Hey, thanks for stopping by!

Welcome to The Seaside Calls. My name is Nena, and I’m so glad you’re here!

Who I am at a glance: A photographer, traveler, foodie, history buff, lover of all things vintage, artist, and a lifelong learner.

I guess I should start from the beginning. I grew up in San Diego, where I’ve lived for nearly 30 years. I remember when this was a quiet navy city, long before the big tech companies came and really put San Diego on the map. Well, to be fair, even the quiet San Diego of my childhood was never really that quiet, but it was nowhere near as lively as it is today. This city and I grew up together, so I think I’ve earned the title of “expert in all things San Diego”.

A little bit about my background: My dad is American, and my mom was born in Iraq. She’s now a published cookbook author and owner of Hilda’s Kitchen Blog.

My passion for travel and food was cultivated from a very young age. When I was growing up my mom was always in the kitchen, usually making Assyrian dishes that had been passed down from her mom. We’d often take trips to Chicago to visit the Assyrian side of my family, and Chicago soon began to feel like a second home to me.

My family and I took many short trips around the country during my childhood, but my love of travel really solidified when I took my first trip abroad. I was 16, passionately studying art history, and somehow found myself in the epicenter of the Renaissance: Italy.

me posing at Salvation Mountain

My first trip to Europe set the course for the rest of my life. Travel most certainly broadens the mind, and I think I’m a better person for it. That trip fundamentally changed my perspective on life and ignited a flame in my heart that would only grow bigger with time.

Over the following years I went to college where I studied photography and cultural anthropology. My goal was to work as a photojournalist for National Geographic.

One of my college professors asked me if I’d ever looked into attending a travel photography workshop. She informed me that my photography idol, Mary Ellen Mark, was hosting one in Iceland the following Summer.

I was sold. I registered for the workshop, bought my plane tickets, and began preparing for this life-changing experience. The trip did change my life, but not in the way I expected. A month before the workshop, Mary Ellen Mark sadly passed away. Devastation is not a strong enough word to explain how I felt.

After a lot of back-and-forth with myself, I decided to go to Iceland anyway. I wouldn’t be able to learn from the master, but I knew that I would be dishonoring her memory and everything she lived for if I gave up my aspirations as a photographer. So I went. Alone.

This trip taught me three things:

  • Taking classes and reading books is an important part of learning, but experience is the best teacher.
  • Traveling alone is one of the most empowering things a person can do.
  • When life robs you of something you thought you needed, that can be a gift as well.

Life since then has been a long, windy road with many unexpected and painful turns, but in the end, I wound up here. I’ve been a wedding + boudoir photographer & private photo editor since 2013, and now I’ve got this little blog where I can share all my journeys: the places I see, the food I eat, and the lessons I learn along the way. Stick around, won’t you?