Ana Gambuto is something of an accidental local on Shelter Island. She had fallen in love with the island years ago, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that she relocated her family of four from Brooklyn to Shelter Island indefinitely. And as a creative and entrepreneur, she’s managed to make a business out of life at the beach. Atop of being an NYC lifestyle photographer, Ana has built her creative agency, Anyday Collective with her husband. When some of her work was put on hold, she turned to apparel and design and launched Shelter Isle. This fashion brand is a line of retro-inspired sweatshirts, totes and tees that reflect the spirit of life on the East End.
We sat down with Ana to discuss what’s currently inspiring her, how she’s navigating life at the beach with two toddlers in tow, and where to find the best chocolate soft serve on the island.
How did you end up on Shelter Island?
We are from Brooklyn and moved out during Covid-19. We’ve loved Shelter Island for years and had been trying to buy a house out there, but we’d always either get cold feet and not find the right house, or something would be outside our budget. We couldn’t quite find what we wanted, but we truly loved it.
We happened to find our house in early 2020. It was a covid purchase, but not like a fleeing Covid purchase. It was just before the pandemic. We did eventually flee, and then we stayed until October. Then it was like, what are we doing!? Our kids are really young. They’re one and three years old.
So eventually we left our rental in Brooklyn and it’s still an ongoing conversation of “when do we go back?” We did not intend to live on Shelter Island this long. But we absolutely love it here, especially in the summer!
You run a creative agency, Anyday Collective. Tell us about it…
My husband is a television producer and so together we have Anyday Collective. We make all kinds of video and television content. I am still an NYC lifestyle photographer and I have a whole commercial side to that business.
I also do high-end family portraits for families, as well as for kids and baby brands. When I realized I couldn’t do that during covid, I started Shelter Isle, a luxury apparel line of retro beach sweatshirts. We do funky sweatshirts and t-shirts for Shelter Island, the Hamptons, Montauk, Sag Harbour and more. We also do some very cool collaborations!
We’ve turned Shelter Isle into a community effort also, where a portion of our proceeds goes to charities on the island. I’ll hand deliver orders for free, which helps me meet tons of my neighbors.
One of them is now my best friend! I met her in her driveway. We’re actually neighbors, and we were like oh my god, we should meet up. We’ve literally never been in each other’s homes, but our kids are friends. It’s been a fun way to meet the community.
What was the inspiration behind starting Anyday Collective?
When my husband and I were dating, we realized our worlds were related and slightly overlapping but not really overlapping, more complimentary. So we started taking clients and working together.
For example, a client would ask me during a campaign if I could shoot video, while someone he’d be working with would ask if he could take stills. So we started taking jobs together. Then we got married and got incorporated. It slowly evolved into this multi-arm production family. We have a family of freelancers who we’ve been working with for years and years.
As a professional NYC lifestyle photographer, what’s the biggest shift you’ve seen in storytelling as of late?
I think the stories themselves are more raw, more real, less pretty. And then the logistics of producing a shoot are totally different, so the way you cast a shoot, the way you set up the vibe of the shoot, the way you shoot and edit is all totally different.
It’s hard to get a child to open up to a room full of strange adults in masks. It’s a challenge for sure.
What brought you to Seven On Shelter Island?
One of my dear friends works for a high profile client and she and I were chatting, and she realized she wanted to throw a huge event. During Covid, she needed someone who knew Shelter Island and could create deliverables. She needed a headshot project and a behind-the-scenes video and she realized that I could do those things.
I also made the merchandise and designed the logo. The whole team got sweatshirts. Since I knew everyone on the island, I told her, ‘Well, you could stay here, here or here,’ which led me to Beth and the team at Seven on Shelter Bed and Breakfast. She really is one of the only luxury options on the island now. Her B+B vibe is so elevated and really the only one I know of in New York.
Where do you find inspiration?
Well, my personal Instagram account has always been people I know or brands I’ve worked with forever. And I followed a million people and never saw content I wanted to see, so my algorithm is not great, and honestly, who has time to fix that?
It’s not been fun anymore for a few years but then I started Shelter Isle, so I decided to follow pure artists I’m inspired by, like Nowness, which will do amazing video installations where I’m like, whoah! What is that! Or I’ll follow local businesses, other local Hamptons or Long Island or Shelter Island vendors that I either know or hope to work with soon.
It’s been incredibly rewarding, following a curated group on that account. It’s what Instagram is supposed to be. I want to have a place to go to find it. As far as finding it online, that account is the thing that stands out. It’s non-parenting, non photo-related inspiration.
Ana’s Shelter Island Top 5:
This beach is incredible in a photo, of course, but it’s also incredible for a parent because you can literally park directly in front of the stairs to the beach! Very helpful to haul the mess of toys and towels a shorter distance. You get me. Ideal for building sand castles!
2. Wades Beach
The sheer expanse of this beach is great for letting my toddlers just be free… they can safely wander a pretty good distance from me without me worrying, and it feels a lot more like an ocean beach than a beach on the sound. The best part is that it IS on the sound though, so there’s no scary waves to give Mama heart palpitations!
The one thing my daughter loves more than anything is skipping stones. Well, you know, throwing them toward the water with all your might, whatever you call that. Crab Creek Beach is delightfully uncrowded and it’s also got the most beautiful array of stones to throw! We like to bike over with the kids in the toddler seats that go on the back of our bikes, no car required.
4. Tuck Shop
An awesome little ice cream shop. All four of us are big fans. There’s something about soft serve that is a cornerstone of a hot day because you can slurp it down quickly – no spoon required. We’re partial to chocolate.
5. A wagon ride, a bike ride or a longgggg walk.
The fresh air on this island is like medicine… and with two toddlers I often feel trapped indoors, but I know if we get out, we’ll feel better! And a bonus tip… eat outside at The Shipwreck Boat Bar, and let the kids just eat french fries!
Thank you, Ana for giving us the opportunity to discuss your favorite Shelter Island activities and why you share your love for the island.