Zakia has been a fashion photographer for over a decade. She is currently working on her coffee table book, which is estimated to have an international release in 2010. We chat with her on her journey as a photographer.
What made you first pick up the camera?
It all began when I was 12 and my neighbour (who, incidentally, was very pretty) wanted a photo-shoot. She kept doing clothes changes and I kept clicking. It was at her place that I was exposed to a lot of international magazines, music and video, which all subconsciously encouraged me to pursue fashion photography.
How did you work towards becoming a professional photographer?
In my last year of college, I started taking a keen interest in photography. I did a basic course and went on to assist Farrokh Chothia and Atul Kasbekar. When with Atul, I shot my first editorial cover for Femina, with Dipannita Sharma. That led to more cover shoots with models like Nina Manuel, Bipasha Basu, Ujjwala Raut etc. I also did some ad campaigns. I rented a studio for 2 years and worked on my first film shoot, Armaan. After that, I took a break – I needed to expand my knowledge – and I schooled at the International Center of Photography, New York, where I was a student of Mary Ellen Mark. This is where I expanded my frontiers as a photographer.
What are some of your most memorable shoots?
The book I am currently working on has been my most memorable experience as of today. Shooting with the most powerful men in the country; interacting with them and having them appreciate my work has been awesome. I was also the official photographer for the Femina Miss India 2009 contest. That was a real challenge as some of the girls had never faced the camera before. I had to get each girl to look her best in her 4 different looks, and shoot 20 girls in 2½ days!
How would you describe your photography style?
My style is emotional and it shows sides of my own personality; be it sensual, emotional, string, carefree or sensitive. When shooting Vikram Seth, he said he could see my mind through my pictures. I feel the energy of the place and people that I am shooting and unless it’s a commercial shoot, where I have to follow references, I like to follow my instincts. In my photography, my thoughts of reality and stretched to create illusions. Music inspires me – it talks to me and takes me to a different zone. My style is also inspired by art and travelling.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Get your technical knowledge right, and then use your camera as a tool.
Don’t be afraid of your subject, camera or equipment. Shoot from your heart and be true to your art. Don’t rip off images, instead be inspired by them. Compete with yourself.