Today we’d like to introduce you to Sabrina Mansury Sharifi.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, thousands of miles away from my parent’s hometown of Kabul, Afghanistan. They immigrated here in the 70s and found each other in California. My sister was born in ’89 and I came by surprise five years later. My dad has worked for Lockheed Martin for almost 40 years, inspecting airplanes for the Air Force. I’ve always been absolutely enamored with his work and so fascinated by the things he would teach us. A part of me always wanted to follow in his footsteps somehow. Though I am not anything even remotely close to an engineer, his passion and work ethic have been a constant reminder to do what you love the most. My mom has always shared the same sentiment and has spent every day of her life as the glue of our family. My older sister Zarina definitely gets that from her. She’s a therapist, a true champion of the people, and works to better the lives of marginalized individuals. It’s always been the four of us, and while we have a pretty big family otherwise, our little corner means everything to me.
As a kid, I picked up all kinds of random things like drawing, painting, crochet, and guitar. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I had my first camera. Digital turned into analog when I went off to college, and since then, I’ve amassed a collection of analog cameras and given quite a few away to friends in an effort to share the fun. I’ve been developing and scanning my own film for a couple of years now, and it’s really turned into an extension of myself.
These days my main loves are film, family, friends, and Tommy. I could spend an eternity talking about him. We met in 2016 after I came home from college. He is an incredible self-starter and creative and has helped me through the hardest days of my life. When I’m not behind the camera, we spend our days testing our cooking skills, fishing at the lake or curled up with our two cats.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
All things considered, I am an incredibly lucky person. I can’t speak to the source of luck, or really how much of it I believe in, but I have been lucky to say the least. In May of 2018, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma. My family became chain mail. I’m the youngest of us all, and it was something that I think was very difficult to come to terms with for a lot of us. Life really felt like it had entered a vacuum and I spent most days hiding inside of myself. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the unwavering support of my family, friends, my partner Tommy, and of course, science. I completed chemotherapy and have been in remission for almost two years now. Through it all, I learned how and when to give my energy and efforts to things, and it really solidified my belief in spending my days doing what I love with the ones I love. As an ode to the late and great Vonnegut, “Life is no way to treat an animal.” I learned the hard way that our days are not worth spending on things that bring us down and that there’s always something positive that can be taken away from the worst of things if you look hard enough. While there isn’t a whole lot going on these days, I’m grateful I can still practice my craft and collaborate with so many wonderful people.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Photography has always made the most sense to me. I first learned analog in the arts undergrad program at UCI. I’ve been shooting digital since I was a teenager, but analog is what stole my heart. I would say I really took photography seriously once I went off to college, and since then I’ve done everything from product photography to shooting press for concerts and music festivals all over Southern California. I personally specialize in 35mm, medium format, and large format film photography, and I develop and scan all my own film at home. While I love shooting digital and can appreciate its applications, I prefer shooting analog in every day because it really commands your involvement in the process – having a finite number of images per roll, not being able to see each photo right after you take it, and really having to trust yourself behind the camera. My goal is to demystify the process and teach others how to develop their own film at home. It’s incredibly rewarding and empowering, and so much cheaper than sending out for processing services!
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’ve been very fortunate to capture lots of remarkable moments with my camera over the years. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting everything from small neighborhood DIY shows to festivals like Rolling Loud and Day N Night. Photographing live music has turned out to be the most wild and fun work I’ve ever done – shooting with a crowd of thousands and running from set to set, or photographing a friends band in someone’s backyard. Music is definitely the great common thread, and it feels good to capture those moments and to get to share them with others. While everything that’s happened has put a pause on traditional live music, I look forward to returning to LA’s many wonderful stages, hopefully someday soon.
Alejandra Lara, Anna Soffer