Balancing Uber & Photography

Posted by: Roy Wilbur

How does an Uber driver with a degree in psychology who once worked as a nanny end up as a Photography & Digital Arts student at Moore?

Ask Tanya Kapanzhi ’18.

Her story begins with an unhealthy relationship right out of college. The good thing was, she got to travel the world.

“I got to see everywhere in my 20s,” she said, “but I never took time to figure out what I really wanted.”

The relationship ended.

“I was young and didn’t have a clear understanding of what it meant to be in a committed partnership,” she said. “In a way, I was thankful the relationship fell to pieces – I never would have become a photographer.”

She took some time to reevaluate her life choices. She had a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cabrini College, and worked as a case manager and behavior specialist for a while.

“I would use art to help my clients, to inspire them to see beyond their situation,” she said. “As I was doing that, I realized it was the art part that always made me happy.”

But she hated the other parts of her job, and decided to quit.

A short time later, she happened to see a young man with a camera at church. She was intrigued.

“It was one of those ‘snap’ moments,” she recalls. “I had an epiphany about a camera and why I never owned one. He was explaining the camera, and I loved it, and I went and bought the same camera that he had.”

A family vacation to the shore gave her plenty of opportunities to practice her new art with her Canon PowerShot.

“I took intimate pictures of people on the beach that I thought were cool,” she said.

Tanya then seriously began looking for direction in her life. She became a nanny to make money.

The family she worked for lived off 24th Street in Philadelphia, and the kids loved to go to the nearby Academy of Natural Sciences. “I looked to my right and saw Moore and thought, ‘Hey, there’s an art school here, I should check this out.’”

Tanya took her portfolio of photos to her appointment at Moore.

“I spoke to a woman who flipped through my portfolio book quickly,” said Tanya. “She took me on a tour, showing me different programs and what the school had to offer. Then we came back to her office and she looked at me and said, ‘You got in.’”

Tanya found it comical – the only art she had done in her life was painting or drawing the Virgin Mary or Jesus in Catholic school.

“I didn’t think I was good at art at all, and these students, they grew up doing art and had parents doing art,” she said.

Now, the Moore junior is starting to make money as a photographer.

“I’m hoping to increase that now that I feel more comfortable behind the camera,” Tanya said. “I’m hoping to get hired for events, kids’ photos and parties.”

Between her class hours as a full-time student, Tanya has work-study hours in Moore’s photo cage where she checks camera equipment in and out, and she drives for Uber to help pay the rent.

“With Uber, I meet a lot of people who own galleries and people in the arts community,” she said. “So as hard as it is as a job, it’s a great networking tool that I didn’t even realize was going to happen.”

Her days are full, and she’s exhausted, but she loves it.

“This life I’m living now, it fits, and it only gets better,” said Tanya. “I enjoy every day.”

This nontraditional student has advice for others who are still trying to find their passion.

“If anyone asks me if they should take a gamble on themselves, I always say, ‘Yes,’” she said. “The worst thing that can happen is you fail and you realize the life you had was best, but then if you realize the life you had isn’t the best, go on to a new realm and a new path.”