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Meet Sahmia Parks of Sahmia Ase Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sahmia Parks.

Sahmia, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a photographer and writer. I’ve been taking photos since high school; however, I’ve been creating and shooting professionally since 2011. I’ve been writing since I can remember- it was always my therapy. While most preteens and teenagers spent the weekends going to malls or house parties, I spent my time poetically exploring my feelings or writing some short story or what could have been considered a teenage soap opera.

In 11th grade, I was enrolled in an intro to photography class where I spent most of my time in the darkroom. I fell in love with the process of snapping a photo, developing the image, and watching the image appear on the paper. I found myself taking more pictures than writing within my senior year. Upon graduating high school, I moved to Playa Vista in a studio apartment that overlooked the marina.

My space itself was a source of inspiration. I’d photograph the sunset from my window and watch the moon set early in the morning. I connected with an old friend from high school who was involved with a homeless mission at her church. We had a conversation about really connecting with the homeless to find out what their stories were to create a documentary for her church. This potential project sparked me switching my major from graphic design to Photography.

My father gifted me my first digital camera for my 21st birthday. I can recall snapping pictures of EVERYTHING! to get a feel of the world through artists’ eyes. When I decided to get serious about the professional side of photography, I sought the help of my great uncle, Alec Ragsdale. My uncle has had a camera in his hands for as long as I can remember.

Before my uncle would train me, he advised that I just go out and shoot to learn natural lighting as well as the settings to my camera. I thought all I had to do was turn on the camera, snap a picture and boom! ART! During that time I had met the man I’d eventually fall in love with, who was also a photographer. His fearlessness in art was something I grew to admire genuinely. After being his muse a few times, my love for photography as art grew stronger.

Fast forward a few years, I was challenged directorially by a professor who said I was too safe of a photographer. He instructed me to photograph more people. I took that on as more of a challenge and decided to take my love for nature and relate it to the human body. I birthed a concept called Project; Bare, where my models and I traveled to the Mojave Desert, The Pacific ocean, and into the Matija Canyon Mountains to capture the elements of nature while nude.

It was the first time I had challenged myself to shoot people while not sexualizing the human body to truly capture it as Art. When interviewing one f the models about how they felt about their bodies, I realized I created a sort of artistic safe haven for the models to become Art themselves. The series turned into a curated Art showcase held in a three-story loft in the heart of DTLA.

Quickly following that event, I was asked by peers if I would continue to curate that type of inspirational show. Unfortunately, it was short lived due to being sexually assaulted while out with some of the models who participated in that 1st show. Project; Bare made me feel vulnerable and naked. In hindsight, I see that God was merely preparing me for something bigger than just an art showcase.

My healing process brought me back to the concept of Bare but gave a new meaning as I returned to my first of love of writing and capturing the human body from a fine art perspective as a modality of self-love for nine women. Project; Bare turned into Bare; Expressions when I asked nine women to step in front of my camera and show me how they were feeling. I held sacred space as these women shared their stories of healing and redemption with me.

I had interviewed them about all the things I personally struggled with post-assault and crafted a photographic journal over the course of three years. I weaved together each individual story while sharing how our connection helped me heal pieces of my past along the way. I recently put out this body of work as an affirmation that it is indeed okay to be vulnerable in sharing our stories and at the end of the dark tunnel we can still shine bright no matter what we have gone through.

I am still a student to the craft of photography, and I do not like to be boxed in as just a photographer. I’d like to say I am a documentarian, documenting inspirational and uplifting stories of the world around me. I see Art in everything, and I find inspiration everywhere. Photography has afforded me the opportunity to travel across the globe to capture yoga experiences in Bali Indonesia as well as silent retreats in Idlywild.

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?
The road hasn’t always been easy. Finding a particular niche and sticking to it is very complex when there are so many different avenues for monetary gain in the field of photography. I found myself competing and comparing myself to all of the photographers in LA when I had to realize my niche was special and I wasn’t going to book every gig.

I always have to go back to some of my photography idols such as Ansel Adams and Gordon Parks to remind myself of what made them special. It was their individual niche’s and their dedication to the art of their niche. While the monetary gain is important, it’s not the source of why I create in the first place. I document to share real-life experience whether it is through writing for through capturing a moment.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am a freelance photographer and now a self-published author. I specialize in documenting fine art and events. I would say I am most know for my project Bare; Expressions.

As an artist, I am most proud of having the ability to authentically create and connect with peoples spirits. I love that people will come to me to document special events that would be considered sacred because of my ability to connect with my subjects on a deep level.

I would say the safe space I create whenever I am shooting sets me apart. I love being able to see my subject relax into our sessions. Being in front of a camera or having a camera can sometimes be nerve-wracking so I enjoy easing that stress a bit.

What were you like growing up?
I’d say I was a curious child, always asking questions and seeking answers. I spent time watching the news and dissecting what was happening in the world. I can say it made me a little fearful yet brave at the same time.

I loved laughing and seeing everyone around me laugh. I was the only child until the age of nine, so I spent a lot of time alone diving into my imagination. I spent time writing in my journals and writing poetry. I would always dream of traveling due to the fact that my mother moved quite a bit. I would always pretend like we were going to some distant land even though it was never too far from our previous home.

In adolescence, I found myself becoming a cheerleader in middle school and high school which challenged me to be disciplined and tested my determination. I enjoyed my friendships because it was in a team setting and we all challenged each other. Many of my friendships I held close to me because I was so used to moving and shifting friends.

Til this day, I am close with my best friends from 10th grade and 11th grade, I’d like to say I am just more sure of myself version of the little me.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.sahmiaase.org
  • Email: sahmia@sahmiaase.org
  • Instagram: @beingsahmiaase

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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