Photographer Sofie Hojabri, of “Street Adventure Photography” is a Montreal based artist who will photograph anything that draws her in, with a soft spot for capturing colourful, candid moments.
Hojabri started out taking pictures of street art: graffiti and stickers. She kept on shooting in the streets, mainly in Montreal and started gathering the courage to ask strangers to take their photos. Part of her had to ask because her big lens wasn’t unnoticeable enough, part of her liked to get out of her comfort zone and chat. She then got into portrait photography. She’s always been a nature enthusiast and has a biology degree. Her jobs after university revolved around biology, and she was just shooting for herself, or as a freelance photographer. She left her job caring for research animals at McGill University when it got too emotionally stressful. Luckily, her local photography store offered her a position there, which, along with her freelance work, is where she’s happily been the past 2 years. She develops and scans her analogue photography at home, and can be seen shooting whatever she wants, from nature to travel, to animal or portrait photography.
Hojabri joined me on a video call from her home office, to chat about her experience as a photographer, why she shoots film, and how she handles social media. Here is how the chat went. Some answers may have been modified slightly for the purpose of this article:
Q: How did you go from working as a biologist to becoming a professional photographer?
A: I guess I never kind of saw myself in this position. I’ve always been a very artsy person. I was into painting and drawing, but my family is very academically oriented, so I always felt this pressure to pursue that. And after I graduated university, I thought, okay, I’ll probably do a master’s in this field, but I want to work and get some experience first. Then through that, I really liked working and not being in school, because I’m not the best in school. Then I started travelling. I went to Costa Rica for seven months and it opened my eyes to this alternative way of living. Such as not settling down somewhere and hating your job. It was kind of like — find what makes you happy and just make it work.
Q: Why do you shoot film, and why do you think film photography is so popular lately?
A: I think film’s popularity is linked to how everything is so technologically advanced and digital now. Everything’s so instant, and kind of everyone is a photographer now, just with the cameras on their phones. I do have a fantastic digital camera and I love it. But at the same time, when you take a photo on a digital camera or your phone, you just take the photo, and you’re like, okay, that’s cool, and then it gets buried in your camera roll, or archived in folders you never look at it again. Also, even if you have a fantastic digital camera, you would never just publish the raw image. There’s always so much editing to do with them, they’re so flat. Whereas with film, it’s such a more intentional process. You have to be patient, it’s not this instant thing, that you can just see and think ok, it’s a 4k image. You have to shoot the roll and finish it. Then either you have to develop it yourself or drop it off at the lab. You have to wait, it’s very exciting. You maybe only have one or two tries, and you’re taking one frame.
So it’s like, okay, did I get it? How were my settings? Then, once you get that final result, it’s so beautiful. And film has got this feel to it, which a lot of people try to replicate in digital photography, and maybe you can get close. The colours and everything about film have this feel to them, it’s so beautiful. And most of the time you don’t need to retouch the photos that much. It’s just beautiful, and you’re so much more present.
There are automatic film cameras, but most of the time they’re more manual. It’s like driving a stick, versus automatic.
Film is also something tangible, it’s nice to have the negatives. Honestly, a hundred per cent of the time when I’m shooting for myself or personal projects, it’s on film. And as much as I can I try, I get contracts on film.
Q: As an artist who uses Instagram to share your work, what is your experience with the platform?
A: I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. As a photographer, it’s a great tool and it’s allowed me to meet a lot of people and connect with them locally and worldwide. Photography wise, it’s been a great asset. It’s a nice way to showcase my work. At the same time, I’m aware that it’s just like any other social media platform, and it’s not necessarily going to be around forever. I’m seeing more now that people in my community accounts’ are getting deleted or hacked. They just lose everything, which is really scary for either if they are speaking out on certain subjects or whatever they use their platform for. It could be taken away just like that. There are no backups of your Instagram.
I think it can be toxic. There are different ways of consuming Instagram, I compare myself a lot to other people. You see what other photographers are doing and you’re like dam what have I accomplished? Or, — they are so much younger and they are doing all this? There are pros and cons. You have to be careful. I think it’s important to have a website. The upkeep is a bit annoying, I only recently got my website up to where I’m happy with it. It was a few years in the making. It’s a more professional platform to send to people, especially if you’re reaching out to clients.
Q: Why did you name your company Street Adventure Photography?
A: It started as backpack adventures, because I always have a backpack, and then it evolved to street adventures. I’m always in the street, and I’m always photographing different things.
Q: Do you have anything to add?
A: I think people should pay less attention to what they think they should post on social media, and what they think their audience might like. They should shoot what makes them happy. I meet a lot of amateur photographers at my job, and I get that they are trying to find their way and style, but social media, especially when I was younger, did not have the presence that it does now. I think that people should be mindful of how they navigate social media and be true to themselves. Of course you want to curate a little for your audience, but you should pay less attention to that. If I like the picture, I’ll share it and I don’t care how many likes it gets.
Photographer Sofie Hojabri is currently working in Montreal. You can see more of her work, including her prints, books and zines on her website, or Instagram.
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