Sena Danquah continues to inspire and amaze with her own unique take on family and lifestyle photography. She is not only a good photographer, she is also a woman who is making it in a milieu that appears to be hostile and especially dominated by males. We asked Sena to talk about her work and her thoughts on women in photography.
VL: Tell us about yourself?
Sena: I was born and raised in Ghana. Attended Holy Child High School in Cape Coast, Ghana where I studied visual arts and then obtained my Degree in Graphic Design at KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana. I went on to pursue (and obtain) my Masters in Digital Effects at Bournemouth University, Britain, which was the game changer, challenging sometimes but put me on the right path to who I am today. I am employed as a graphic designer and am currently enrolled in a certificate course for photography at the New York Institute of Photography. Photography by SENA is my business. I live in New York, am married to my college sweetheart and we have a beautiful daughter.
VL: What or who got you started in photography?
Sena: My family are my influence. When it came to the arts I always looked up to my older cousins whom all have careers based in the arts. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders when they realized I was enthralled with the arts at a very young age. Robert Munroe of munroephotography.com encouraged me to take a look at photography when I started working at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn (NY). I am self-taught for the most part along with the help of committed mentoring from Robert. He was always willing to answer any stupid questions I threw at him because I was very much interested in photography as a career. Second- shooting with him from time to time encouraged me to take photography seriously as a business.
VL: When did you pick up your first camera? And did it quickly become a serious vocation for you?
Sena: My first camera was given to me by my Dad when I was in college – a Viogtlander Vito BL in 2002. I only used it for one of my core subjects and never took that photography class serious. My first professional camera was a Canon 7D and lens 50mm 1.4 in 2011. It did take a while getting used to. By the following year I was confident to use these tools to start a business.
VL: What does sexism look like in photography today?
Sena: I would say sexism goes both ways. Most female photographers have and manage their own businesses, but to talk about working as a photographer for bigger industries, ie: beauty/cosmetics Companies, retail apparel, auto industry, architectural/interior design and the likes…MOST of those gigs are shot by male photographers. There are few female photographers in said industries making a huge impact though. It will be more inspiring and encouraging if more women are given the opportunity. On the other hand, male photographers are not considered as much for newborn or child photographer jobs. In our mind it is better for a woman to do that…Why? Because we are nurturing & patient, capture emotions and worry less about the technical stuff and some (female photographers) have kids of their own so clients feel comfortable with a female photographer.
VL: As a female photographer in NYC, what are the greatest challenges you face?
Sena: As a family and lifestyle photographer who shoots in clients home, space and good natural light have been the challenges for the most part, so when the weather is nice we utilize the outdoors as well during sessions…but when it’s a newborn you just have to make do with what you have in that space and get creative.
NY is very populated, so choosing a location for family and lifestyle session has been tricky as well, you just have to determine the right time of the day and be familiar with the hidden corners and parks with less human traffic for sessions
VL: How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera onto the film, chip or paper in just the way you want?
Sena: In addition to basic photography rules… I love candid shots as they appear natural and interesting to the eye. I usually ask my clients to be themselves, have fun and forget that I am with them to capture their emotions and reactions. Sometimes (but hardly), I will pose them to get a particular shot. I use to envision what to shoot before I get to the client, but I have come to realize it doesn’t always work out the way you want, so you just go with the flow with your clients, location and items available. I sometimes digitally compose or edit images especially when I want a particular feel or set up that I cannot achieve on location.
VL: What motivates you to take pictures, economically, intellectually or emotionally?
Sena: Passion is what drives me. To see the joy my clients express when they see their pictures is something I value, at least I know I am doing something right with them emotionally. Because my kind of clients trust me and pay to record their instances or ‘gone-forever’ moments, I love to provide them with consistent and beautiful professional photographs serving as valuable heirlooms for generations to come.
VL: You focus on family and lifestyle events… What do you seek to expose?
Sena: My goal is to capture raw unfiltered emotions, instances that they don’t take seriously or take for granted… like kids misbehaving during a session and giving their parents a hard time, running around the house while prepping for a session… etc, yet when the images are presented to them, it brings back the memory in a pleasant way. When I had my daughter I use to/still say that I don’t remember when she was a baby or I make reference to other babies “I can’t believe my daughter was this tiny,” but when I find photos of her I look in awe and feel so glad that I did preserve those memories…in a professional way.
VL: What unique perspectives in your opinion do women bring to photography?
Sena: Because we live in an emotional bubble and have that “special intuition” bestowed onto us, natural creatives as we’ve been made, we are able to think ahead before situations arise. I believe we connect more easily with our clients knowing exactly what they feel and what they want to see in their images. .
VL: What is your greatest tip/advice for young women aspiring to be in your profession?
Sena: If you intend to go into this profession because you want to make money only, then you should not pursue it at all.
You should be able to love and have a passion for it so you don’t get bored and broke at the same time. Photography is an investment and as you grow you will make bigger investments. You can never stop learning in this industry, it is not a competition… it’s all about learning and sharing and through that, you will develop your own creative skills and style. Get educated as you go along…YouTube is your free university if you cannot afford a course or workshops to start with. Stay focused and always stand out of the ordinary.