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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Captured By A Quiet Soul

Images by Shameer Khan

"...focus on the positive things in life"

We meet outside the Starbucks on 14th Street and introduce ourselves. He gives me a gentle hug and smiles. I smile back. After luckily finding a free table we sit across from each other. His eyes suddenly squint in seriousness and he stares me down. Somehow I feel like an ant being examined by a zealous teenager with a magnifying glass. I want to look away, but I know that I shouldn’t.

This scoping of my face goes on for seconds, though it feels like minutes. In a subtle voice he instructs me to turn my head slightly to the side. I do that and his thick eyebrows wrinkle. He's pensive. I’m told to turn my head to the other side, but his expression doesn’t change. I'm thinking this meeting is going so well. Maybe I'm not as striking.  Finally I'm told to suck in my inner cheeks. “Like this,” he says and assumes the perfect angular face with pouted lips.

Inwardly I’m saying to myself, this guy is crazy! But he seems to know what he’s doing and trustingly, I try it. Those black brows wrinkle, animatedly again, as he shakes his head no. Apparently I’m trying too hard. “Like this,” he re-demonstrates. I make another attempt and this time he nods with satisfaction.

“Okay good.  Let’s go,” he finishes.

I follow him out the Starbucks and seconds later we enter a building that’s his friend’s studio. The temperature has dropped tremendously so it’s too cold to shoot outside.

His name is Shameer Khan, a Trinidadian native living in New York. At the time we met, he was on the cusp of his teenage years. For his age he is extremely knowledgeable about the fashion industry, in particular—what model agents want. He reels out—in a non-bragging fashion—a list of girls he got signed with agencies like Elite and IMG. There's something about his photographs that captures the pure essence of a model, even the ones with the slightest potential. Now these agencies send him their models when they need development test shoots done.

As I was instructed, I keep my puffy extensions straightened. The weave is so well done, that it looks like I was born with that full head of hair. He presents an H&M bag with clothes he bought from the store and I dress in an orange leotard and black leggings. This outfit is much simpler than my usual shoots, but he reminds me that it’s about my body, not about the clothes. I already have on a light foundation, but Shameer applies an extra layer, still enough to look natural, and surprisingly, applies my eyeliner, lip gloss and uses the eyeliner to contour the sides of my face. Taken by the comfort of his actions, I ask him where he learnt all this. He explains that sometimes stylists and make-up artists are a no-show to his test shoots and so, eventually, he learned to do everything himself. I am very impressed.

The end result of my shoot with Shameer
He patiently directs me into the poses, in an almost-soft-spoken voice. The movements are not sudden or dramatic. Very simple. Just enough to highlight my length, my features and that I can, at least, pose. I suck in my cheeks just like we practiced and he snaps away. The easy-going Shameer is smiling and that is a sure sign that the images are good. After a few changes the shoot is over and I’m looking forward to the possibilities.

It’s hard to count how many models Shameer has discovered, but it’s safe to say at least twenty—males and females combined, and that’s just being modest. One of his greatest finds is Diandra Forrest, an albinistic model, who captivated interests by fashion agents right away.

In no time the Trinidadian born photographer realized that he was good at what he did. When others took notice, he quickly became a respected name in the New York fashion niche, receiving special features on and publishing editorials in UMag, Hommestar—The Pop Magazine, and Highlights Magazine, just to name a few.


What’s the first thing you usually do when you wake in the morning?
First, I thank God that I am alive, then I reach for my phone!

What can’t you leave the house without?
Can’t leave without putting on my Chanel Homme Sport cologne that I got as a gift from one of the models I work with, Michelene.

From left: Oscar Reyes, Iman, Shameer, Joan Smalls
Give us an idea of your typical day?
Wake up, brush my teeth, make coffee, check my emails, visit my favorite blogs, then plan out my day, jump in the shower, get ready and head to the city. Some days I may have a shoot, other days—a meeting, or maybe just shopping or something.

Do you believe you have found your calling and when did you realize that?
Yes I think I have. When I was 16 years old I got my first camera from an MTV event and I fell in love with photography. Unfortunately I was robbed and that camera was stolen, but eventually, my parents later got me a professional camera because they saw how much I loved photography.  I still us that camera today. I never liked school so I didn't apply to college because I knew that this is what I wanted to do, for sure.

Anybody famous or intriguing you’ve met or come across in your career/life? What was that experience like?
I’ve met Tyra Banks through a very good friend of mine Oscar Reyes, who was her agent at Elite. She took us out for Frozen Yogurt and then to a comedy club. It was fun. She's actually an amazing person.

Who do you hope to meet or work with one day? And why?
I hope to work with Nicki Minaj lolll… I would love to shoot her one day. We are both from Trinidad and both grew up in the same neighborhood (Southside Jamaica Queens)

How do you usually end your day?
I just grab my favorite snacks, chocolate, and soda, jump on the couch and fall asleep watching TV.

Is there anything that has happened to you in your life that has sobered you up, or has impacted on your life today?
Just moving to this country at the age of 9, and going through a lot of struggles when my family and I got here, my parents sacrificed a lot to give me and my brother a better life.

What philosophy do you live by?
Take life one day at a time and focus on the positive things in life; and forget about all the negative things.

Any closing words from your awesome self? Like maybe your goals for 2012 and beyond? Anything!
My goal for this year is to travel and see the world. I haven’t been back to my country in 13 years and I plan to go very soon to see my family. Then I plan on going to Europe! Especially London and Paris, because I have a lot of friends there :)

Shameer's Portfolio:

See more of Shameer's work @

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