Sharan Nankani : ‘’my camera has become an extension of my hand’’

From being a company director to traveling to Morocco and around the world for photography, Sharan has found an unexpected passion

Sharan Nankani is the director of Nankani and Hagan LTD and a professional photographer of Sindhi Indian origin, born in Casablanca, Morocco and raised in Accra, Ghana. He studied business at Boston University in the United States and soon after graduating he joined Nankani and Hagans company. He then visited the city where he was born, Casablanca to do a market research in order to create Star Search Morocco (SSM), an online platform which aims to support Moroccan talents to develop their skills and collaborate on artistic projects that he can manage from anywhere in the world. 

While in the middle of this he discovered his passion for photography, he then without hesitation started practicing during the summer of 2017 after under-studying Ms. Ingrid Pullar a French photographer based in Casablanca.

He created soon after SNankani Photography; his very own gallery of photographs that he chose to present on instagram and eventually on his website https://www.snankani.com. This year, he has completed 203 shootings in different parts of the world.

Dialna had the honor of doing an interview with Sharan to understand more about his style of photography, the challenges that come with it and the most rewarding part about being a photographer…

What does photography mean to you and what inspired you to pursue it?

 »In the process of managing star start search morocco, I have met many photographers, models and other artists in various skill levels, and due to my interaction with them I realised that this is something I am genuinely interested in and that I should give it a try. I have then understudied a French photographer in Casablanca, Mrs Ingrid Pullar, and ever since I started practicing I realised that photography became a new creative outlet and a means for me to cope with depression that I have struggled with for a long time; for me it’s very therapeutic. It also gave me some control over what I am doing with my life, which is an empowering feeling. »

How would you describe your photography style?

 »I would simply say for the most part, that it’s artistic portraiture, mainly female subjects, although not exclusively. Typically it is a very dark and moody style which naturally appeals to me. I enjoy playing with lights and shadows, colours and props…I think if I would describe it in one word I would say it is ‘moody’. »

What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?

 »As I said it is a very deeply personal thing for me, I used to do a lot of writing in the past, but most of that was too personal to share. With regards to photography, I’ve grown more comfortable with sharing it overtime, although it also wasn’t very easy at first. I think as an artist it is very important to be able to share your art, it’s a real reinforcement. Apart from that I think I still adopt some of the values of star search Morocco, I started that to help talents, and even now I still try to work with first-timers, be it models or makeup artists etc to try to give them a good first experience which can potentially give them a boost in their career.  Another rewarding feeling is the fact that I am able to do this from anywhere in the world as someone who loves traveling. I take a lot of pride in the fact that my work is a 100 % done by me in all its steps. »

Among your works do you happen to have a favourite and why?

 »That’s a very difficult question *laughs* , I think as an artist your favorite work is always your latest one, but that moment is fleeting. I try not to have a favorite and instead always focus on the next thing I want to do, I think that keeps me driven. Although if i do think backwards, there are some works which do stand out; there was one shoot in rabat a few years ago where we played with fire, literally we had candles lined up and took portraits, and also burned some fake flowers, that is probably my favourite shoot out of everything I’ve done. »

What makes a good picture stand out from an average one?

 »I think many factors contribute to making a great photograph, but to some degree it is a bit subjective, personally I want my work to be able to invoke some sort of feeling in the viewer. Is art really art if it doesn’t make you feel something? This is a bit difficult to put into words, but as I’m shooting i try to guide my models into showing some sort of emotion and expressing themselves, whatever comes naturally to them. This is why it’s always important for your models to feel comfortable, and that is part of your responsibility as well. Create the right environment to work in, crack some jokes, play some music, talk, etc. This is how you will get authentic emotions and self-expression, and it will reflect in the final results of your work. It is also necessary to know and understand the compositional rules, and implement them into your work. I particularly enjoy experimenting with different perspectives. But I think it’s also perfectly okay to trust and follow your eye as well; rules are sometimes meant to be broken ! »

What is the most challenging part about being a photographer?

 »I think my challenges are a bit unique, because I’m not always in Morocco, I have to shoot a lot in batches whenever I am there, and then I usually take all this work back with me to Ghana and edit them one by one, in order to be able to release something ‘new’ every few weeks. It’s also an important part of my marketing strategy. It sounds easy enough, but it’s really not. It does require a lot of patience both from myself and also from whomever I work with. Most people are very understanding, though, but ultimately it is very stressful at times, knowing that you have a pile of 20-30+ shoots untouched, it’s incredibly challenging and a lot of work. However I am making some changes to my approach now; I feel I do my best work when i have time on my side to think about how I’d like the final results to be, and have the time to carefully edit the work consistently in that way. As a matter of fact, after shooting I usually put the work aside for about 2-3 weeks before returning to it and beginning to process. It gives me a fresh perspective and i don’t feel rushed, which contributes positively to the end result. As a result I am more focused on doing fewer shoots of a higher quality nowadays. »

 You have chosen mainly instagram to promote your art, was that part of a specific marketing strategy?

https://www.instagram.com/sharan_nankani/

  »I initially started my photography to add value to SSM, so that I could offer it as another service under the SSM umbrella, but I also decided that i wanted to give my photography the room to grow independently too. As a result, I created a strategy for it to build SNankani as a separate brand, most of this centered around the conceptualization of the unique SNankani logo which for the first 3 years I used to carefully place on all my work, but also involved creating a new insta page, etc. Due to the presence and success of the SSM page it only made sense to build SNankani through Instagram, as they were both meant to be associated from the beginning anyway, and I already had a base of followers that knew me and were interested to work with me. Things just naturally progressed from there, until SNankani became my sole focus. For artists and creators, Instagram is an amazing tool, It’s wonderful to have a platform that you can share your work in, but also discover other works, other like-minded individuals, and so on. Inspiration is in every corner. The best way to use it is simply to be active and try to interact with your followers which I unfortunately don’t do enough because I’m quite introverted and also have a very busy schedule, but I do my best. Also of course the ability to do sponsored adverts nowadays, which opens new doors to manage your brand from wherever you may be. »

Do you believe that digital galleries can replace physical ones someday?

https://www.snankani.com

 »I don’t know about replace entirely, most likely not. In recent years, analog photography has made a resurgence, there is still something valuable and authentic about shooting with film, although I don’t shoot film yet, so perhaps I am not the best person to ask. It’s something I’d like to do in the future just because I consider it to be the purest form of the art of photography. Digital photography and galleries in general will continue to grow, It’s only normal. You could point to my website or even my Instagram page as examples of digital galleries, and there are thousands of websites and pages across the world, with the improving quality of phone cameras as well, this can only grow even more over time since it is accessible to everyone. During the lockdown, FaceTime shootings became popular as well, I myself have done an attempt which I think turned out to be really good and I plan on doing more of that in the future considering the current circumstances.  »

 What is the best advice that you can give to beginner photographers?

 »Just go shoot! Shoot whatever you can, however you can, whenever you can, and as much as you can! Practice is key. Shoot until you understand your camera and train your eye. It should become an instinct. It can be daunting to share your work, especially when you are just starting out, but just do it! I guarantee you won’t regret it. There are many people out there who will support you. Take a leap of faith in yourself and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this. Anyone can be a photographer, nowadays it’s as easy as picking up your phone and going out to take photos with it. I found it very difficult at first because I have anxiety issues, so I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone especially in the beginning. I still feel that way nowadays, but I remember the feeling of how rewarding it is to push yourself, and the feeling of creating something at the end of the day can’t be beaten. Pay attention to your composition, understanding the rules is fundamental, and in my opinion is the key from separating a ‘good picture’ from a ‘great photograph’, and of course, understanding these rules can also help you consciously decide when to break them. Take marketing classes and learn how to build yourself and/or your work into a brand. The key strategy for me was to use a unique logo to create awareness and combine this with my SSM platform. Having said that, there is absolutely no substitute for hard work. Nowadays if you have good marketing skills you may be able to get ahead of your competition, but you must also have the talent. You can only achieve this by practicing. »

Basma Benabdallah

Basma Benabdallah is a dynamic and passionate aspiring journalist who strives to make a positive change via her writing and to be the voice of everyone who deserves to be heard. Although she is proficient and experienced in a range of genres, her primary sources of inspiration are Culture and Society. She also enjoys photo-reporting, which she did for the first time in her professional life when she worked as a photo-reporter in India for the cause of gender equality.