Interview with Ayeesha Taylor from Prints by Ayeesha

Whimsical yet gritty, colourful yet somber, dreamy realism… these are the juxtapositions that came to mind while looking at Ayeesha Taylor’s work. There’s no doubt that her work is stunning – the kind of imagery you see on Instagram that makes you stop in your tracks and immediately want to find out more about her work. Luckily for us, she agreed to have a chat and let us into her world! Clearly a gifted storyteller – not just visually but with words too – we just can’t get enough.

What got you into making prints?

Last October, one of the reasons I went to India for my first time was because I wanted to be a Documentary style photographer and build a portfolio. But whilst I was there I met locals with beautiful stories that needed to be told. I realised a photo wasn’t enough for me and I wanted to tell their stories through my lense to hopefully inspire and move others the way it did for me. 2 months later I left my job in London and moved back to Auckland to study Documentary directing. I never ended up making a photography portfolio as I didn’t actually know how to use a camera (still don’t!) and didn’t think my photography was good enough to be honest. But I posted my photos on my main Instagram along with stories from my experiences.

Early June this year I was in Kmart to buy coat hangers (we all know where this is going…) and I saw a huge framed camel print which reminded me I have my own camel photo from India just like it. This is the first time I thought “maybe I could blow my own photo up and frame it”. As I walked around the corner I saw the same sized frame for sale which I purchased (along with 6 other things I wasn’t meant to buy…) and took to a print shop where I printed my favourite photo. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing a photo so special to me blown up and in its physical form. I hung it up on my wall, sharing my excitement on IG and received messages telling me to sell my photos. This is what brought on the whole idea. 

Two weeks later after choosing, editing, printing and framing many photos, creating a logo, thank you cards, finding sustainable packaging and making my website, Prints by Ayeesha was born.

How did you discover your photography style? 

I think I’m always discovering and trying out new ways of capturing my environment, but I do love to capture faces and reality. My style is very documentary looking, which is taking photos with little or no interaction with the subject or surrounding. Capturing ‘real’ moments, which I think shows in my work. 

I think the way it organically came about is what sets me apart from other photographers I have seen. I don’t think my photography is particularly amazing but the stories behind them adds meaning and depth. I love capturing moments of humanity and showing how we may look or act different, but that we all share the same emotions, needs, and desires. My photography is my own raw experiences, how I see it, and because my followers got to come on my journey, I think they feel greater affinity and compassion for the prints. 

There’s nothing ‘fancy’ about my work. I have a very basic camera, some of my prints are taken on my old iPhone 8. They’re just very real…I think a lot of my ‘style’ is created in Lightroom. I’ve been playing around with the editing app for years and I have so much fun manipulating my photos and adding my own twang to it. That’s the cool thing these days – You don’t have to have all this fancy equipment to create. It’s so accessible and even photos taken on my old iPhone 8 look professional once they’ve been edited in light room. And I don’t mean any photoshopping, just enhancing what is already there.

Best part about what you get to do? 

Being able to make people feel something. I think people buy my prints because they either have been to the place, dream of going or feel connected to it in some way. Having it on their wall to see every day makes them feel sentimental or inspired. Being able to share something that evokes emotion means everything to me. That is a creatives dream. Mine anyway..

Do you have a favourite piece of work or photo or art that you’ve ever done? 

Yes, yes 1000x yes. 

This photo was taking in Chawandiya village, Rajasthan, India. I went to India alone with no plans other than my first night’s accommodation. Whilst I was there my cousin told me her Aunty used to live in a small town nearby called Pushkar. I contacted her Aunty Matheena who told me I had to go there. She put me in touch with her friend Kalu who owns a camel safari, saying he will help me with everything I need. I went to Pushkar thinking if I wasn’t feeling it, I could find my way from there, assuming his shop would be in the town. We arrived in Pushkar and my driver phoned Kalu for directions to the shop. Before I knew it, I was being dropped on the side of the road in the desert to a ‘shop’ (a tent in the middle of nowhere) where I met Kalu and his nephews. Kalu said to come to his family’s farm to stay with them and that I could ride their camel and hang with his family. The written reviews from 2011 sounded good enough to I went with him to his family’s farm. The family and the farm were beautiful. They kept telling me I had to take their Camel to the desert for sunset. We rode down to a giant sandpit which was boxed in with concrete slabs – a man made ‘desert’ I guess. I was going down a hill when I saw a truck full of gorgeous people waving and smiling, and I knew I had to capture it! Somehow, I managed to grab my camera with one hand while riding the camel, it was already the perfect zoom and caught them. It was a fluke. The shot was perfect. That whole experience is where I took my favourite photos. Nothing was planned. The villages are untouched. I was opened to a whole new world and was very lucky to be welcomed into a family which exposed me to authentic experiences.

Who/what inspires you?!

Women who are connected and aligned with who they are. Unapologetically themselves.

Stacey Dooley – Presenter of a BBC documentary series called ‘Stacey investigates’. Her documentaries are mainly about women’s rights and the realities of being a woman in other countries. After my aunty showed me her series when I returned from India I decided this is what I want to do. She encourages me to always stand for what I think is right and spread awareness toward issues. All while being gentle, calm and kind always.

Freya Dowson – A fearless and inspiring non-for-profit documentary style photographer who’s work inspired me to travel and make a portfolio.

My boss in London – Literally the most empathetic, kindest, gentle natured person I know. She inspired me every day I worked with her and showed me you can do it all. Absolute fem boss and a true role model.

How do you decide which pieces to work on or create? 

It depends on my environment. I always try to capture the essence of each location I’m in. Represent it in the realest way I can and how I see It. It also depends on how I’m feeling in that location. For example, Sardinia, Italy evokes freedom and bliss so I try to capture local markets with fresh produce, old people in the villages hanging out, the boats riding through the crystal clear waters. Whereas Varanasi, India is chaotic but very spiritual so I try capture the faces of the locals, them going about their lives and capturing how different it is to ours, yet how happy they are. 

One moment I remember is driving down a country road in New Zealand and I saw this giant persimmon tree. I decided to pull over, run across a grassy field and take some photos of it (before picking a few for the road). Often the best pictures are during serendipitous and random moments, which is part of the fun for me.

Plans for the future?

I’m studying documentary directing at South Seas film School until December and hope to get an internship at Attitude Pictures. They create content about kiwis living with disabilities, mental and physical. They’re incredible and one of the reasons I came back home to study. I’ve had my eye on them for a few years! 

I would love to go back to Sardinia, Italy next year and live there for 2-3 months. I want to make a documentary about the centenarians and explore what contributes to their longevity. Sardinia has more centenarians (people over 100) than anywhere else in the world per capita.

I’m also working towards a passion project which involves re-branding a perfume I brought from a lovely man in a village in India. I want to sell the perfume and give them a share of the profit and document how buying the perfume transforms their lives.

Advice for people who want to explore their creative side more? 

Isolation

Get out of your comfort zone

Be fearless as f***

Realise that everything you need is already inside you

Practice self-love and getting to know who you are at your deepest

New environment

Daily practice

Follow or spend time with other creative people

Dream destination? 

I’ve had my sights on Nepal since I was eight years old as my parents went during their OE and always talk about it. My family and I are going in September to walk the Annapurna trail – a three-week trek through the mountains. Nepal looks and sounds so peaceful. I can’t wait to spend time with the locals and learn about their way of life. Everyone I know who has visited Nepal says you don’t come out the same person.

Where can we follow your work and buy your prints?

For my prints: @Printsbyayeesha & www.printsbyayeesha.pixieset.com

Follow my travels: @AyeeshaTaylor

Come say hi!

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