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Nasra Nimaga Wins Alpha Female Plus Grant - See How She Will Bring Her Portrait Project To Life

Nasra Nimaga is the next Alpha Female+ Grant winner. Nasra is a creative soul whose artistic pursuits of photography, architecture and interdisciplinary design are intertwined, inform one another and draw from her personal experiences. For Nasra, photography can inspire change and engage important, thought provoking issues by telling stories. She writes, “Architecture is [my] team sport, portrait photography is [my] individual experience, and art of expression that affords [me] the opportunity to combine nuances of the human experience with a sense of space in order to capture and tell unique stories.” Nasra’s work is centered on exploring the complexities surrounding perceptions of beauty and identity. 

This Alpha Female+ grant winner keeps things simple on set. See more about her project and how she embraces a one lens, ambient light approach to her portraits.

For her Alpha Female+ project, Nasra is creating “a thought provoking photo essay that combines photography and storytelling to explore themes exploring and challenging perceptions of womanhood and identity. One that embraces people being unapologetically themselves and reaching whatever milestone they choose when it is their time to do so. It seeks to reiterate that there is no single way to be a woman and individual uniqueness is worth celebrating.”

Most Personal Is Most Universal

Like so many projects that resonate broadly, Nasra’s Alpha Female+ project is rooted in personal experience. She explains, “My photography draws inspiration from my personal experiences of constantly not fitting in and my personal journey to realizing, I need not try to fit in. I exist in constant otherness in most of my social identifiers. I was born in Hong Kong, I am half Kenyan, half Malian (raised in Nairobi), navigating Blackness in America without being African American, visibly black Muslim female in two very male dominated professions—practicing architecture and in photography—and Black and Muslim in America where Black and Muslim is sometimes perceived as “less Muslim,” by fellow Muslims. We are different and those differences are worth celebrating and that is what this project will focus on: telling powerful stories about women.” 

How I Work With The Camera On The Set

On the set, Nasra embraces simplicity. Using a single lens, the Sony 24-105mm f/4 G, and mostly slightly modified ambient light, she stays in the moment with her subject. “Sometimes I start with an image or the idea of an image,” she says, “but often I go with the flow and get to know the subject as I let them and my camera lead me to the shot.” 

She continues, “I generally keep things simple, not much lighting and very occasional on camera flash. I usually just need my Sony and a foldable reflector. I basically only use one lens for my Sony camera, the 24-105mm. I try to never let my equipment hinder me and I always do the best with whatever equipment I have and push myself to master it. My favorite focal length is usually somewhere around 35-50mm, I keep it there a lot but the versatility of the 24-105mm allows me to shift as needed.” 

If it seems like the atmosphere on Nasra’s sets is spare and minimalistic, it’s not silent. She uses music to create a mood and spur creativity. “I love music and I generally always play some music as I shoot and work,” she explains. “My musical tastes are eclectic and can move from Pink Martini to Nina Simone to Nao to JCole to Burnaboy in no time. What I play is usually driven by my state of mind and the kind of mood I am trying to evoke but sometimes if it’s an outdoor shoot, I just like to talk, and get to know my subject. I have found it builds familiarity and creates a relaxed environment especially when not shooting professional models.”

We’ll be following Nasra’s Alpha Female+ journey over the coming weeks. Stay connected with alphauniverse.com to see her photo essay come to life. 


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