank you for sharing!

  53. YAY! That’s AWESOME! It’s a great thing to want to do something big, and to be in a good position in your life to just be able to do it. No fear. You go girl!

  54. I don’t know why, but I had a feeling this day may come for you — especially with all the positive energy you’ve been giving to the rest of us! Congrats on making such a pivotal (and exciting) decision. I have no doubt you’ll be welcomed with open arms. I know I’m rooting for you!

  55. Becky T.

    Congrats, Penny! I hope the move brings you nothing but joy and progress. I draw off your inspirations so I pray there are many!! :-)

  56. How marvelous that a class you taught that was such a gift to so many people has been a gift for you to. Honestly, you are just a fantastic photograph and New York is going to be very, very lucky to have you!

  57. Dear Penny,
    You just have a beautiful heart! Whatever you do and wherever you go, I wish you the best!

  58. I don’t know you, but I follow your work and am always in awe of what you create. Congratulations on stepping through the door…now go out and rawwwk the world! Best Wishes from an admiring fan :)

  59. Welcome to the neighborhood!


  60. Wonderful news Penny! You are a bright light in the world of food photography. Hope to make one of your (future I hope) photography workshops in NYC. ;-)

  61. Amy Kwalwasser

    This is a wonderful move for you, and you are ready for it. Best wishes!

  62. Congratulations Penny! I’m so happy that your internal shift at creativeLIVE is taking you to new heights! You continue to inspire us all. Come back to Seattle!

  63. Corbie Gomez

    So inspiring!!! Buena suerte!!!

  64. All the best to you Penny. Whatever you are up to, I know you’ll nail it. I feel honored to have played a small part in your Creative Live epiphany. Dave, Linda and I just did an oyster roast on Sunday. It wasn’t in the rain but it did bring back memories. Loved working with you.

  65. Jenna

    Congrats penny! So inspiring!
    We’re going to miss you here in Austin. Just let me know when you need a refill of tortillas and salsa!

  66. Awesome! I always feel so inspired when I read your posts. All the best :-)

  67. Simon

    Great news! Have a blast & kick some butt Penny!

  68. Pam Rauber

    Kudos to you, Penny. I was one of the 200,000 watching. This news could not have come at better time, for me that is. I have struggled to validate me and my photographic skills for a long time. After CL Wkshp, this 60 year old woman, opened that door and walked into a Sandwich Shop and asked if I could photograph their menu. By coincidence the owner had been wanting this done. I completed the first of four sessions and e-mailed a sneak peak to the owner and with gratitude telling me they could reach into their computer to bite into the BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
    Your workshop drove home the final touches I needed to accomplish food photography. That’s not to say there isin’t more to learn, there is plenty. The little things you shared like… the too dark kitchen in a restaurant and you opened the back door and put a plate of food on the top of a garbage can to photograph. Not that I use the top of garbarge cans…but the same principal.
    I tribute my new found confidence to you and I thank you for sharing and wish only the absolute best for you and your future in New York. Kudos once again.

  69. Congratulations and best of luck Penny! This is why I love coming to your website, you always inspire and motivate me.

  70. Congratulations, Penny! And thanks for sharing this. It’s great to hear how others are chasing their dreams and makes me feel like mine are within reach too. Enjoy your new adventure and eat well. :o )

  71. Yes to dreaming big and being brave enough to see where it takes you! I could wish you all the luck in the world, but the truth is it’s not about luck, it’s about the spark that’s already in you. Rock on.

  72. wen

    Envy…..NY is soooo lucky…I was hoping you coming this way to southern California ;) xoxoxoxoxoxo

  73. That’s fantastic, Penny!
    I wish you all the best in the new journey. Have great jobs and keep your amazing work shooting delicious food and inspiring people.

  74. I read this post with sadness in my heart, but I’m thrilled about this next chapter in your journey. I know it is going to be a great one for you, my friend.

  75. Great! good luck Penny!You’re an exemple.

  76. Love this Penny – very cool. Dream big and leap. Thanks for sharing. Best VA

  77. Vanessa

    When I was deciding whether to make a similar leap last year, but to Austin where I knew no one, I remember my friend telling me that the happiest folks she knows are the ones who have taken the biggest risks. That’s what nudged me over the line. Good luck!

  78. Hello Penny,
    I am awed and inspired by your work, your courage. I hope to be able to make the doors open and let it happen too. Thank you for sharing.

  79. Meg

    Wow, that is so cool! Good luck with the move and all the little logistical details that come with moving. I’ll be acknowledging/celebrating 10 years in NY this August (6 in Astoria, 4 in Stony Brook, Long Island). There is so much amazingness here, but you know that. :)

    Thanks for the inspiration – I think it’s time for me to walk through that door, too. Would love to meet you sometime when you get to the city, and talk about food photography.

  80. Congratulation! But do not forget you need Luck!

  81. Joan

    Brava, Penny!!!

    Thank you for keeping your heart open and sharing this news. As one of the 200,000, I feel privileged and moved to have played a tiny part in your decision. I continue to be inspired by what you taught/teach us.

    Buona fortuna from the bottom of my heart,


  82. Carla

    This will bring nothing but good!

  83. Penny, I am not a food photographer, but when I watched your CreativeLive weekend I was moved and inspired. I took many of the lessons you taught me and was able to convert them into sound advice for my people photography. You have been an inspiration. I have spent the last 2 years raising my beautiful boys and caring for my mother-in-law (Alzheimers) and father-in-law (depression), whilst trying to forge a way ahead as a photographer. You have to dream big dreams without losing track of your roots, it’s hard but it is possible. I am nowhere near as talented and successful as you, and I doubt I ever will be, but I love what you do and aim that high. I wish you love and luck in your move. You have inspired me. Thank you x

  84. I look forward to seeing your new adventure unfold. My crystal ball sees many new door opening even before you know. Enjoy, have fun and make it a golden one! xo

  85. I am so glad that I had the chance to hear you speak in San Diego at Blogher so that I know how fortunate we’re about to be, having you in NYC. Please feel free to reach out if you need anything, I’d like to help if I can.

  86. My biggest successes- both personally and professionally- have come from huge, daring leaps. Small, tentative steps never have the same result. I love that you’re putting that call to action out there. Good for you, and I can’t wait to hear more. Exciting!

  87. Jenni

    Thank you so much for posting this! I found it through the National Geographic post on twitter. I have a passion for photography and it is so good to hear an encouraging post about dreaming big. Good luck with everything!

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