This SI Swim Search Hopeful is Joining Us on the Other Side of the Lens

SI Swim Search 2021 Finalist Ally Courtnall photographed by Veronica Sams.

SI Swim Search 2021 Finalist Ally Courtnall photographed by Veronica Sams.

Meet Veronica Sams, the 24-year-old from Malibu who submitted to this year's SI Swim Search not as an aspiring model but as a photographer. Sams's work caught our eye after an incredible shoot with 2020 SI Swim Search winner Kathy Jacobs. Since then, we've watched her shoot countless SI Swim Search hopefuls, 2018 winner Haley Kalil and, most recently, a Harper's Bazaar Vietnam cover! Did we mention this is all while attending Pepperdine triple majoring in Advertising, Media Production and Fine Art; interning for Scooter Braun Projects and The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and working as Miranda Kerr's personal photographer for Kora Organics. Whoa!

Sams's talent is undeniable which made including her in this year's SI Swim Search shoot a no-brainer. We're excited to announce that Sams will be joining us at the Hard Rock Atlantic City in May to capture the behind-the-scenes story of SI Swim Search.

We interviewed Sams to hear all about what inspired her to take this journey and what she's most excited about for SI Swim Search!

SI: You’re the first person to submit as a photographer for SI Swim Search! What inspired you to do this?

VS: There are so many reasons, but in short... I applied to the casting call simply because I want to be a part of the SI family and SI legacy. It’s because of SI that I have connected to so many inspiring people and creatives. I have been adopted into a community of incredibly talented, genuine, and confident women who I now call friends. SI's energy is infectious—everyone wants to be a part of it! The platform is nothing but fun, positive, encouraging and empowering. I see how this brand changes so many people’s lives, and that’s exactly what I want to do with my photography. My platform as a female photographer is to create a safe space for women to create whatever they want, however they want without fear of judgment. I felt that my purpose as a photographer coincided with the SI Swimsuit brand, and so I applied!

It has also been a dream of mine (and still is) to work for SI as a cover photographer. It’s always no if you never ask! So I thought I had nothing to lose by putting myself out there.

What drew you to pursuing photography?

When I was 15, my dad bought me a Rebel T3i Canon camera for Christmas. I would play around with it, taking photos of my cousins and of my friends, and quickly fell in love. I grew up as a painter, so I always had a fascination with bold and bright colors. Paintings take a lot of time and care, so the fact that I could take hundreds of photographs at a time of different things excited me. I shot everything from still lifes to landscapes, but what I became addicted to was portraiture. My high school had a miniature photo studio and darkroom. I found myself spending nearly every free period in there shooting or teaching myself photoshop. I was somewhat quiet in high school. I played volleyball, and though I was aggressive on the court, I was very reserved off of it. Picking up a camera helped me break out of my social shell and connect with people. It was a tool that not only helped me create relationships but also see people in a different light. To this day, my camera is one of my best friends; It has helped me see the world in ways I could have never imagined.

The SI Swim team has invited you to join them on the SI Swim Search shoot in May! What are you most excited about?

I am excited to flex my creative muscle in new ways. I will be joining the team as an “editorial photojournalist”—a style of photography somewhat new to me. The purpose of my experience is to capture the essence of the trip in an editorial light. I will be working in real time, capturing real-life emotion and action—not staged. Most of my current work is staged, so I am excited to push the boundaries of my talents to capture the candid and raw moments of the trip. I am also excited to get to spend a week with all the finalists. I know most of them only from social media, so I am very happy to finally get to know them in person. Trips like these establish friendships for a lifetime.

SI Swim Search 2021 Finalist Kristen Louelle photographed by Veronica Sams.

SI Swim Search 2021 Finalist Kristen Louelle photographed by Veronica Sams.

What does being a part of the SI Swimsuit brand mean to you?

Being a part of SI Swimsuit means joining a community of strong, empowering women who use their platforms to promote positive change. I am honored and humbled that SI Swimsuit is giving me the opportunity to expand my platform of self-love, acceptance and community through my photography. I absolutely adore this brand with all my heart—I admire the fun-loving nature and the positivity each member of the team exudes. Being a part of SI Swimsuit is more than a dream come true, as it has been at the forefront of my goals for the past few years. I am excited to get to know the team, and even more excited to see where the journey takes me.

You’ve had some amazing success at such a young age. What is some advice you’d give another aspiring female photographer?

Even though I truly am just starting out in my career, if I could give advice to another aspiring female photographer, I would say to never limit yourself. Ever! Over quarantine, I read a book called The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. The book really emphasizes the power of the mind; thinking something is possible immediately makes it possible. It may sound silly, but it works. The more you think a goal is achievable, the easier it is to achieve. Some may call it manifesting: keep your goals in the forefront of your thoughts and soon you’ll find yourself checking off the boxes. Don’t get me wrong, an incredible amount of hard work and dedication go hand in hand with that, but with hard work, you can achieve anything. I actually have a whiteboard with a giant list of things I want to accomplish each year. Every morning when I wake up, it’s one of the first things I see, so it’s always on my mind.

Another piece of advice I would give is to network. I spent my years in college (I am now a graduating senior) building a solid network both in person and over social media. Having a solid network is crucial. If you ever need help, need advice, or need to put together a team, it’s important to have the right people in your circle. Never be afraid to ask for help. They say if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Network with people you can shadow and learn from. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to teach you what they know.

Joanna Giunta