Interview: Shriya Samavai

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These days it seems like everyone takes photographs. But finding photos that capture emotion, that tell stories, isn’t always so simple. I think I’ve been in love with Shriya Samavai and her photographs for so long now, that it’s strange that her pictures still surprise me, still evoke strong emotion. When I see Shriya’s work, I appreciate my friends, crave adventure, itch to create something new. I contacted Shriya in hopes of learning something new and gaining inspiration from someone I admire greatly. I was far from disappointed. 

 Tell me about Shriya. Who is she? What does she like?
I’m a 21-year-old transmedia artist, journalist, and student living in NYC. I like where art, music, fashion, pizza, ice cream and skateboarding intersect.
 
When did you start taking photographs?
The first time I remember photographing was in 5th grade when I went to summer camp and my parents gave me two disposable cameras. I took photos of my friends and trees in the woods, and I pretty much photograph the same two things today. I started seriously photographing at age 14 when I received a digital SLR for my birthday.
For you when taking photos, do you think about the message you are trying to convey, or is it more about capturing the moment?
I don’t really think about a specific message while I’m photographing. Usually what ends up happening is that a moment seems significant to me, so I make a photo of it, and when I go back and look at it later, I discover what exactly the photo means to me. Unless I’m shooting with a narrative or theme in mind, I’m rarely thinking about a message while I’m photographing.
I tend to photograph things I have love for. A friend reading her journal out loud in a diner, skateboarding through the park at dusk, my grandpa sitting in his favorite chair and looking out the window, a crowdsurfing concert-goer ecstatic at a show, the way the sun hits a tree in a forest. All of these moments are significant to me in my life. It’s great when my photographs can draw out some emotion in other people as well; I love it when people find my work relatable. However, at the core of it all, I am making photos because they mean something to me.
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How do you use your photography in your other mediums such as writing or mixed media art?
When I was maybe 15 or 16 I started writing about photographs I had taken and I noticed I was able to tell stories better that way. Pairing text and image conveyed feelings that the mediums alone could not. I also started making collages around the same time. I would cut out words and phrases from these old children’s textbooks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that I collected and would juxtapose the text on top of photos I had taken. I really enjoy working in mixed media because it’s super hands-on and allows me to pull from many different fields.
What are some of your influences?
My friends are my biggest inspiration. Though they all have different styles, I am really motivated by how hard they work and the quality of art they create. I am also influenced by where I grew up in the Midwest, where my family is from in India, and where I now live in New York.
You also co-founded the artist collective and clothing line, Cote-Armour. How was that formed? What was your goal with it?
Cote-Armour was born from a mutual obsession with street art, New York’s garage rock scene, and surf and skate culture. Today the brand strives to make art-inspired quality clothing for the gnarly girls and boys who are dedicated to running around the city, going to concerts and gallery shows, and collaborating with their friends.
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As a writer for Noisey, what makes music so appealing to you?
I started writing about music because I wanted to get closer to the industry and the people who make phenomenal music. I wanted to know how and why they make what they make and what drives them so I could get a better understanding and appreciation of music. I think context is everything, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to talk to musicians firsthand about their work and ask them pretty much anything I want.
What are some of your favourite musicians? 
I will always love The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, MIA, King Krule, and Earl Sweatshirt.
Do you make music yourself?
I’m classically trained in violin, viola, and percussion. I also play a little piano and guitar. I’ve never written music myself, but I love playing classical music as well as covering songs with my friend Clare for our project Sleepy Teens. My favorite part about playing music is the connection you make with other people while you’re performing– there’s this perfect unity that exists where you come together with others to create something bigger than yourself.
 
What is one thing that you’d tell young creatives?
Constantly be creating content. Make a lot of work, put it out into the world, and people will pick up on it.
All images used with the permission of the photographer
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