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Richie Shazam’s Book of Self Portraits

For Richie Shazam, becoming a Bollywood princess was not a revelation. It was a feeling.

The model, photographer and director believes the term “expression” has become a buzzword that removes accountability, she explained between puffs of her turquoise vape at Ludlow House, a social club on the Lower East Side. .

“You can say, ‘I’ve spoken something into existence,'” he said, “but what are you actually doing to realize it?”

When she was growing up, she would watch Bollywood movies for hours in her bedroom in the Jamaican section of Queens, marveling at the actresses. Kajol. “Seeing that rich brown skin and looking at beautiful Bollywood icons gave me the opportunity to really create an identity behind closed doors,” she recalled herself saying, “‘One day I’m going to be this person.’ .'”

On Friday, she will release “Shazam,” a book of 190 self-portraits based on the film. In one set of portraits, she is the Bollywood royalty she dreamed of becoming: draped in an orange sari, intricate gold South Asian jewelry and a custom orange wig designed by a stylist. Jimmy Paul.

There was talk of publishing a photo diary for The year, but it wasn’t until November that he started putting it together. The images seen in the book are the culmination of 50 shoots she planned over six months, among other projects, including runway shows.

Almost all of the photographs were taken in his studio on the Bowery. He invited friends and longtime colleagues to every shoot. Shazam, 32, wears many different hats, including creative director and photographer.

In a day, she would shoot four or five looks.

“My recipe is creating a world that looks very otherworldly, but making it within a confined space,” Shazam said. Brianna Andalor, who styled the self-portraits in the book, used fabric scraps and assembled them onto Shazam’s body, experimenting with layout and silhouettes. Shazam said it was about taking risks.

She shares the studio with her “family crew”, including her best friend Ms. Andalur and Julia Fox.

Shazam and Ms Fox met when they were about 15 at a party. “Our eyes were locked, and we had this instant bond,” Shazam recalled. The two tore up the New York City nightlife scene together as teenagers. When Shazam was not welcomed into her home, Ms. Fox let him stay at her place.

Shazam asked Ms. Fox, who appears in some of the portraits, to write the foreword. In it, Ms. Fox writes that Shazam used to carry a digital camera on her nightlife adventures. The next day, their friend group will wait to post the photos on Facebook.

“I was always obsessed with capturing the moment because we were lighting up, and that camera roll was really night,” Shazam said. “Like, what happened?”

She said she never saw photography and “making people feel sexy” as a viable career because of her childhood academic focus. He attended Brooklyn Friends Preschool and then Trinity College in Connecticut. He said he was grateful for his educational background, as it allowed him to “think a lot.” But it was her chosen family, like Ms. Fox, who pushed her to nurture her vision.

She was born Richie Shazam Khan to Guyanese immigrant parents. Her mother died when she was in high school, and her relationship with her father soured as she exercised her queer identity. He eventually found safe places with his friends in downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan.

His father worked seven days a week, and his mother was blind for a few years before she died. Shazam used to tell vivid stories to his mother. “I’ve always been a storyteller,” she said. “He had to live vicariously through me and in my pictures. There’s a part of me that’s making him look up.

She said the portrait was only lightly retouched, as she wanted to show her skin in its true form. “It was about creating compositions that were raw but still looked at the fantasy of makeup,” she said.

She said the book is for her community, and she hopes it will inspire people to express themselves authentically through her trans joy. But most of all, the book is for himself, he said. He doesn’t care how people see him now. Instead, he has tapped into natural fears and anxieties about how he is perceived. “In every picture, you see that I’m completely in charge,” she said. “It’s about being who I am and having fun.”

Given Shazam’s love of the city, it’s fitting that the book’s final portrait tells the story of New York. In it, she is dressed as a giant sage with bright green hair, reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty, and stands next to a garbage dump. As Shazam said: “We make the world we want to live in.”

“He’s New York City crunching and stomping on the sidewalk with his heels,” she said, adding, “I own it. I’m really trying to prove that I’m a New York legend.”



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