Born, raised and based in East Vancouver, 19-year-old photographer Simone Chnarakis has taken over Vancouver's scene as a resident nightlife photographer. Through capturing Black and Queer joy, Simone's work has helped immortalize and document Vancouver's budding club scene for the global stage. From the club to the studio, her flashy, fisheye, and saturated style pays homage to punchy and playful aesthetics of the early 2000's.
When did you first pick up a camera?
The first camera I ever actually bought for my photography was a cheap point and shoot film camera off of Depop for about $25 maybe? It would have been around may or so. But throughout my life I’ve always enjoyed taking photos of whatever. Nothing in particular necessarily, just whatever looked right in my eyes, and felt needed to be documented with a phone.
What references inspire your photography style and aesthetic?
This is probably one of the hardest questions to answer for myself, only cause so many things can inspire me for different reasons. I think lately, in terms of studio work, I’m really into clean editorials, beauty, and high fashion. I really enjoy creative and conceptual work as well but i find myself typically shooting more fashion and beauty based shots. Shooting outside of the studio can get a little more creative, I’ll typically pull out my bright flash, and my wide angle to create that look (I think) I’m known for.
How did you get into club photography, and what challenges do you face, compared to studio work?
The way I actually got into shooting club photography was simply being asked by one of the creators of “Made by we”, Vanessa, if I’d be interested in shooting their first ever event back in April of last year. I really have so much appreciation for everyone at MBW, cause my life would be so different if I didn’t shoot that event. I really do believe that. It would’ve been a bunch of firsts for me that night actually. First time meeting a community, that i would consider a second home, first time ever being in a real party, and most importantly my first time ever shooting an underground event. I remember being so nervous because of all of those things, I knew I didn’t ~really~ have the equipment to take me to the shots I’m producing currently, and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever shoot an event after that one, cause I felt like the shots sucked! It wasn’t until a few months later, that I wanted to actually go to this party my friend was interested in as well, where I offered the organizer a photographer (me) In exchange for entry for us both. I finally had the proper lens, and flash that would birth the look I have now. That’s the event that got me back into doing it, and it was the people online that reassured me that I should be doing this. Thank you to those people.
Who would be your dream team to work with?
I think my dream team would just be an entire team consisting of black, queer women and femmes honestly. I think that would just be very full circle for me, and would also just be so empowering to everyone involved I can imagine.
How has growing up in vancouver influenced you as a creative?
I think growing up in East Vancouver has kinda taught me how the industry can be, on a bit of a smaller scale. It’s taught me to be independent, it’s taught me to stand up for myself, to pick and choose my battles, it’s taught me to have a thicker skin (still working on it), and it’s taught me that sometimes people genuinely want to be your friend, or use you for what you have. But it’s also taught me what community can look like. I think as a general community of creatives, we still have a TON of work to do, 100%. With that being said however, I do feel like I’ve been lucky enough to find people that genuinely want me to win, and vice versa, which I think is so important to have at least one other person in the game, rooting for you, at least for me.
What is your typical creative process for creating a shoot?
When it comes to conducting or bringing a shoot together…that’s hard. I always give my props to anyone who considers themselves a creative director. To achieve a successful shoot, with a mood board and a team, I find so daunting at some points honestly. I’ve jokingly sometimes called myself a computer in the way that, if you just tell me what you want me to do for you, I can do it, in one way or another. But actually coming up with something from scratch, for the amount of people I have worked with, is extremely daunting. I have done it notably for my BHM projects I’ve done every year. This years for example, I had a list of black creatives that interested me in Vancouver, that I wanted to highlight, I had to narrow down the list, and contact them all with what my goal for the shoot was, once I got the “Yes”, is when I would construct mood boards for each person involved and would run it by each model to make sure they resonated with it. Then you need to build a “team” which was a MUA, and in this specific case, I was lucky enough to have models who were able to style themselves. All that’s left then is to shoot it! Which was really the easiest part I think.