The 19-year old Pakistani Photographer and owner of Simbazaar, a brand pushing and empowering South Asian women through clothing, dabbled into photography some six years ago, after being inspired by Pakistani cultural events and the lack of female photographers in the industry. We discuss these pivotal moments with Simrah herself, how and who she was inspired by & what she hopes others can learn from her journey. This interview has been edited for clarification.
What initiated your interest in photography?
I always saw male photographers, but I had never really heard or seen professional female photographers. When I researched “fashion photographers,” a majority of them were men. The only big female photographer I knew of, previous to further research, was Annie Leibovitz. Even then, most famous female photographers are white. I want to change that and let the photography industry know that there are WoC fashion photographers too!
I looked up to two South Asian women in my community, (Sharbeen and Moniza) and they influenced me to get into photography. Even though I was already artistic, I didn’t know how to express my creativity, until I saw them holding a camera. They were taking pictures of our friends, and simply seeing them do that in a male-dominated industry inspired me to do it too.
After getting into photography, I found a photographer and YouTuber named Irene Sarah. She’s South Asian and she got me thinking about turning my hobby into a career.
What influenced you to start SimBazaar and Simrah Photography?
I started Simbazaar after Donald Trump’s presidential election. Due to rampant racism and cultural misunderstanding, I wanted to make sure young South Asian girls were comfortable and unapologetic in their skin.
I come from an artistic family, so I’ve always had an artistic nature. Some friends introduced me to the medium, and I gradually progressed from a point-and-shoot camera to a DSLR camera. Somewhere along the line, I started getting into photographing fashion. As I started to become closer to Pakistani culture, I began to take more pride in my heritage and incorporate it into my work.
How does your womanhood and culture influence your art and message?
As a first generation American-Pakistani, I’ve been submerged in two cultures. I want to convey this in my art in two ways. Firstly, I want to show the effects of how growing up with two cultures shapes my perspective of the society we live in. Secondly, I want to visually show the blend of the American and Pakistani cultures through fashion. In South Asian culture, marriage is the ultimate goal for women. I was blessed with Pakistani parents that never pressured me in that direction and support my decision in becoming an artist. They taught me to be my own independent person. The way they raised me allows me to break the tradition and focus on achieving my own ambitions.
Empowering women is a cornerstone of your brand. Why is this important to your brand?
Women have come a long way to have the rights and acceptance we have thus far and right now we’re at a glass ceiling of true acceptance. I want to help women build their confidence to break this glass ceiling. Obviously, it will take time, but I believe it will happen soon because women are capable of so much!
What influenced your love of fashion photography?
I think my love for fashion photography came two years ago when I was exploring my personal style. To me, fashion photography is all about the artistic aspect. There are so many different fabrics, colors, and styles that it’s so intriguing to photograph! Muzi Sufi is one of my biggest inspirations in Pakistani fashion photography. I love the way she plays with movement and colors. The clothes in fashion photography are the main subjects, the rest of the shoot revolves around it, and Muzi Sufi does a really good job at incorporating different backgrounds, architecture, and textures into the shoot while still focusing on the details of the outfits
Are there any specific fashion photographers that inspire you?
Throughout the years, I have gotten more connected with my culture, and I found Abdullah Haris . He has become one of my all-time favorite high-fashion Pakistani photographers. His work is breathtaking and focuses on the art of fashion, so he is one of my biggest inspirations. Another inspiring photographer is Muzi Sufi who I found on Instagram. Seeing her doing big things in a male-dominated field was empowering.
Can you describe, in your opinion, the perfect photo shoot?
For me, the perfect photo shoot is when the model is friendly, fun, and appreciative of the art. If the model encompasses those things then I am at my best!
What is your main motivation for integrating traditional Pakistani garb into your photography?
In America, when people see a South Asian person wearing any traditional garments they become stereotyped or seen as “fob” (fresh off the boat). America is supposed to be accepting of diversity, considering how diverse it actually is. So, I hope when people consistently see my photography, it can eventually help diversity become the accepted norm.
“When brown girls like me see Simbazaar, I want them to be inspired to be comfortable expressing their pride in their own culture. For people who aren’t South Asian, I want them to become allies and support their fellow South Asian friends!”
Simrah comes from an artistic family, so it’s only natural that her passion lays within the artistic realm. We shall continue to watch her growth in all her endeavors, but in the meantime make sure to visit ShopSimbazaar.com for awesome goodies.
Find Simarah and her brands on social media
Instagram: @simrahfarrukh & her shop @simbazaar