Get To Know Shahrnaz Javid

What’s going on, go ahead and introduce yourself

My name is Shahrnaz Javid, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky now residing in Chicago.

How was life growing up in Kentucky?

It was like any other place you would call home- I had my family, friends, and familiar faces.

When and why did you then move to Chicago?

I moved to Chicago six years ago to study magazine writing at Columbia College Chicago.

Since the transition to Chicago, how big of an impact has the city had on your creative endeavors?

Moving in general has had the biggest impact on the direction of my life. My sophomore year of school I studied abroad in China. It was a crazy experience, I really used that time to learn about myself, reflect on where I was (in life), and figure out who I was when push came to shove. When I came back to the states it was tough for me at the beginning. It’s always hard coming back period. Living in a complete different world then reverting back to that same purpose I had before I left, I was bit scatter brained and lost. Not until I came back to Chicago did I truly settle in. I became more aware of things, the people, their interactions, and simply understanding the city. Not until my return did I feel comfortable here and meet like-minded individuals.

When did you first to begin to acknowledge your creative talents?

In High School I was a huge yearbook nerd- photo editor and the staff writer. Then my photography mostly consisted of sports, some friends senior pictures. At the time I had a photojournalism internship with Kentucky Derby Festival. I shot the new college basketball recruits, the McDonald’s All-star game, and the slam-dunk competition. That’s where I started developing my “eye” period. I had to be faster than the ball, get my shot before it went out of bounds.

How would you define the term “creative”?

I would say being creative means willing to explore one’s imagination without limits or expectation.

When did you first start getting interested in photography?

Before my big league yearbook photography days, when I was just a writer, my staff member Stefanie Gentry taught me how to shoot with her camera. We always would tag team assignments and reverse roles when we were bored. Eventually I had to get my own camera and would always have it with me and I enjoyed capturing moments with my friends. That feels like a lifetime ago. Fast forward to today and I’ve been back with my camera going on my second year? My best friend has a menswear clothing line and knowing I had a knack for it asked me to shoot some pieces for her. Olivia jumpstarted the rekindling of my love for photography, but this was a whole new style of photography that I was soon to embark on.


Elliott Erwitt once said, Photography is an art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. Do you agree with that?

Oh yeah, I totally do. That alongside “doesn’t matter the quality of equipment, but everything to do with knowing how to use it”.

What causes you to continue to shoot film in a digital era?

I’m not strictly film, I do both digital and film. But I think film is more rewarding than digital. I like the outcome of the project and I like the process that leads up to it.

What’s in your camera bag on a typical day?

A couple cameras, a couple lenses, lots of pens and a notebook. Basically a lot of Shahr toys.

You’re into telling stories in a couple different ways, not just photography, how long have you been writing for?

I’ve been writing ever since I was little. I keep up with my diary from childhood still to this day and I’m constantly writing notes in my phone. I freelance write as well for various start-up magazines. My favorite is feature profile writing.

What cultural value do you see in writing?

My biggest fear is forgetting, forgetting anything at all. By writing we are able to remember the unbiased (hopefully) good, bad, and every in between moment that took part in the molding of today. Writing is very very very important.

Which way do you prefer telling a story more, in words or with a picture?

I’ve never been one for favorites. I like the balance between the two. Like day, there is night and I believe the same duality is there between writing and photography. It also really depends on how interested in the subject I am. If I’m looking to tell the complete story, I prefer using a combination of both, if I’m looking to capture a moment on the go, then I prefer photography.

Recently you just dropped a photo series with Bernie. Explain the concept behind this shoot:

My friend asked me to take press photos for a project she was releasing and one of the songs was titled “Honey”. I tried to convince Kaina that we should lay her baby hairs with honey but she thought maybe not for this set. I held on to the honey idea and let it marinate, I wanted to take the concept a step further.

In the beginning I thought “keep it simple”, but it quickly became more. I ended up playing with other textures, adding a fuzzy earring, put my model in mesh and when the honey spilled to her stomach the fabric looked more dense. I had turned Bernie into a honeysuckle. As the shoot progressed I understood how much this concept meant to me.

“My inspiration was an old photo of a honeysuckle bush that was by my house in Kentucky when I was young. I would spend all summer picking and eating the honey out of the bud with my friends. I currently live in Chicago and life now is much more different. I’m not the same innocent girl that picked flowers off the bush and was satisfied; I moved to a large city and lost some of my delicateness. I’m a flower past bloom,” said Javid to Toksick Magazine.

As a photographer, would you say you’re more into conceptual photography?

Honey was my first creative/conceptual shoot that I had ever done actually. It was my first shoot that I built from the ground up. The concept, direction, and who I wanted to work with on set. My muse/model/femme fatal Bernie Levv, hair extraordinaire Mo Tayler, and glam master Nina Cowen. I had the perfect women, the perfect team.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

I keep working. If I’m not creating or taking part in some vision I get stressed out. And I become even more stressed out when I feel useless. Exploring myself and what I’m capable of keeps me motivated as well.

What impact do you think photography has on society?

Photography is just like any medium of art, it really makes you feel, it stirs your emotion or memory, your deepest wants, needs, curiosity.

If you were able to write and photograph an artist for a full spread magazine, what artist would that be?

I would photograph Hassan Hajjaj, I love his style. How he captures the flare of eastern cultures by merging bold fashions with traditional garments is impeccable. On top of his subjects being relatable to myself and my heritage, I think he puts out the most beautiful work.

When it’s all said and done how do you want to be remembered?

I don’t want to be remembered by my face as much as by my work. If by chance my name lives on, I hope first and foremost my subjects and my voice, or eye, is what comes to mind.