Interview with New York City Photographer, Amir Ebrahimi
22 Jul, 2012
You can view more of Amir Ebrahimi’s work at: www.AmirNYC.com
Follow Amir Ebrahimi and read his blog!
Amir Ebrahimi is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. His career spans from filmmaking, set design and directing to photography. But it was in 2006, on a trip to Anchor Wat, Cambodia to visit an orphanage that his older brother was volunteering at, that inspired him to take on photography as a serious profession. Born in San Francisco to an Iranian father and El Salvadorian mother, Amir comes from a family of rich culture. His mixed racial and cultural background has given him an advantage: “In photography, especially documentary, you need to be a thief of sorts. A thief never enters your home introducing himself as such…chances are he wouldn’t get away with anything. Since I can blend into many different cultures/ethnicities, I’m able to steal many different images. Unlike the conventional thief, I’ll then share my thievery with you.” Amir Ebrahimi will be displaying his photographic works at the RAW Art Gallery Exhibit in Oakland, California on September 3, 2010.
Dig In Magazine: Where are you based out of?
Amir Ebrahimi: Brooklyn, New York.
DIM: What is your nationality and cultural background?
AE: I’m an Iranian, El Salvadorian American, born in San Fransisco. My father was born in Tehran, Iran. My mother was born in El Salvador [in] Central America. And they met in English school in San Francisco.
DIM: How does your ethnicity influence your photography?
AE: Because of my mix I can be quite the chameleon. And in photography, especially documentary, you need to be a thief of sorts. A thief never enters your home introducing himself as such…chances are he wouldn’t get away with anything. Since I can blend into many different cultures/ethnicities, I’m able to steal many different images. Unlike the conventional thief, I’ll then share my thievery with you.
DIM: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
AE: Well, when I was in high school I was taking photo lab classes at the San Francisco Art Institute. The reason I say that is because it really influenced me. After that I went to community college in San Mateo in which I didn’t last very long. And then, out here in New York I couldn’t afford to NYU, so I ended up going to Brooklyn College.
DIM: How did you get into photography?
AE: At thirteen, my father gave me a Nikon, because I wanted to shoot pictures like my brother who was 7 years older than me.
DIM: What types of photography have you focused on and what is your focus now?
AE: My main focus was Documentary and portraits but I have recently ventured into Fashion.
DIM: How does fashion come into play in your photographic works?
AE: It allows my to play with the fantasy side of photography and [it] momentarily fulfills my deep desire to make films.
DIM: Where does your deep love for photography come from?
AE: My longing to stay connected to people and communicate with the future.
DIM: What is it in life that inspires your work?
AE: The fact that tomorrow is not guaranteed.
DIM: How do you come up with the ideas for your photo shoots?
AE: I approach each shoot as a project. When an idea comes up, it is about executing it as if you would a film or short. That’s the reason some shoots end up looking completely different from others, which some people in the “industry” say is a big no, no, because all your work should have your “mark”…in other words all your work should look the same. I have a hard time with this philosophy because I consider myself a craftsman, not someone that will rewrite the book of photography…at this point its all been done….the masters nailed it 60 years ago.
DIM: For example, with fashion photography, how do you determine the style of the clothing, model poses, backdrops, etc.?
AE: You can have an idea of how the hair/make-up, or styling will be, but it is all the about the team you’re rolling with…they need to take it to the next level. As far as background/sets, I take full advantage of utilizing my 4 years as a set designer for some well known photographers.
DIM: In terms of your documentary work, where have you traveled to get those photos of native peoples and animals like the boy on elephant shots?
AE: The shot you are talking about was taken in Anchor Wat, Cambodia, [which is] where I went in 2006 to document kids at an Orphanage that my brother was volunteering at in Phon Phenn. I shot the whole trip on film. I later returned in 2009. Photographically, the people and country were a dream come true for me. If you haven’t been, I would make it your next destination. Its “same, same but different” than any other place you’ve been.
DIM: What are you trying to communicate through your photos?
AE: What I’m trying to communicate through my photos is absolute truth. Even when I’m creating a fantasy world I don’t want people to feel anything that is contrived or feel that I was trying too hard to create something that wasn’t there. I want people to feel that it is very real. In the end I want my photos to speak for themselves.
DIM: What do you shoot with?
AE: I use all kinds of cameras. That’s part of the craftsmen of photography, but my absolute favorite would be my hasselblad that I bought off my pops. The camera is a year older than me.
DIM: Can you tell me a little about your choice to use film instead of digital in regards to the photos on your blog?
AE: It goes back to the art of photography. I even have a hard time calling myself an artist, because I’d rather call myself a craftsman. Photography is a craft. It is a tool that you use in order to capture things. The problem with digital photography is that that craft is completely lost. In the sense of starting a blog, it was about “How do I make this a little bit different?” There are other blogs out there that are completely film, but I wanted to embrace the fact that there is something lost with digital photography. If there were a million photographers before, now that digital cameras have come out, there are a billion photographers. And I feel like there is something to be said about learning the craft of photography and learning what it means to shoot twenty rolls of film and not have any idea of what they look like. There is also something to be said about shooting something that is extremely precious to you, getting the film back, and it is completely black. There is something in loss that we all gain. The thing is that with my blog, nothing is Photoshoped. It’s kind of in homage to my brother as well, because I know he was extremely anal about shooting film. And he was extremely opposed to digital. I feel like the blog is kind of my tip of the hat to my brother.
DIM: What can we expect from Amir Ebrahimi in the future?
AE: You can expect a lot more photography, a series of photo books, some music videos I’ve directed, and in the future, future, directing a series of feature films.
DIM: What are your interests outside of photography?
AE: Other than my son, on the low I’m a sports nut, love riding my bike around Brooklyn and my company that I started in 2008, Metric Nine productions. (metricnine.com) It is where I facilitate my art directing skills.