It’s ‘ooh’s and ahh’s’ as we walk up the stairs to the quietly dim lit, vintage cafe, that 20 year old photographer Shama Anwar has invited us to for coffee at her favourite spot in Shoreditch. It hasn’t been long since her return from New York, where her activities included spending the day with Bodega Bamz and meeting the A$AP crew (to name a few) during fashion week, which she recently showcased at her first exhibition ‘Boyz Boyz Boyz’ in London. As she sips on her coffee and nibbles on Baklava’s the East Londoner, tells us about her love for NYC and how humble Willy Cartier is.
1. Simple question to start off with, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Shama Anwar and I’m a photographer and a creative.
2. Why photography? and how did you get into it?
To be honest, it was pretty much an interest since I was 15. Of course at that age I would just mess around and take pictures with my friends but as I got older it got a lot more serious for me. Even with my A level art piece, I did a 6ft tall photography installation about journey, and I documented my journey to Brick Lane bagel shop. Till this day its one of my favourite bits of work I’ve done. I’ve always tried to be creative with the way I present my work.
3. We initially came across your work through the hip-hop event scene in London. What type of photography do you prefer shooting?
I love to shoot hip-hop artists. Hence when I was 18 and started to familiarise myself with the scene a lot more, I began to find my niche. I like documenting with my photos. So its a huge collection of memories. With hip-hop photography there is always movement and you have to really be quick with the camera. Which is why I love it because it’s always exciting.
5. Let’s talk about your recent solo exhibition, How was the whole process of putting together an exhibition?
Initially I wanted to challenge myself and shoot a whole different world. I’ve always loved fashion but haven’t ever touched upon it photographically. So while I was in NYC I worked for Fashion week there and met a few different models and would just shoot with them. Then I decided I could document this and exhibit it in London. I also feel that everything is very digital nowadays, and I wanted people to come and physically see the pictures before all the content was put online.
6. What was the inspiration behind it?
My inspiration was the fact that I’m a bit of a tomboy. And with any musicians I’ve photographed they have all been men. I feel that it’s a lot easier to photograph guys since they tend to lighten up in front of the camera easier than girls do.
7. Why did you choose male models as opposed to female?
I did think about shooting both male and female models, but after I thought about it I just realised that male models don’t get as much exposure as female models. Which is great (girl power and all) but I just thought it would be more interesting.
8. Do you think it has something to do with hipster culture?
Maybe, since fashion and street wear is a huge movement at the moment. Before editorial models were mainly used for just high fashion brands, now you have high fashion street wear also, HOODBYAIR being one. Which changes a lot.
9. What is your definition of a hipster? How do you think that word is being portrayed in our current society? Would you associate yourself with being a hipster?
This word gets thrown around a lot and there is no actual meaning behind it just what people think it means! But to me a hipster is someone who is always up to date with new trends, always on the scene. Me and my friends do make a few jokes about hipsters especially cause when people get called a hipster their first reaction is to always deny the fact that they are one! I don’t know if I am or not, never actually associated myself with that word. Not cool enough!
10. How was it meeting Willy Cartier? How did that come about?
Meeting Willy was amazing. I met him at a fashion week party a week before NYFW had started. I was taking photographs at this party at the Mondrian in NYC, and I was actually not feeling too well that night, then he walked in and we talked and got along pretty well. Even spending the day with him, just chilling out, he’s a very humble person.
11. What was your favourite photograph from the model exhibition and why?
This is a really hard one! But I would have to say the photo of Lawson’s hands and his tattoos. It’s just intimate and also his tattoos are pretty awesome.
13. New York, New York, New York. What is it about that city that keeps you going back?
EVERYTHING. NYC just has this character and vibe to it which is very different from London. I love London since I’ve lived here for most of my life but I fell in love with NY when I was 15 and will always love it! And I love that people think my accent is cool there haha.
14. London or New York?
(Might be an obvious one) But it has to be New York. I’ve travelled around a bit now and I really hope that my life will take me to more places in the future God willing. London will always be where I come back to, but for the moment New York trumps all.
15. If your friend was visiting you in NYC for a day, where would you take them?
First I would take them to my favourite spot, Cafe Habana on Prince St! They have the best corn on the cob ever and its only $4 for two portions. Amazing stuff. Then I would take the train down to Brooklyn and go to Dumbo, nothing will ever beat the organic ice cream shop there, all homemade. Just eat ice cream and enjoy the view! (Love how its mostly food related)
16. Now that your first exhibition is done and dusted. What’s next in the world of Shama Anwar?
Hmm, I usually just take things as they come. So I couldn’t even tell you what I’m doing tomorrow! I can only hope for bigger and better things to come my way.
Check out Shama’s ‘Boyz Boyz Boyz‘ photographs on her site now – click here.