Saved by Photography with Zaakirah Muhammad

July 12, 2021 Artist Spotlight

Episode 84: Zaakirah Muhammad

In Episode 84 of the Portrait System Podcast, Nikki Closser invites Zaakirah Muhammad of Phocused Media Group for a chat about the pivotal role photography has played in her life. When Zaakirah was just an infant, her mother was able to capture the image of a rare cancer in her eye. By persistently bringing it to multiple doctors, she eventually got Zaakirah the life-saving surgery she needed to survive. Zaakirah has a wonderful way of seeing this story and other challenges in her life for the opportunities they present to her. She now runs a business focused on both photography and creative strategy based on her insight into so many women’s struggles with their branding and marketing on social media.

Be sure to listen to the whole podcast to hear how Zaakirah combines female empowerment with photography and social media content strategy in her business. You won’t want to miss her tips for how to network in a way that will lead to your business becoming referral-based. She also shares the main questions she asks her clients in order to zero in on bringing clarity to their brands.

In this blog, you’ll find some of Zaakirah’s powerful portraits, links to her web presence, and answers to some bonus questions.

Get to Know Zaakirah Muhammad

Q: Most artists have a point in their life where they knew this was meant for them. Do you have that moment? 

A: The moment I knew this was meant for me was in 2012. I was doing street photography with a family friend. I was living in DC at the time to study photography and we went to Chinatown one weekend. We took a break to have lunch together. As soon as he learned about my cancer story, he said in the kindest, most random way, “You know you have the photographer’s eye, right?”

I connected the dots between the fact that I was saved by a photograph that was taken with a film camera. Those cameras were the ones where you look through the viewfinder with one eye. Instead of wincing with one eye, I already have monocular vision due to wearing a prosthetic eye.

Q: Making a connection with your subject is one of the most important parts of a great portrait. How do you make lasting connections with your clients? 

A: Music plays a huge role and is a universal language when it comes to building connections. I also value relationships and enjoy listening to and getting to know what makes my female clients who they are. While they are being vulnerable with me with their favorite music playing in the background, I then put on a journalist-style hat and ask them personal but non-invasive questions. That allows them to become more comfortable on camera as I am capturing their essence.

Q: For someone starting out on their photography journey what advice would you have for them?

A: For anyone starting out on their photography journey I say, practice, practice, practice, and stop comparing yourself to what you see others accomplish. Your vision is uniquely yours. Your path is uniquely timed, and all the goals that you desire will be achieved when they are meant to.

Q: What fellow artists in the industry do you gain the most inspiration from?

A: Growing up, Matthew Jordan Smith, Gordon Parks, Erick Robinson, and Marc Baptiste were inspirations to me. I am blessed to say I’ve met two of the four of them. I am inspired by the men that came beforehand and paved the way for the women like myself to come after them. I aspire to be the female version of the Black photographers mentioned.

Q: Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

A: In the next five years, I see Nayyar Photography being a subsidiary of my creative agency Phocused Media Group. Myself and a team of women will empower other women through portraits, guiding them on their social media marketing, and encouraging them to step outside of their zone. Their stories will also be told on podcasts and even in documentaries.

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Zaakirah Muhammad of Phocused Media Group

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