This week we're proud to share sisterhood member Shivani Reddy, a photographer based in SoCal that captures moments in time. She focuses on authentic and raw emotion to help drive the story behind her imagery. For the past 10 years she has photographed weddings, families, expecting mothers, and everything in between. Her personal mission is to encourage individuals to find beauty in the imperfect moments that make for the best memories and most passionate stories.
What inspired you to do the work you’re doing?
My grandfather had an admiration for all things photography and he practically raised me from kindergarten through high school. I grew up dancing so the arts have always been part of who I am and I picked up photography as a means of showcasing the world through my lens.
What started as photographing friends and family slowly turned into a full-time job and I am so grateful to have had such humble beginnings to remind me of how much hard work it took to get to the position I’m in today. The best part of looking back at my career is seeing how well that growth is documented thanks to social media.
How has being a photographer opened your eyes?
I know we’ve all heard the phrase “look at the big picture” to help keep perspective when we’re facing a dilemma or caught in a tough situation. There are so many moments in between that we often lose sight of when focusing on the overall moment. I’ve found that photographing people’s portraits is such an intimate way to get to know them without having much of a conversation. Being able to create a connection with perfect strangers and help document some of the most important milestones or memories of their lives is a great honor that I never knew I needed to feel fulfilled.
How do you use your photography skills to open other people's eyes to different topics? For example, the surrogacy shoot you did.
I believe that our social media platforms are a privilege that we shouldn’t take for granted. Amongst all the vanity and self-serving attributes, there needs to be a way for us to give and educate others through the work that we do and the beliefs we carry ourselves with. My 10-year career has been a constant fight for representation for South Asians in creative fields and I feel that that original fuel has ignited a sense within me to fight for representation on other issues. Everything from taboo topics like surrogacy and sex positivity within the South Asian diaspora to colorism on Pinterest and photo filters.
I feel as though it’s my duty to speak up for those that can’t to help those that haven’t yet experienced these issues better understand. I hope that through my photography I can help push the needle in the right direction and continue conversations surrounding these topics and more.
Can you share something you’re proud of that you have captured and shared with the world?
It’s more of a movement than it is just one photo or experience. I take a lot of pride in capturing South Asian families in a way I never saw growing up. I’ve spent my fair share of time on Pinterest browsing through inspiration only to find a lack of diversity. I’ve made it a personal mission to use my work as a way to encourage families of all backgrounds and ethnicities how important it is to document these moments before it’s too late. I want to help them see how raw, authentic emotion is so much more powerful than a posed photo of a child smiling.
Can you give us a story that exemplifies why you get fulfillment out of the work you do?
A couple of years ago, a bride of mine got into a terrible motor vehicle accident and lost her husband and she managed to survive but was in critical condition. She was suffering from memory loss and contacted our studio to request images and videos of her wedding to help jog her memory of him. There aren't words to describe the immense amount of responsibility and honor I have to be able to cement memories for people. It’s that duty that makes me feel fulfilled and know that I’m on the right path.
Is there a roadblock you had to overcome to get where you are today? How did you do it?
I would like to think that there is always going to be one hurdle I will always have to face: acceptance. We’re taught at a young age to compare and compete and that unfortunately is a hard stain to remove. I am one of very few in my family and a close group of friends that has an “unconventional” job. One that requires explaining, reminding, re-explaining, and justifying constantly. You can imagine how frustrating and belittling that can be and I know it’s a small pill to swallow in order to continue doing what fulfills my soul. If anything, it’s a constant reminder of how important it is to do something for yourself and not others.
What does choosing yourself mean to you?I choose myself by prioritizing my energy and value. Too often we expend energy on things that, in the long run, are so minuscule. For years I tried to seek acceptance and validation for my choices only to be let down or feel worse about myself when I was truly doing something to better myself and further my passion. We let others dictate how we think, act, dress, speak, and don’t realize how much energy it takes vs. just being who you are and letting that shine.
How do you practice self love and care on a daily/weekly basis?I take myself on dates pretty much all the time. I love eating by myself and trying out new restaurants, watching a movie in the theater, or just going on a walk to clear my head. Although I am 100% an extrovert, I’ve realized that being alone and checking in on myself allows me to reset and re-evaluate. A very intense skincare routine (day and night) helps too.
When you were a child, what made you the happiest?Being on stage and performing my heart out. There is no feeling as liberating as owning a stage and having all eyes on you. The combination of pressure and confidence is unlike anything I’ve ever known. It’s a feeling I chase and very rarely get to feel anymore.
What is your advice to your 10, 18, and 35-year-old self?10: You don’t have to be a doctor, it’s okay.
18: Invest in education over gear. Learning is 90% of what will get you to being incredible and unstoppable at your craft. Also, read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, then you’ll get it.
35: Forgive yourself for putting yourself first because it was well worth it.
What do you love most about yourself?
How after 10 years, I have yet to lose my passion for this art form. Photography, especially nowadays, is something many people dabble with and take part in. I mean, you have a mobile camera in your pocket, what use is there for me, right? I would like to say that my passion for constantly educating my clients, striving to be a better artist, and learning from my mistakes has helped me learn to love myself. I have seen so many people jump into careers they know will make them tons of money but don’t even have an ounce of passion or interest in what they do day to day. I am fortunate to have found that passion at such a young age and it’s helped tremendously in my self-love journey.
What is something you're willing to be vulnerable about with us?Although it may seem like I am confident and thriving in the place I currently am at in my career, it is an ongoing battle. For years I felt as though my family was waiting for me to become something more, earn more money with a more stable job, all while ignoring how happy I was doing something artistic and fulfilling. I know there are so many creatives, especially ones that are surrounded by orthodox friends and family, that can relate to this sentiment and I want them to know that self-fulfillment is truly the only way you get through this. It still hurts when I recount my experiences to my family without so much of an acknowledgment of how far I’ve come or how beautiful my work is. I’ve learned that I must truly be proud and content with my own work and hold no expectations to seek validation from others.
What’s one simple tip can you give our community to be better photographers?
Tell a story, don’t just photograph what’s in front of you. It’s a privilege that you have the gift of capturing memories, now how will you narrate the moment?
Connect with Shivani on Instagram @shivalry_inc.
Shiv captured the spirit of our entire family in one hour, showcasing our truest selves. Check out her beautiful work below.