DANI & JIMMY
PHOTOGRAPHERS & ARTISTS
Bay Area, California to West Milford, New Jersey
Danielle and Jimmy Aceino were actually introduced by Danielle’s mom. Jimmy and her mom were in the same college class and her mom essentially handpicked Jimmy for Danielle. The moment you meet the two of them, you believe the saying, “Momma knows best.” Jimmy used to tour with several bands and was a guitarist for a spell in the band Anberlin. Before Danielle met Jimmy, she lived all over the United States, trying on different cities and towns, looking for a place that felt like home. Before moving to rural New Jersey, Jimmy, Dani and their two young boys, Elliott and Asher, lived on the coast of Northern California. In Santa Cruz, they were only a short drive to San Francisco and an even shorter drive to the pristine beauty of the Northern California coast. Yet that idyllic lifestyle and proximity to the city, came with a high price tag and they felt like no matter how hard they worked they would never be able to get ahead. Since both Danielle and Jimmy were raised in New Jersey, they figured it would be an ideal place to build their business, grow their family and have the support of their families and friends. These two adventurous and creative people haven’t let having little ones or moving to a rural place get in the way of building a successful creative photography business. Their company Young Love Media shoots weddings and documentary-style portraiture. Jimmy also does commissioned illustration work for publications and individuals. The transition from urban California to small-town New Jersey hasn’t exactly been easy, but they find strength from one another and from their kids. Their little boys are playing in snow for the first time in their lives and Jimmy and Danielle continue to forge their path. Danielle and Jimmy’s story demonstrates that sometimes the grass isn’t always greener when you move to smaller pastures, but eventually the rewards can be even sweeter. (Click here to jump to their interview)
What inspired you to move to the country?
We knew we wanted to head back east to be close to our extended family and were certain we did not want to return to the dense NY/Metro area where we grew up. Coming from deep redwood forests and cliff beaches inspired us to take a closer look at some of the more rural areas of north western Jersey.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later?
Initially simply leaving the fishbowl of Santa Cruz was hard. We loved all the access to places of beauty and wonder but at the same time being able to cut through it and within an hour or so be in San Francisco. We moved here in August, so although having a proper Autumn was amazing, winter came upon us with fury! We weren't quite ready for it.
What surprised you most about country living?
Our restlessness to constantly be social quieted down and allowed us to be content being home and being together.
Did it meet your expectations?
I think so. Our kids are able to get outside even more than in Santa Cruz because we have nature right in our backyard. There are endless scenes to photograph and constant inspiration for illustration.
What were the hardest things to get used to?
It is still a challenge knowing we can't walk out our front door and down the road into town. Everything in the country is a drive and there aren't any sidewalks.
What do you miss the most about the city?
I think it's simply the proximity to other people. It has its major liabilities but it also gives a greater opportunity to make random friends, which we love.
Would you ever go back to an urban existence?
I don't think so. At the most, we would go somewhere similar to here but with a creative and vibrant downtown with easy access. Urban has never really been in our DNA.
What do you appreciate the most about life in the country?
Wildlife. We are so much more aware of the shared space. They are not on our land and we are not on theirs, we both live here and it's been eye opening to live in that understanding. Bears, fox, hawks and eagles, deer, and all the birds and bugs. There's a lot to learn.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving out of the city?
If you don't have to live there, don't. If you do, I'm sure there's a way to live outside the mayhem.
When you go back to visit the city, what are the first three things on your to-do list?
Coffee. Food. Friends. Simultaneously is even better. Rural areas gotta get on their coffee game.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
As a songwriter I (Jimmy) always drew from relationships, but now as an Illustrator and Photographer it's all about the world around us, nature and wildlife. Even our lifestyle work is very centered around how people spend their time outside.
Have you noticed a change in yourself and/or your work since moving away
from the city?
Complete change. We are blossoming and making ten times more art than before, which connects us with great folks both via social media and in person, often both together. It's incredible.
Walk us through a typical day in your country existence? How does it compare to the day to day in the city?
Typical day activities are family breakfast, working at a local cafe, family lunch, some more work, family hike, family dinner, bedtime, more work. Pretty fluid and flexible. Our city life was great because it was Santa Cruz but it was busy and hectic. Out the door early, Dani home all day with the kids in the house (two infants at the time), rushed dinner then out for a drive or to rent a movie. Weekends we would try to get out to the mountains or the beach or connect with friends. Art and music and illustration fell by the wayside. We got outside because we had to or we'd go crazy. Though we had great access we weren't immersed in it like we are here.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?
Get outside in inclement weather. Its kind of a city thing to “get inside” when anything interesting starts happening with the weather. We're learning to see all kinds of weather as “fair game” for exploration. Everything carries its own magic if you're willing to catch it.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
Our home! We aren't even homeowners, but its amazing knowing we can stay right here and get filled up to create and be present for our kids and for each other.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
"There's nothing to do.” Nonsense. Life in small communities forces you to take a look around and get creative. We encourage our kids in “creative play”, but as adults we need to do that too. Making connections with other people in the marketplace is one way but there are plenty other ways. You just have to get outside and find them. The connections are often more honest with less pretense.
What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?
Primarily to establish our business and creative direction. We also really want to get into a larger space so we can have a studio barn or at the very least a designated space in the house for our own creative play. We also want to get to know the subculture here a bit more, learn the hiking routes, and find the abandoned, fun, and magical places that exist off the grid right in our own back yard. Someone told me there's a plane in the woods somewhere close. Gotta find that!