In an era where photography is more important than ever, thanks to social media, young photographers like Shot By Nee are cultivating an eye-grabbing portfolio of meaningful moments in London. Despite only being in her early 20s, Nee has captured big names such as Megan Thee Stallion, Meek Mill, AJ Tracey, Drake, and many more. Although she studied photography at university, she only grew more curious about it after capturing her first live show in 2018. Now, Nirah is rapidly ascending as one of London’s talented music photographers making their mark.
Over the years, Nirah has been recognized for her ability to document music archetypes and diverse cultures across the UK. Although being a woman in a field that requires many hours of work isn’t always as glamorous as it seems on socials, and she acknowledges that. “In saying that, there is a slow rise in amazing females in the industry, and I hope that more people will recognize the power in women,” Nee emphasizes. Without a doubt, Nirah has continued to make waves through her honest and astounding catalog.
For our latest Behind The Lens, Nirah Sanghani walks us through navigating the pandemic, the lack of women in the industry, her most memorable moments in the field, and so much more! Check it out below.
What sparked your interest in photography?
If I’m really honest, I have always had a creative mind but I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was. My mum’s side of the family is particularly creative, so I guess it’s instilled in me. Art was my favorite subject at school, and I’ve always enjoyed other things, such as baking and music. My love for photography came slightly later as I grew older and started to experience “life.” The life experiences you have are so important. Photography gives you the ability to relive those memories and once-in-a-lifetime moments and that to me is so beautiful.
Where or what do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration can come from many things. I obviously take inspiration from other photographers and artists. I’ll see images in magazines or on social media and think, “I want to be able to make someone else feel how I just felt seeing that image”. My main inspiration is the beauty of the moment I am in. It inspires me to create imagery that can capture that same energy that I am experiencing and display it in a physical form.
How did last year’s pandemic affect your approach to photography, and how does it feel to finally be able to step back into things?
The pandemic really just put everything to a halt for me. 2020 started off as a great year for me as it was really just the very beginning of when I had started to get work. I moved back to my mum’s in Leicester so I didn’t shoot for almost a year. If anything, it just pushed me to work harder because who knows what’s gonna happen next? It feels great to be working again! It’s so easy to lose hope and motivation, but I’m just happy to be back doing what I love.
You have photographed some of the hottest names in music. What is one of the biggest misconceptions about working with artists and what do you enjoy the most when working with artists?
I think a lot of people think that the music industry is glamorous, but when you’re shooting music videos, you can work long hours and be on your feet all day. A lot of the time, you don’t get to spend much time with the artists- pictures are usually taken in breaks on set and it can be very rushed.
Saying that, working with artists is great because they usually have such great energy. They know how to work the camera without direction, always a plus for a photographer. Sometimes people assume that artists are “stoosh” and sometimes they can come across that way in passing. However, when you start to build a relationship with them it’s really nice—we’re all humans at the end of the day.
Can you recall one of your favorite, or most meaningful, moments in the field?
My favorite moment has to be at Wireless Festival this year. Just being able to shoot at the festival was incredible in itself because it’s been a dream since I started shooting music. When you’ve dreamed of something for a while and it becomes a reality it means an awful lot. Being able to shoot Drake at Wireless was something I’ll never forget.
Drake’s team was quite strict on media access, so unfortunately, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to shoot his set. I managed to sneak onto the side of the stage before his set and just waited it out until he came on… oops. I ended up taking an image that I’m super proud of and the rest is history. Just a reminder- if you want something really bad, there’s always a way to get it.
When shooting live shows or on the sets of music videos, do you find yourself to be amongst the only, if not a few, women on set? Do you think women in photography are treated equally as their male counterparts?
Definitely! There’s a huge lack of women in the industry. There are many occasions where I have been the only woman on set and it’s difficult. I find that as a female, you have to shout louder to be heard and do more to be seen. For some reason, women have more to prove. I don’t believe that we’re treated equally. Men often get paid more or are more respected. In saying that there is a slow rise in amazing females in the industry, and I hope that more people will recognize the power in women.
Who are some of your favorite photographers these days and how do they inspire you?
Okay, so this one is hard because there really are some incredible photographers in the industry. Ashley Verse, Vicky Grout, and Zek Snaps have been my inspiration from the start. Their work speaks for itself, and they are all great people.
If we’re speaking in this current moment, however, I’ve got to shout out Isha Shah. She is paving the way for South Asian creatives and for females in the industry. She is so knowledgeable and she genuinely wants to help others. Pharaohdraws AKA Johnathon, Elliott Hensford, Karis Beaumont, and Linda Borscika are all ones to watch, their growth has been amazing!! Sorry, I could go on for ages. Big up to all the amazing creatives out there.
Obviously capturing figures in music is something you’ve done an excellent job at, but do you want to explore any other avenues in photography?
Firstly, thank you so much! I am actually quite content with where I am at this moment. I would like to explore some more studio photography so I can create some clean press shots/portraits but other than that, anything that involves working with people. I love being around others.
What advice do you have for young or fresh photographers who want to work with artists and leave a lasting imprint in the media?
I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned is that your work is 50% of your brand. You have to be likable and approachable in order to succeed. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, I am not the biggest personality on set, but you don’t have to be! More importantly, stay humble! you never know what can happen. Stay grounded, and it will take you far. Creatively, I would say: find your own style. It comes over time, but the difference is more memorable. It’s such a saturated industry you need to make your work stand out.
If you enjoyed our interview with Nirah Sanghani, peep our chat with UK photographer Karan Teli!