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Rising Stars: Meet Dinara Baizakova

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dinara Baizakova.

Hi Dinara, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I started working as a photographer when I was 15 years old back in Ufa, Russia. My family was poor and they could just provide me home and food which I’m grateful for. Many kids don’t get even that.

I was self-employed so I was able to buy new clothes, to save some money for gifts and traveling and to pay for my second teachers to prepare for final exams and get a scholarship for a university. I wanted always to do some art stuff but back then, no one supported me with my photography. And I finished my school with the highest score and I got my scholarship in Civil Engineering. I’d been working and studying really hard to get that scholarship to make my family proud of me.

While studying in University, I was traveling some countries with my friends and family. One of the countries I visited was USA. I was 19 years old when I went to NYC for my first time absolutely alone. When I look back, I think I was crazy to come to the country with zero English. But I absolutely fall in love with the city. And I thought all the USA just like NYC. And I decided to try Work and Travel program in next year.

After my 2-weeks trip to NYC, I started to take photos non-stop to save some money for that program and for English tutor to learn more English to be able to talk at least smth. I couldn’t make all money for that trip and I asked my parents to help me out which they did. And I promised them to give it back (spoiler – which I did give back). It was really hard to get a visa and go through all interviews but I got it. And I was so excited to come to the USA to live, to work and to travel there for 4-5 months just by myself!

That 4-5 months were really hard. I got a job as a Game Attendant in Atlantic City, which was so dangerous to live in. Students who came to earn money were rubbed, threatened by guns and etc. I even had a customer who I couldn’t understand because I’ve been in the USA for two weeks and he said to me: You can’t even answer on my questions. How did you get a job? and He continued making fun of me. I wanted really cry. And I wanted to say that English is my third language and I’ve been here just for three weeks. My rights have been violated by manager at work. He threatened me to send me back to Russia and not give more hours to work, called me stupid Russian and many more. I was so scared because I was just 20 years old and I didn’t know I have any rights to call and say about a work exploitation and I wasn’t able to speak good English. I could work standing on my feet 15 hours Friday- Sunday. And then 3-5 hours Mon-Thursday. I got paid that time 8.25$ per hour minus taxes = 7.5$ per hour. I came to the USA to save some more money, to travel, to buy my first laptop so I could photoshop my photos and I had to give money back to my parents. I was lost and scared. My parents offered me to buy tickets back which I refused because I felt I’m betraying my dream. I went to NYC in my days off. Some friends were able to help me find a job as a photographer in Times Square so I could move from Atlantic City. I moved to NYC while working in TS. I was able to find a job as a busgirl in Brooklyn and as a photographer in Statue of Liberty. I left my Times Square photography work because I wasn’t able to earn money there. So I started working two jobs which was insane. I could sleep 3-5 hours per day hustling between jobs. And then finally, I was able to have a little trip to Washington DC and snowboard in Virginia. When I came back to Russia, my feet were hurting for a month more because of work where I’d been standing for 8-15 hours per day every day.

I graduated my university with honors. However, I didn’t like engineering at all. After graduation, I just said to my mum, I’m gonna live my life as I wanna live it not as you and father telling me to. My mum gave her permission. But I know her heart is still worrying about me and the choice I did.

My third visit was much more easier because I already knew fluent English. I knew that I’m not gonna work for 7.5$ per hour anymore. I could easily find a decent job in NYC. And I was able to travel in California – Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, LA, Hollywood, San Francisco, Tahoe lake and more. Then I moved to Boston till I went back to Russia again.

I stopped taking photos for a while because I thought my work isn’t good enough. That I can do smth else. I started getting into politician when I got back to Russia. I couldn’t stay away from a Russian corruption. And I was making some videos about it. Long story short, I had to run to another country which was USA because it was just the one visa I had back then.

I started building my life here from the scratch absolutely alone. Thanks to my friends who were supporting me and helping me in every my step. And my mum who was always a message away to support me anyhow she could. I spent some time in Boston, them moved to San Diego. I applied to asylum case which allows me to work here and follow my dream. I had some part-time jobs but I really wanted to find my true self. I wanted to understand what I really wanna do all my life. I’ve spent a lot of hours talking to my therapist to help me figure who I am, what my really desires are. And I decided to do Social Media Marketing and slowly, I started taking photos again. I couldn’t believe that American people liked my photos. And they really admire my work.

Then things started getting better. My photos got two publications and the cover in Discovery Magazine in August. I was ahead photographer in San Diego Swim Week Fashion Show. I started getting more and more customers. I became a full-time photographer. I’m so blessed and grateful. I’ve been in the USA 2.5 years now. I can’t believe where I’m standing right now and that all my dreams came true. And I know it’s just a beginning. I have more dreams to reach.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The most struggles, as I said before, were my first manager in Atlantic City, who violated my rights. Who told me that he is gonna send me back to Russia if I’m not gonna listen him, that I’m stupid Russian and don’t deserve a lot. I was just 20 years old, absolutely alone in the USA, almost no English to say anything against the 35-years old guy.

I couldn’t accept my photography talent for long time. I think I just accepted it 4-6 months ago after ten years of taking photos.

I didn’t speak a good English when I came to work in the USA. People were making fun of me and my English. I felt like second-class. However, English is my third language. It took me years to get a self-confidence to start speaking normally without thinking that another people think how bad my accent is.

When I decided to move to the USA, I was depressed for a year. It was really hard to go out and do even a grocery shopping. It felt like everyone outside hates me and they know I don’t belong here. I was really homesick, I wanted to go back to my mum so badly. I don’t know how I went through that period. It was the hardest period of my life.

I still have some things to figure out here. 2,5 years isn’t enough to understand all the system. But I’m doing my best.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I do mostly fashion photography. I also work with businesses, brands helping them to take photos and videos for social media content. I mainly do: fashion, brand, product, portraits, lifestyle, catalog, lookbook, social media content. I also help models to build their portfolio so they can land brands.

I’m proud that I got published in Russian magazine when I was 16-17 years old. Also, I’m very proud that I was published two times and my photo got the cover in Discovery Magazine this year. And I’d been working as a head photographer in SDSWIMWEEK Fashion Show. I always dreamed about it. But I couldn’t ever imagine I’ll get it in my 25 years old.

I think my vision really sets me apart from the other photographers in San Diego. Because I have more moody and dark photos. Which I thought people wouldn’t understand because San Diego is really sunny and bright city. But people actually love it. I’m very grateful for every my client who supports me on this path.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
I and my friend used to walk the same route after the school. And when it was winter time we were wearing the big winter coats. So we put our hands inside of the coat and started a battle of free sleeves. We usually fell on the snow and couldn’t get up. We could just lay down for 15 min laughing.


  • Photoshoot starts from $300

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Image Credits:

Marisa Paige Butler Nyakoach Lam Anastasiya Karimova Fineza Chissambue Diana Bikbulatova Nadezhda Mullayanova Ngozi Egeonu Marisa Paige Butler

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