MIRZA: The Prince of Peace
The perfect mix of 'Vogue Africa' meets "fries with a side of BBQ sauce".
Interview by: Vanessa Peters
SKYN: Thank you for interviewing with us Mirza! So tell us what it is about photography that captivated you so much?
POP: Becoming a photographer was more of a necessity of expression. I needed a visual way to express myself and bring about the images of what my eyes perceive as stimulating. It would be a waste of a vision if I did not have a way to express myself, visually and musically. I mean aren't we all here to bring about a change, and if we're not expressing our own opinion but we are living in someone else’s then does the change really take place?
SKYN: Excellent question and you know what? I don’t think so! One thing I like to consider is that there are creatives and there are consumers and it seems fairly evident that you are cognizant of that. So let me ask you something a little random and off-topic, what is your favourite song right now I ask because songs say a lot about a person
POP: Right now I am loving ‘Put a Flower in Your Pocket’ by The Arcs, I am really in love with the production. Being a composer myself and going crate digging to find the right sample that will fit the current genre of the music that is playing in my head is an art. I heard this song at a coffee shop while I was working on some photos and I had to Shazam it. At the moment it’s just the perfect song for where I am mentally, mind you that can change tomorrow.
SKYN: We gotta look them up. So let’s get back to talking shop; what Camera(s) do you use when you get to work?
POP: Well I started out with a Nikon 5200 and still use it for certain projects, but I've also been using the Canon 6D because it is full frame and it gives me the range that I need to work on the projects that I have been presented with. It’s all about the glass in the end; I've produced photos with my Nikon 5200 that you would never think just because of the glass.
SKYN: Oh absolutely, as a photographer myself I know exactly what you mean! It’s ironic that the creation of a photographic image exactly how you see it, literally comes down to a piece of glass. Anyhow, I imagine that with all the projects and work that you get into, you get pretty swamped at time, what does a freer day look like for you and then what is a hectic one?
POP: A chill day and a busy day are very similar, my work is chill. There are days when I spend 8 hours editing 2 photos, which sometimes can be challenging, but at the same time I do enjoy what I do, so editing and drinking a cup of coffee is a chill day as well. On the other hand I love the sun, the water, and the beach, so whenever the universe permits the weather to cooperateI pick up and head to the beach and act like a kid.
SKYN: Very Interesting. A lot of people have wildly different versions of that so you marrying the two is uncommon but is balanced in a way that makes me kind of envious if I’m being honest. But you appear to have it together and your sense of style seems to be no different. Do you feel as though your city inspires your clothing style and to some extent does it influence your photography?
POP: I think that I look more to time periods and not any particular city per say, or ‘cities’ that influence emerging fashion for example, but at the same time there are fashion designers and aesthetics that seem to exist in New York that appeal to me. So if I would say that New York inspires me then I have to say that the world inspires because New York is a melting pot. With that said, I like incorporating different cultures into my photography because the photography carries a message, and the message has to mean something, and in my case I feel like I am always giving this message of unity. At least from my perspective, the person viewing my photos and interpreting what the photo portrays is completely up to them. I hope that makes sense *laughs*
SKYN: No it does! It does, you know that reminds me, I notice that pretty much all of your photography tends to feature melanin-rich models, is there a particular reason for that?
POP: This is something that I myself am still trying to unravel. I feel like I have a deeply embedded desire for harmony, so my eyes gravitate towards something that will mean more in the bigger picture sense as opposed to just beauty. I think creating a balance in the world is key to solving a lot of the world’s problems, and maybe I’m dreaming here, but I believe that balance in world-perceived beauty and what we think is beautiful should transcend cultures and should make us better humans. The fact that they’re all melanin rich is still definitely a mystery to me. If we’re looking at it from a surface aspect of my being of my sense I see beauty and I appreciate it with my camera.
SKYN: I think I kind of get what you are trying to say it seems like you are trying to enact a shift in north American beauty standards which is noble of you, is that the kind of thing that keeps you going in this photography game, or is it something else?
POP: Knowing that there will always be something new to discover and capture. I am constantly evolving mentally and who I am today is never the same tomorrow. I might keep the basic things within like good ethics, being honest etc, but the way I feel even about photography could change tomorrow. It is a tool that currently gives me a way to express my self, what that tool of expression will be tomorrow I do not know.
SKYN: Such is the life of a creative. Are you looking to expand into other photography styles or are you comfortable in staying in the lane you are carving out for yourself?
POP: High fashion photography is always something that is vibrating in the back of my mind. I am not sure if I even have a lane. My style is pretty simple, I love capturing moments, and if my style of photography is pursued then I could potentially find myself in all of those situations. I would also love to do backstage concert photography. Capturing moments unseen by most people. Capturing history. Capturing Africa is another dream of mine, road trip with my camera.
SKYN: It’s interesting that you say that because Akris just showed their collection at Paris Fashion Week and it was a red-earth African safari theme but thats fashion and i’m sensing you are speaking more on landscape photography so I digress. What brands are representative of you right now?
POP: God first, Tesla car for sure, fries with a side of BBQ sauce, Vogue Africa, which does not really exist, but if it did I would be all over it, and would love to be involved in it on so many levels.
SKYN: Fries with a side of BBQ sauce! I’ll ask my editor if we can name the interview that. Do you see any photographer’s as your competition especially in an industry where some might argue that the number of photographers in it is rather saturated?
POP: I think that once someone gives power to competition they put them self in a competitive environment and like to blame the saturation of the industry on their lack of creativity. If you're creative you will create your own lane. I just do my work and work on a much bigger picture than photography it self and that is what drives my photography, and not photography it self.
SKYN: Alright so I think it’s safe to say that the answer is nobody. Are you an introvert or an extrovert Mirza?
POP: It is very situational, depends on the moments. I love people, and at the same time I love myself. I love my time, but I love spending my time with other as well. There has to be a balance in my life of experiencing the life around me and in my meditation to transcend those moments as well.
SKYN: Some of your photos seems to toy around with digital artistry as well, are you a digital artist as well and if so, how did you fall into that?
POP: Yes, I have incorporated some digital art into my artistry. I wanted to do more than what I could capture with just a camera at this moment in time. There was much more happening in my head at the time and it was just an expression of a moment that stuck with me and was visually pleasing. It was eye candy really to me. I think that photo shop is an amazing modern canvas tool that when you learn how it works on the foundation level you can explore and be very creative with it. My brother taught me everything I know when it comes to editing and it was a missing tool, because just taking photos in todays world will not get you far.
SKYN: I’m curious, with all that you’ve done which is clearly quite a lot, what do you think is your greatest accomplishment as far as your photography goes
POP: I think that in my sense of accomplishments it is just learning the craft it self. Photography is not just clicking the shutter button, a lot goes on in a photographers mind before they gently press the shutter. So to say that taking a photo of someone in a moment after spending years of learning would be demeaning photography it self. But in a regular sense of accomplishments so far I've worked with a lot of people that I have set out to work. I also took a cross country trip in my car for 2 months and took as many photos as I could of scenery. What is taking me a little longer is working with Rihanna, but that will manifest in due time. I am thankful for who I am and where I am currently.
SKYN: Will you tell us your ethnicity for readers who can’t or haven’t seen you?
POP: I am ethnically human. :)
SKYN: *Laughs* Alright, fair enough, so am I. So when you are in the car or you are in an Uber, what artist are you vibing to?
POP: I am feeling that Justin Beiber album, makes me feel that it should have been Chris Brown’s album, but whatever congratulations to JB for making a classic.
SKYN: You are not the first person I have heard say that so he is clearly making waves. Speaking of celebrities, do you have any celebrities that are fans of your photography?
POP: There are a few people that follow me and am in contact with that shall remain nameless. I like to keep a low profile because again I feel like photography is not my life, I use photography to express my life and my visions to recreate the future.
SKYN: This guy! Alright we can respect that. What makes you happy?
POP: Helping other people and seeing them happy. The extent of my happiness does not simply depend on that, but it is how I appreciate achieving happiness.
SKYN: Such a deep guy, so this next question may be a bit difficult for you to answer but i’ll ask it anyway, what is your favourite photograph at the moment?
POP: I think that one of my favorites would have to be some of my first professional work I did with Reign Apiim. It started out as a simple “let’s hang out, and I’ll bring my camera.” But it turned into something much more than that. I even wrote an article about her and it is in audio form that you can listen to read by me on my www.thebigpictur.com/blog .
SKYN: Nice we encourage everyone to check that out. As you work day in day out, have you ever had one of those 'damn i feel like i made it' moments?
POP: Every time I click the shutter. *laughs*. I actually had that moment through music when I produced a track that Lil Wayne was on and was on and was to be the first single off of a particular artist that shall remain nameless, and that artist got dropped from the label. Within a week I felt like I made it and at the same time I fell back where I started. In photography I did not come across that feeling, because I feel like I make it every morning I wake up. I try to keep the expectations to a minimum and accomplishments to a maximum.
SKYN: You are humbling us in a really big way right now. Who do you wanna shoutout in the #princeofpeace team?
POP: I work with my brother who is a photoshop expert. He is also a photographer so we bounce a lot of ideas off of each other and we're currently working on our own brand together which I am very excited for.
SKYN: We want to hear more about it when it launches so don’t hold out on us because we support your moves 1000%. You know what? We are halfway through this interview and we haven’t really talked about the models that you work with, who has been your favourite model to work with so far?
POP: I have a favorite thing about every model so I can't really choose a favorite one. They all have their own brilliance about them and this is why I continue to work with them on my artistic expression.
SKYN: Somehow I knew that you were going to say that which is fair because when I interview other models they generally say the same thing about photographers that they work with, so clearly it is a symbiotic relationship. What was going on with you before photography?
POP: I was doing music, and still to this day I compose music and write songs. My education is in Audio Engineering and performance believe it or not, but they’re both artistic expressions.
SKYN: How does that influence your philosophy when it comes to whether or not or how you edit your work?
POP: In the current perception of the world if you want to make money with photography on a commercial level photoshop is absolutely necessary. When shooting RAW the images they are FLAT, and processing images in a RAW image processing software is not enough. When doing black and whites you can get away with it, but with colors it’s a little more in depth.
SKYN: Neat. Have you used any props worth mentioning in any of your shoots?
POP: One of my most recent shoots with Singer/Songwriter Bridget Kelly I used this old radio that was just sitting in the corner of the studio and was used a shelf. To me it stood out like the sun at high noon, and as soon as I walked into the studio I knew I wanted to use it. It added so much class to the photo.
SKYN: Oh wow Bridget Kelly is amazing and a really underrated artist actually, you’ll have to send us that photo. I’m just thinking about some of your photos and I know one picture probably has 100’s of versions and I can just imagine all the gear that goes into making that possible, what is your most expensive piece of equipment?
POP: I think that my Macbook Pro is, which is actually a few years old, and pretty decked out *laughs*. I am looking into some new lenses in the near future and have my eyes on a Mamiya, so next time you interview me this question might have a different answer.
SKYN: Wow I actually didn’t think about a computer. How did I not think about that. *laughs* You know what you’re such a good looking guy so I’ve just gotta ask mainly for all the females out there. Do you currently have a woman in your life?
POP: Yes and no, as facebook would say it's complicated. When I am free I am free, when I am with her, I am with her. She tends to manifest herself throughout many human beings. She is my guide and she is earth. *smiles*
SKYN: Thats beautiful, you must mediate like crazy, which balances a busy life. Do you have to travel a lot for work?
POP: I have been pretty busy in New York, but I am making it a priority to book shoots else where starting this year. I have a shoot in New Orleans coming up this week actually that I am pretty excited about. Never been, and it has been on my radar for a while, so we’ll see what I come back with.
SKYN: I hear you, New York is pretty much a world on it’s own so it’s probably mad easy to be there and literally have no need to go anywhere else unless you really want to…So what’s next for #theprinceofpeace?
POP: I continue to be a student of photography, knowing that I can always learn something new. Next really is finding a space where I could have a music and photography studio all in one. Somewhere on the Beach in Barbados so artist can come chill for a month and get all of their music and art work done at the same time. With a vegan chef on standby.
SKYN: We coming so make room for us over there in Barbados, that bougie vegan chef life sounds good. *laughs* Can you give any advice for burgeoning entrepreneurs such as yourself?
POP: Be yourself as much as your surroundings allow you to and never stop learning. I think that learning how to work and manipulate lighting without loosing too much quality in a photo is key. ISO is great and all but learn lighting and ways around loosing photos quality. Keep your ISO as low as possible in all cases.
SKYN: When next Skyn Magazine gets to New York we got an open invitation to come hang with you right?
POP: ALL DAY!!! We can make a day out of it in some of my favorite locations.
SKYN: Dope, we can’t ask for anything better.
SKYN: Sum up theprinceofpeace?
POP: Beauty within peace.
SKYN: Where can Skyn Magazine readers find you on social media accounts.
POP: IG @theprinceofpeace and www.thebigpictur.com
@theprinceofpeace | www.thebigpictur.com
Vanessa Peters | www.sofxposh.com | @sofxposh
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