Maaria Lohiya is a freelance photographer + videographer based in London. Graduated from King’s College London with a BA in Geography, her creative endeavours fulfil her passion of discovering what makes people feel alive. Her work centres on people and seeks to capture emotions, experiences and stories all the while being true to herself and her identity as a Muslim, as a woman, as an Indian, and as a Londoner. She recognises the multifaceted nature of her subjects, and subsequently, she uses several different mediums including still captures, moving images, and written words.
Could you describe your path to becoming a photographer/videographer?
My path to being a photographer and videographer in many ways is straight forward, but at the same time, in all the ways that matter, it really isn’t. It all started with sunsets and being captivated by the play of light and colours across the horizon. With my first iPhone and signing up to Instagram, it was an organic learning progression over the course of several years, slowly teaching myself how to take better pictures and edit well. It wasn’t until I broke my arm and was stuck at home and dug out an old dslr in our attic that I started thinking about taking it to the next level, and even then it never crossed my mind to pursue it professionally. With that being said, the urge to capture life and do it justice was stronger than ever and I took this 12 year old ancient dslr to all my travels, pursing that urge and then sharing the results online. And then one day I received a message from someone who wanted to take pictures of their wedding day. At first I refused, simply because I didn’t trust myself and my work, but they were insistent they wanted me, so I took on that job and haven’t looked back since. A combination of Youtube videos, seeking knowledge from others around me, and a dedication to practicing the craft and creating every single day brought me to that point and then I was extremely blessed because someone saw the potential of my work on Instagram and trusted me enough to take a chance and believe in me.
How does identity impact our lives as creative people and how does yours impact your creative work?
Identity is most probably the biggest factor in my work, because to ensure that what I create resonates with others, I need to first and foremost make sure it resonates with me. And to that, I need to make sure it is in line with my identity and what it means to me. I don’t shy away from showing parts of my identity rather than hiding it to make my work more palatable to the masses. For example, a lot of my work revolves around me being a Muslim, in particular, my Hajj series (Hajj being the Islamic Pilgrimage), however what I’m trying to show through my pictures is human emotion, of dedication, of love, of brotherhood and sisterhood, of culture, of belief – and no matter the religion or belief of those viewing my work, the core message can connect with anyone, regardless of what they believe in. So yes, identity is hugely important, however so is the ability to transcend identity and connect with humanity.
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity means being true to yourself, it’s a form of expression and it’s a vulnerable one at that. Every time you create and you put your work out there to be seen, you are putting a part of yourself on display and it’s a scary thing but it’s also extremely rewarding because when someone appreciates your work and connects with it, that means they are connecting to you on a level that transcends social interaction.
How do you nurture your creativity?
The best way to nurture creativity is to create every single day and to never stop learning. To push your boundaries and take on challenges, especially if they scare you. I try to learn wherever and whenever I can, and I never want to be in a position where I stop learning. I’m also trying to research more on the theoretical side of creativity, including photographers who inspire me and I’m falling more in love with what I do everyday.
What cultural barriers have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Most of the barriers I’ve faced have actually been outside my culture, with people asking me “How do you parent’s allow you to pursue creative field?”, “I’m surprised you haven’t been married off yet”, “Are you allowed to travel alone?” etc, with the implication that my culture and identity is not compatible with the work I’m doing. The best way to overcome comments like that is to simply keep on doing what I’m doing and show my success through actions. I am not successful in spite on my religion and culture and identity, rather I’m successful and achieved all I have because of it.
What has been an important lesson you’ve learned so far?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt, and I’m still learning, is to celebrate your successes, no matter how little or menial they may seem. Thing’s take time, they don’t happen overnight so keep on going, keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll get there. It’s difficult because it matters, and because it matters, you gotta keep doing it, no matter what.
How has social media and the internet helped you as a creative?
My career started because of Instagram, and even now it’s where 70% of all my enquiries and jobs come from, with the rest from word of mouth. That being said, it’s easy to have social media run away from you, so it’s important to use it on your own terms and always renew your intentions when using social media platforms.
What kind of projects are you working on now?
Alongside my usual wedding photography, and events, and videography, I’m working on a couple of really exciting projects, the first being a cinematic video of my experience in Palestine in Ramadan which I hope to compliment with a photo-essay. The second project being an incredible photo series in collaboration with a fellow creative, Zainab Khan, highlighting Muslim Women Trailblazers, and all the amazing achievements they’ve accomplished.
How would you describe your artistic style in three words?
Honest. Curious. Alive.