Shooting for the stars

Have you ever wondered how you could make an impossible dream a reality? Nina Maniphak, a 19-year-old photographer in New York City, did just that.

When Nina was 14, she took an interest in photography.

“It began with taking simple pictures of friends and scenery and then developed into an interest for designing the photo, creating the image as a whole,” says the photographer. “I began taking fashion shots and portraits and discovered I really had a talent for it.”

As a little kid in Woodbridge, Va., Nina and her best friend dreamed about moving to the Big Apple. So when the friend moved to the city and asked her to follow, she says, “I didn’t even have a second thought.” The transition was made easier because Nina won a $1,500 prize from The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in 2010 for the creation of her company, Plum Porcupine Photography.

Although the move was challenging, it was worth the payoff to Nina, who says her best skill is changing perspectives.

“I like to shoot my subject from various angles – always trying different poses and changing lighting or setting,” says Nina. “The great thing about being in New York City is when you meet the model and you just say ‘Okay, let’s walk around until we find a set to match this shot.’”

Not all glamour
Getting started in business is hard for any photographer, and especially so for a young one. Nina says she has had to take risks to prove herself to designers who doubt her work and professionalism because she is so young. “I’ve had models come to my studio and ask if I am the assistant. It can be frustrating,” she says.

The worst part of the job is definitely flakes, people Nina says waste time discussing a photo shoot, laying out images and feigning interest who don’t show up the day of the shoot. There are even some make-up artists who are no-shows.

Then there are people who are unprofessional.

“Having a make-up artist do her work poorly is never fun,” she says. “Then I spend more time retouching the photos than I did on actually taking the photographs.”

Making it work
Nina says she is making enough money from her art, but she also has a regular job: walking dogs.

Being young in this business does have a positive side. Nina is seen as a “fresh innovation” and new talent.

“Artists really appreciate that I do bring a new style to the table and I’m not afraid to experiment,” she says. “I’m getting the chance to really prove myself. So when I get to work with a big name or designer, I feel like I’ve genuinely earned it.”

Nina is inspired by natural aesthetics and abstract art. “I can recognize beauty in the most banal of objects and apply it to a photo shoot,” she says.

Fashion is Nina’s strong point, with extreme make-up or, as she calls it, “vanguard characteristic.” When examining the final products, thoughts should go far beyond just what one sees, she says. Nina started with photographing girls with low self-esteem and showing them how beautiful they can be.

Persistence pays off
With hard work and dedication, Nina has earned the opportunity to photograph the most exciting fashion event in the state of New York: Fashion Week.

Photography has taught her to be determined. “You hear ‘no’ a lot in this business, and you have to keep your head up and keep working beyond it.

“This is not a job for someone who is not thoroughly absorbed by passion for the work. It takes every ability you have available to force yourself out there. But if you can accept that and still hold a talent for it, then you just have to keep working until you get noticed. And someone will notice you,” she says. “There’s a million different tastes and styles, and your personal spin will be appreciated. And once you get to know people that appreciate your work and help spread your name, it gets a lot easier.”

And so the dream becomes reality.


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