Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well I’m 28 years young and I’m doing my best to find the fountain of youth, but so far I just keep drinking lots of water…LOL. I live in Dallas Texas, in the downtown area and love it. My husband and I are city people, it might take us a while to push out to the “burbs”. I hate the feeling of being far away from a busy city, I don’t know why and it’s funny cause as a kid I grew up in a rural area, out in the country. We only had 48 students in our high school graduating class…LOL. Now that’s small town love!
What made you get into photography?
I have been a photographer for about 7 years now…WOW that makes me feel old, LOL. I was 21 when I got my first job at a digital photography studio. I have loved photography though, since I was a kid. I remember I used to take so many pictures everywhere I went as a kid, and I would make huge words on my bedroom wall out of all the photos. I only had a little 35 mm point and shoot and wind it up again camera, not even the automatic winder! LOL…It was lime green! Now all I touch are digital cameras, I probably would be lost trying to use a film camera again, LOL…”What, I don’t get to see the image before it’s developed!”
I always loved being able to control things, and I think for me photography is just another way to do this because I am able to manipulate, style and set up a scene, photograph it, and then manipulate and control it even further through digital imaging. I see the final result of my images before I ever snap the first shot off. I just loveeeee creating something beautiful from what God has given us and using a talent he blessed me with to capture memories for people to save for their lifetime here on earth.
You worked as a paparazzi for some time do you still do that? What made you go in that direction?
I hate that name, Paparazzi! People have really made it into a sleazy desperate business. It’s so funny how I got wrapped up in that industry. I got started in portrait photography working for a digital photo franchise for almost 5 years. I worked my way up to management and traveled around the US running different studios, increasing profits for the ones I took over. I lived and worked in Oklahoma, Austin, San Antonio, Plano, New York, and Long Island, before finally coming back home to Dallas and starting my own photography business.
At first it was called Zanphotography, a name my best friend and I came up with while we lived in New York. I made a page on Myspace for my photography business and had my photos on there as well as photos of myself. One day I got a message from the Publicist for one of the most prominent and prestigious night clubs in Dallas, asking me if I wanted to shoot for them. I did a couple of “nightlife” test shoots at some other local hot spots to show them that I was experienced, and BAAM, I was their resident (full-time) photographer.
It was a tornado from there. I went to work at 11 PM and came home at 3 AM, 4 nights a week, and when I wasn’t shooting there, I was shooting at other night clubs, and parties. I became a publicity photographer, I was the one photographing all the shots that showed up in the “society” sections of the magazines, D Mag, Dallas Modern Luxury, Papercity, Victory Park Newsletter, Envy Mag…etc…I photographed so many people, Justin Timberlake, Timberland, Tommy Lee, DJ AM, DJ Skribble, Devon Aoki, Mini Me (Vern), Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Cowboys, Cheerleaders, Chris Rock, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, The cast of Prison Break, Kate Hudson…etc…
It was fun, exciting and glamorous. Also scary at times, basically I was constantly at a fancy party around drunk, high people all the time, and usually I was drunk with them…sadly. I was wrapped up in the lifestyle. Turning to God, and Islam, saved me from falling down a deep endless well called FAME. I was popular, vain, and snobby and I am so so thankful to God, that hopefully none of these words describe me now. I still get to work with celebrities and photograph glamorous events but now as a Muslim, those events are never in a night club, or “party” scene. Now I stick with photographing charity functions, political speaking events, auctions, and venue openings.
People often have a negative view of paparazzi because they appear to invade a person’s privacy. Are there different types? Do you get paid well or is it based on whether you get a picture that your source needs?
I was able to support myself off of my images, so it wasn’t too shabby of a pay, I probably would have made a lot more money if I would have tried to sell my images to more sources, but I was working with some pretty respectful publicists and I didn’t want to turn into one of those sleazy photographers who was just trying to make a buck off some celebrity spilling a drink on their shirt. I had respect for people, seeing how tired they were as stars, and how little privacy they had, I really didn’t feel like morally I could be another contributor to that. I kept my work legal. So I guess there are paparazzi who stick with their publicists, and those who are more freelance and just run around trying to steal a shot of something embarrassing and cash in on it. I was definitely a publicist paparazzi.
What type of photography are you passionate about (I noticed you have different style on your website).
Like I mentioned before, I really love to create something special and produce an image that expresses a strong emotion in the viewer. Photography is a gift from God that we can never take for granted, or take advantage of. I used to take a lot of revealing images of women, lots of my clients wanted this type of photography so they could show others their bodies in a sexy way. I think now that I was taking advantage of this gift from God and now I am passionate about photographing women in a graceful, beautiful way, not about sex or alluring, more about strength in their eyes, and warmth in their expressions, and they absolutely must wear full clothing! I want to convey a sense of admiration and respect for the images I create, and to display the beauty of our earth and the people on it. I hope to create a portfolio one day for Muslims, showing them in a new strong light, showing them in ways people never imagined them, this is the power of this gift from God. Photography is the ability to create something completely different from what you see in front of you.
Is it hard to get into photography and make a career out of it?
You know…I meet a lot of people and lots of people will always say, “I always wanted to be a photographer, or I know someone who is majoring in photography”. Basically the type of photography that I do is not something you can go to school to learn. It’s not easy to get involved in either, the competition is sooo tough. It’s hard now days to find an edge too that separates you from the rest. Photography is great as a hobby, this is the best way to start. I don’t recommend that anyone major in photography. There is no way that majoring in photography is the best use of your college education. I think if you know you have the talent that it takes for this industry, then major in Business Management, or Journalism. Major in something that you can take with you for the rest of your life, if for some reason you are not able to be a professional photographer, or maybe you decide your tired of it, (I get tired of it all the time, LOL) then you will be thanking God that you have that Business degree, or Journalism degree, it will open so many more doors for you. Photography is a skill given by God, and not everyone can do it. Loving to take photos, and having people willing to pay you money to capture the most important memories in their lives is completely different. There are sooo many photographers in the city I live in who are much better than I am, so I feel lucky everyday for the business that I have and to be able to do something that I love on a regular basis. In the end though, it’s still a job and things are much more fun when you just do them for fun, instead of to pay the bills.
Is it hard to be a Muslim woman and a professional photographer?
Well, there are certain jobs that would be more difficult for someone in my industry to get while wearing hijab. Sometimes people do not want a Muslim\Covered girl to be the photographer at their Christian wedding, or at thier high society event. So far I have never been turned down, (Thanks to God!) but I am also working off of an already developed reputation and strong celebrity portfolio. Sometimes I hear some Muslim women saying that Photography is Haram. I think they are thinking of mention in the Quran about creating images of idols, and worshipping them and that is Haram. I don’t see a photo of your newborn daughter, or your son getting married as being something against God, and as long as your not worshipping those photos, your OK! At first, when I converted to Islam, it took me a while to build a new portfolio. I became ashamed of all the images I had taken of people doing Haram things, or scantilly clad women, so I got rid of them and decided that I would not be a photographer if I couldn’t stand for something cleaner and more proud. Eventually though I was able to build a cleaner more Muslim friendly representation of my work. I would say that the closer I get to Islam, the easier it becomes to be a Muslim\Photographer.
How can hijabis make themselves more camera friendly? What I mean by this is how can a hijabi take a nice picture that looks glamorous without having to spend a lot of money. And do you think there are hijab styles that are better suited to be capture on camera than others?
I have some great advice for all you beautiful Muslimahs! Stay away from the fluorescent lights! The worst thing we can wear as Hijabis, especially in a photo is things like too many bright colors. Keep it down ladies! Not too loud…lol. Sometimes I see ladies wearing hot pink and lime green hijab, and sparkly tops, with lots of bangles and accessories galore. It’s like they are trying to make up for the fact that they can’t show their hair anymore by covering up in tons of makeup and too many different things going on with their outfit. If you have a pretty loud top, balance it out ladies, with a solid loose pant or skirt, and make your hijab white, or black, or neutral. Don’t do loud, on top of loud, with a loud hijab. I think if you wear something that is as smooth and simple as you can handle, and makes you feel so confident that you walk out with your lovely covered heads held high for the sake of Allah, then you will look amazing in a photo! Smile big, keep your eyes open wide, and stay away from loud screaming headscarves! I’ve noticed that on darker skinned beauties, a cream, beige or pastel scarf really makes their skin beautiful and creamy! Steer clear of bright colors like yellow, red, and bright green or black if you have darker skin. I love shooting beautiful dark skin! On us fair skinned girls, (I refer to myself as pale, LOL), royal blue, deep purple, and black look beautiful in photos. We should avoid whites, beige, and orange\yellow shades as they wash your skin tone out when flashes go off. Try to have your photos taken outdoors as often as possible to give yourself warmer skin tones from the sunlight. If you have a scarf with a really cool pattern, sometimes it looks best to keep the top solid. Study a little about colors, pink hijab with pink shoes with pink top is not the only options ladies! In the end, the most important thing is that you look and feel as modest on the outside, as Inshallah you are on the inside. I always feel it’s important that the way I dress and look in a photo is the best representation of what kind of Muslim woman I want people to view me as.
Want to check out more photos by Nicole Queen? Head to her website www.queensimage.com
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Note: All photographs provided to Hijabtrendz by Nicole Queen and are copyright protected. Please do not republish or use without written permission from the photographer.