If you grew up with a mom or a dad (or both), you probably understand how important it is to have their support. But while our parents are there to guide us and provide for us, it’s our responsibility as artists, women — or simply — human beings to find our truth. And sometimes that means we have to slightly deter our course in the opposite direction of our parents’ vision (sorry mom). In the long run, our parents’ sacrifices allude to our passions. The path that they pave for us permits us the freedom to listen to our intuition and find our calling. And while today’s Boss Babe can blame her innate talent for her success, she always has her parents to thank for their unbelievable sacrifice.
When you see Sunny Shokrae’s work, you can’t help but wish to be transported into every single image she’s created. Through her creative vision, Shokrae has been able to construct one-of-a-kind photographs for high-profile brands such as Tiffany & Co, Club Monaco, and Converse. But before she knew she wanted to become a photographer, Shokrae initially took the safe route by studying Politics and Sociology at UCSC. And even though this stable plan was initially mom and dad approved, Shokrae wasn’t fulfilled by this career choice and opted to follow her heart instead. And now the rest is history. Meet one of the most badass photographers we know, Sunny Shokrae.
Born in Iran and raised in Southern California
Artist currently swooning over:
I would really love one of Faig Ahmed’s drippy Persian rugs
Describe your style aesthetic in three words:
(This is my least favorite question, I don’t think it’s about what you wear but how you wear it) … but if I must — classic, comfort, formidable.
Not so much my dream project but shooting subjects I admire on a really large scale, all the time, anyone from Gloria Steinem to Missy Elliot, people that excite and inspire me. I have a list.
A bad habit you’re not afraid to admit:
Film or digital:
NYC bar for a nightcap:
My apartment or someone else’s (I love to host).
Tell us a little about yourself and how you knew photography was going to be the career for you?
I’ve been in the middle since we moved here when I was five — never fully part of Iranian culture, never a part of American culture… My old family photographs gave me the ability to peer into a world that I was really curious about and felt connected to. From there I got really into documenting my own teenage experience in pictures which was rooted in the punk scene and from there it developed over the years into wanting to create more refined work for magazines and clients, seeing what I was capable of making for someone else, but with my evolving voice intact.
In our current political climate, artists are expressing themselves more than ever through their craft. As an Iranian immigrant and a photographer with a Politics and Sociology background, do you feel a responsibility to voice your opinion or do you prefer to tell a different story through your imagery?
I voice my opinion regardless of if it’s in my work or not because I embody it in my essence. I’m not a photojournalist or a political photographer, but I do think it’s important to use your craft to make honest work and what I feel right now is my truth. It’s not always easy incorporating that into assignments handed to you by clients, but I have the power to propose ideas to people and seek my own personal projects which is what I’ve been doing [for] the past few months. Some ideas have found support [while] others had no response, but that’s the name of the game, and you just keep going.
Like many others, some people feel obligated to make their parents proud by choosing a career they would approve of. What was your thought process like when deciding to try photography after attending UCSC for politics and sociology?
I mean, let’s be honest: being an artist is not what most immigrant parents imagine their kids take on when going through the hardship of moving their LIVES to a foreign world and building from the ground up, the instability of the art world must be a terrifying thought to people who risked their lives to flee from instability, but that’s the beautiful irony in it all — they want you to be stable and you want to explore your choices in the free world. I didn’t think photography was an option for a long time, because I was told over and over that it wasn’t a real job and that it was a hobby. I tried to be more conventional but didn’t feel right in that world, I was passionate about what I learned in college, but to apply it practically to the real world was confusing and tough.
I’m not saying being a photographer is any easier, it may be harder — it’s a cut-throat industry — but for me, I didn’t have the passion or effort for the other side to keep going.
Must-visit NYC spot to unload your wallet:
The endless number of restaurants that constantly blow your mind.
Especially in a creative city like NYC, how do you continue to improve and challenge yourself while keeping your creative juices flowing?
Taking literal, geographical breaks. Meeting with new people to talk about collaborations. Improving from experience.
Best way to spend a day off in NYC?
[Visiting] museums and galleries, walking the entire city, exploring a new neighborhood.
Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
On my own private island drinking from [a] fresh coconut, growing out all [of] my body hair and getting unrecognizably tan.
Any advice for future Boss Babes, especially those looking to go down the photographer route?
Meet as many people as possible, be true to your vision and nurture it, don’t take things too personally and remember, no one really has their shit together — we live in an age of illusion. And business! Get good at that — it’s one of the hardest most mysterious parts.
Written by Raven Ishak
Photography via Vanessa Granda