Calgary-based artist and recent SAIT graduate Shaleen Ladha invites us into her show PPL: A Solo Photography Exhibit next Thursday, December 28 2017, from 7-10 pm at Five Art and Merchandise.

Part boutique clothing store, part art gallery in the East Village, Five Art will host the exhibit, which Shaleen describes as “showing her journey through 2017 with the people I’ve chosen to shoot along the way.” The focus of the exhibit is on very close up portraits of racially ambiguous people and diversity, with music provided by Suns of Boey – well known local DJs and brothers C-Sik and Fatrok. We caught up with Shaleen to find out what PPL has in store for us:

Freq: Shaleen, how exciting for you to be presenting your work at the year’s end. Can you tell me about this show and what your intentions for this particular body of work are?

SL: Thank you so much! I’m so excited! It starts with three people that I met in San Fran and then continues with shoots I’ve done in Calgary when I decided to start freelancing. I wanted to show some of my best work so I figured why not have a show to end off the year?

Freq: Whose faces are featured here? How do you choose and consider your subjects?

SL: There are 20 images featured – four of each of my models. To be honest, I look for interesting faces – that person with the beautiful freckles, or interesting hair, or marble like eyes, just something that stands out that you absolutely cannot ignore. Three of the people being featured are from (San Francisco Area) the Bay – I met them while I was down there through a girlfriend, one from Calgary who’s pretty much family and the last one is from Philly actually. He’s a homie that was in town for the Skratch Bastid BBQ this summer and I was lucky enough to shoot him while he was.

Freq: Can you give me a little background on the last year of your life and what has happened since you made the leap to freelance?

SL: Man, sometimes I think about the last year and cannot believe everything that happened even did. To make this short, I was finishing up photography school earlier this year and to graduate I had to do an internship with a photographer or agency of my choosing. I ended up getting an incredible opportunity with one of my favourite ones in The Bay. To be honest, I was pretty nervous I didn’t know anyone who lived down there, but it was also a chance of a lifetime. I’m super glad I took it because I ended up learning a lot from Chloe Aftel – who I was interning for and when I got back to Calgary I felt confident enough to quit my full-time job and freelance. It’s only been a couple months, but it’s been amazing, to say the least. I’m trying to just get my foot in every door and put myself out there. I’ve got to shoot some amazing concerts as well including the Daniel Caesar show that you guys sent me to for Live Nation last month. I took some pics of his opener Snoh Aalegra who happens to be someone I listen to frequently. She saw them online and ended up posting one and we’ve stayed in contact ever since and we’re trying to set up a shoot early next year! So I mean, that’s pretty exciting and a highlight for me. I really had three major goals this year – the first was to intern somewhere outside the country which happened in The Bay, the second to quit my job which I did in April and then to have a show by the end of the year so I have to say this year has been pretty damn good to me.


Freq: What do you typically like to shoot? What gives you inspiration for your photography?

SL: I typically like to shoot people, but I’m up for any challenge as well. I feel like my brain never turns off from searching for interesting faces.

As for inspiration, I look up to two photographers that consistently post things online that inspire me. One of them is Aviva Klein – she’s a photographer based in New York and she’s really damn good. She posted a pic of Beyonce the other day that she had taken 4 years ago and her caption read, ‘A lot of people ask me, how did you end up working with Beyoncé?! The story goes like this. I send out emails about once a month updating my former clients and people I hope to work with in the future, on what I’ve been up to creatively. I had Beyonce’s publicist on my list for years. One day she responded to one of those emails. The rest is history. Moral of the story, do you. You never know who’s watching.’ So just gems like that, those little stories that just change your mindset from time to time.

Calgary’s a great city, but for me, it’s also a comfortable city so I need those reminders to kick me back into gear. Ravie B’s work is also incredible and you can tell she’s always learning new tricks and keeping up with trends so that inspires me a ton. I also find inspiration in things besides photography. For example, I’m a huge Kobe Bryant fan and watching him put in so much work until his body literally couldn’t take it anymore is so damn inspiring to me. So I guess not necessarily looking at art itself always inspires me, but the people who create greatness do.

Freq: What do you look forward to in the future?

SL: Just like this year, I’m going to set three big goals for next year as well. I haven’t come up with all of them yet, but I do want to have a show outside of Calgary next year. I have a lot of family and friends in Toronto and would have the support to do it there so I’m thinking by the wintertime I want to make that happen. As for long term goals I just want to keep creating content I’m proud of and hopefully keep meeting new people that are willing to give me a chance.

Catch PPL: A Solo Photography Exhibit on Thursday, December 28th 2017, at Five Art and Merchandise at 609 Confluence Way SE from 7-10 pm


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