Latoya Grindley, Staff Reporter
A natural and warm vibration resonates throughout the sitting area at her family home as she exuberantly shares her journey as a self-taught photographer.
Sabriya Simon is not the typical photographer. She is the artistic creator of simply natural portraits and landscapes, which are captured in their natural setting with no enhancements.
A strong believer in embracing 'naturalness', which she practises through her own lifestyle routines, Simon does not create 'magic' and leaves her images untouched. So, really, what you see through the camera lens, is what you will see on print. This she does through the manipulation of natural light.
"I don't do airbrush and I don't do photoshop. I am not against editing, which I believe is an art in itself, but what I am trying to sell is that it is okay to be natural, you are okay as you are, perfect in your own imperfections."
With her skilful approach of controlling natural light to work in her favour and angles to create beautiful pictures, even the slightest imperfection is seen as a piece of art.
"Many times when people see their images, they are left in awe. I just let them know that the only thing I did was to take their picture. I didn't do anything to their skin and there was no filter. It is just their doing and energy."
Specialising in portraits and landscapes, Simon admits that there are certainly drawbacks to her reliance on natural lighting, but believes her years of experience have allowed her to turn her constraints into possibilities.
"The lighting can change within minutes, but what to do? I rely on composition and angles. While I have to contend with these issues, unlike other photographers, my job is much simpler and less costly. I don't have to hire a crew, purchase high-tech equipment and studio time, which all add to expenses."
Stepping away from the traditional way of printing pictures, Simon says other than printing on paper, her photographs are done on canvas and foam boards.
A well-thought-out business concept reflecting her strong belief in self-image and -love by accepting what is one's reality, Simon's interest in photography was indirectly influenced by her father.
"I remember when I was a child, my family took a trip to Paris, and he had a camera and he would show me how to use it and how to set up the tripod. He got me my first SLR camera," she recalled.
Always involved in the arts, Simon left Jamaica at a young age to live in Antigua, where she spent 15 years.
Returning to Jamaica to pursue studies in Pure and Applied Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI), she admitted that it took some time for her to adjust to the culture and geography of the island.
Returning to the land of her birth as the stereotypical 'girly girl' who sported high heels and makeup with processed hair, after readjusting to her new home, she became intrigued by the local culture, especially the Rastafarian culture. Calmness and natural living were the core elements of the faith which connected with her.
Months after returning home, she was converted into a 'natural sister'.
"My levity changed. I became a vegetarian in 2000 and have been now for eight years."
Making all these rapid changes to her lifestyle while studying paved the way for her finding herself. But that didn't seem to be enough.
"After my first year of doing chemistry and biochemistry, I switched majors because that was not working out. I remember getting a letter from UWI suggesting that I withdraw from my studies because of my grades. I was bored, and at that point my parents realised something was wrong."
Withdrawing was certainly not an option for her parents, and she was encouraged to seek advice from the university's career centre.
The session proved quite influential on Simon's pending decisions.
"Throughout university, I was already taking pictures and during the talk with the adviser, my concept of embracing neutrality was even more cemented. I was asked if I was using the school's resources, which were naturally available to me. Even though I was apprehensive and anxious about seeking counselling, I left there knowing I should always love what I do".
She later switched her undergraduate studies to behavioural sciences and went on to complete her master's degree in organisational psychology.
Her passion for photography flourished, but despite this, she looked for a traditional job. With two degrees and after sending out hundreds of résumés, the university graduate still could not find a job.
This was until she got a call and a job offer from an advertising firm.
"I finally got a job, and you know why my employer said I got the call? It wasn't because of my degrees, but my creative affiliations through photography and dancing."
Assuming her responsibilities, Simon started her journey into the work world. But over time the novelty of being gainfully employed faded. This impacted her performance, and she had to accept the penalty.
"I remember my boss met with me and said that I was not giving my all and spoke of my attitude and performance. I had to pack up my stuff and leave in the night. I remember it was raining and I was crying, wondering what I was going to do and tell my parents."
She continued, "But then, after composing myself because crying while driving couldn't work, I started reflecting. And one of the things I said to myself is that if you have this fear of stepping out and you don't, something will kick you out."
Certainly, that was the kick she needed. No sooner had she closed that chapter in her life, she created a portfolio for the push she needed to be recognised as a professional photographer.
Constantly adding to her portfolio and being involved in exhibitions, Simon is on the road of telling amazing stories through her work.
Many of her pieces are printed on foam boards with inspirational quotes coined by her or her subjects.
"Certainly for the smaller prints on foam boards, I decided to do those because I remember when I was at university and in my room when I wanted motivational and inspirational pictures to put on my wall, I could hardly find any, and if you did they were a bit on the expensive side. People just need a bit of inspiration at times, even if it means leaving it on your desk at work."
Although she has a preference for portraits, Simon also captures gorgeous nature pictures.
"I prefer taking persons; however, if I see a really nice nature shot, I will take advantage of that. I like to mix my landscape pictures though - capturing the persons in a particular setting to tell a story."
Outside of being contracted to take pictures by clients, copies of her photos can be purchased based on what is seen in her promotional work.
"I don't ever reproduce promotional work that has people's faces."
In the meantime, she enjoys her job thoroughly; capturing beauty without enhancements and showing persons that natural beauty can be as striking as one with artificial additions.
Sabriya Simon can be contacted at 369-2630.