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Meet Sham Sthankiya Photography in Greater Boston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sham Sthankiya.

Sham, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My life, and with it my photo journey, has been anything but a straight line. It spans three continents, and many detours along the way.

I ended up in Boston via Uganda, England and Canada, where I grew up in various prairie towns in Southern Saskatchewan. As a child, I gravitated to art, and was determined to pursue it at a higher level even though it was “impractical.” I graduated from one of the top art colleges in Canada with a strong foundation in drawing, painting, sculpture, and graphic design. I set up a studio practice with minor success but after seven years, realized I lacked the business skills to turn my art into a viable career. Disillusioned by my lack of progress, I sought out a job in South Korea teaching English. Two years later, I was promoted to an executive producer role managing a group of talented writers, actors and directors in the video division of the same company. The move to Korea forced me to get out of my comfort zone and experience a new perspective on life. Crucially, it also sparked my interest in photography.

After a Korean photojournalist I knew was imprisoned in China for reporting a controversial story, I co-founded a non-profit to campaign for his release. Ten months later, while helping to organize a symposium on press freedom at the National Press Club in Washington DC, I had the opportunity to meet and work with award-winning photojournalists John Kaplan, Stephen McCurry, Lucian Perkins and Stuart Franklin. This experience had a profound effect on me and I began to see photography as a viable career path.

My father was a natural businessman and started a slew of successful businesses over his lifetime; unfortunately, that gene bypassed me. Starting my photo business has been an uphill battle from day one, and I’ve made some mistakes along the way. In the beginning, I supplemented my income working as a graphic designer and a rock climbing instructor while developing my photo portfolio.

In 2014, my wife was accepted to a Ph.D. program at MIT. Making the transition to Boston and reaching out to potential clients, I started to find opportunities. Now my work contributes to the vision of top-tier universities and colleges, real estate professionals, lifestyle brands and small to large businesses in Boston and New York.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Sham Sthankiya Photography story. Tell us more about the business.
I’m known for my skill with lighting which creates a cinematic look. Inspired by Steven Spielberg movies and my classical art education, I seek out the heroic moments in all my subjects. My portfolio is diverse, ranging from events, portraits, travel, and outdoor lifestyle to food and film. I also work as a design and marketing consultant.

My work with top-tier universities and colleges doing event and portrait photography is incredibly rewarding. It offers me the opportunity to meet inspiring people that are shaping the world in their respective fields. I enjoy the collaborative effort we share, and I know they are confident in my ability to take care of the details necessary to bring out the best possible outcome.

I love being on the road and this offers me the opportunity to do a great deal of travel and outdoor lifestyle photography. I’m an avid rock climber and hiker, so I value the time I spend outside and the lifestyle that goes with it. I love spreading the passion that people have for the outdoors and I’ve found value in sharing these images on various social media platforms.

My previous experience working with non-profits and corporate clients as a graphic designer has come back into focus as my photography business expands. Some of my smaller clients who can’t afford to pay an ad firm to develop a branding campaign are turning to me for marketing and design advice. In conjunction with photography, I help them form a branding strategy to meet their needs and budget. For example, I recently photographed and designed a series of print and Facebook ads for a realtor in Boston, combining her love of food and real estate.

I’m currently producing two film projects under my Sham Sthankiya Media banner. The first one will be a 10-minute documentary exploring the lifestyles of working professionals who live year-round on small sailboats around various Boston marinas. I am collaborating with a Dutch filmmaker and we are currently in pre-production and will start shooting in mid-March.

My wife and I are expecting our first child this May, so the future is foremost on my mind. The second project is more ambitious and will be a 12-part series examining how climate change and adaptation to fires, droughts, and sea level rise are currently impacting the US. This project is in development, and I’m presently exploring additional funding opportunities for an August 2018 start date.

Whatever the angle, I’ve never told a client, “I don’t know how to do that.” Nothing thrills me more than a creative challenge.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Currently, 95% of my work is tailored toward websites and social media platforms. As the internet evolves and bandwidth increases, video and virtual reality will outpace photography as the media of choice. I’ve been feeling the pull towards video for the last few years, and this year I’ve decided to offer it as an added service. It’s opened some exciting collaborative opportunities that are helping me grow my business. In the end, versatility allows me more revenue streams and the possibilities for crossover work.

On other fronts, online photo job aggregators like Thumbtack are opening the industry to part-time and hobbyist photographers. The marketplace is getting extremely crowded and many people are willing to work for cut-rate fees. Having a robust and distinct brand will be more critical than ever as competition increases.

At this stage in my career. I’ve developed specific methods of lighting to give my work a unique look and feel, even if that means getting up at 4:00 am to get the look I want. I seek out clients that consider substance over price and in turn, I’m eager to meet them at some midpoint that works for both of us.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sham Sthankiya

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