Meet a Minted Artist: Kamala Nahas

A series where we highlight a member of our Minted artist community. Featured this month: photographer Kamala Nahas, who lives with her family in lives in Camarillo, California.

Kamala Nahas has always loved snapping photos, but it wasn’t until a trip to Arizona’s Antelope Canyon in 2011 that something clicked. She came home inspired and enrolled in classes to hone her technique; two years later, Kamala started her own photography business. Here, the Southern California-based shutterbug shares a glimpse into her life, process, and inspiration.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
I’ve loved snapping pictures for as long as I can remember, but I never took it seriously. About four years ago we took a family road trip to Lake Powell in Page, Arizona. I had just gotten a new camera and literally ditched my family to go on a six-hour photography tour in Antelope Canyon. This was the first time I completely immersed myself into photography and was smitten with the whole process. Looking back, that was the beginning for me. For years I’d taken pictures at holiday gatherings, on vacations, and at my kids’ school events. Even though people told me I “had an eye,” I think part of me was afraid of making a serious try at something I’d never really been trained to do. Brooks Institute is close to my home and they offer workshops for budding photographers. It’s nothing like attending the school itself, but participating in a few of the workshops in the years that followed the Antelope Canyon shoot allowed me to gain some technical knowledge and see how I stacked up. About two years ago I started a small portrait and event photography business: Tall Poppy Photography. I love it. Even though it’s been so much fun capturing special moments and connections between people, my heart has always been in nature and landscape photography. Last year, I finally got the courage to submit some photos to Minted and explore the more creative side of my work. I feel fortunate to be a part of this community and can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Did you study photography formally in school?
Aside from six weeks of photography in community college and a workshop here and there, I’m self taught.

What are some of your own “rules” for living + working?
In all things:
Be Authentic
Stand Up For Yourself and Others
There’s Always More Than One Way
Take A Chance
Wing It
Get Lost, Get Messy, Sing Loudly, Dance

Please describe your last month in a word.

What are you serious about?
I’m super passionate about education and volunteer a good portion of my time in schools. I’m very serious about finding ways of reinventing our educational system to ensure our next generation is made up of thinkers, innovators, and makers with a global conscience. I’m also very serious about preparing grilled cheese sandwiches properly—crunchy on the outside, creamy in the middle, with a side of homemade tomato soup to dip the corners into.

What things will you never take seriously?
Road trips, chocolate, and mashed potatoes are all things that should never be taken seriously—even when they are bad, they are still good.

Please tell us about your family.
I’ve been married for twenty years to my first and only true love. We have three children. My oldest is my daughter Asha who is almost fifteen. She is my partner in crime and assists me in my business—I’m going to be pretty lost when she goes off to college in a couple years. My oldest son, Sassin, is twelve. He has a generous spirit and can generally be found playing soccer in real life or on the XBox. My youngest son is almost ten. His name is Samir and he is the character in the family. He is constantly building something or making something or experimenting with something or getting away with something. Our house is loud and messy, but we love each other a bunch and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Click through to read more from Minted artist Kamala Nahas

How did you first hear about Minted? And when did you join?
Somewhere around 2010, a friend sent a holiday card by Minted that I absolutely loved and I’ve been ordering our cards from Minted since then. It took me quite a few years to get up the courage to submit to a challenge. I downloaded three different Challenge submission kits before entering in the Domino x Minted Challenge last year (2014). I had two entries selected as editor’s picks and haven’t looked back.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Minted community?
Hands down, the best thing about Minted is the connection that is fostered between artists. One of the hardest parts about being self taught is not having a built-in network of other artists to bounce ideas of or critique my work. The artists here are so gracious and the comments I receive from this community are so important. I’ve grown so much artistically in this past year thanks to my involvement with the artists here and hope I’ve been able to return the favor a time or two.

What does Minted mean to you as a working artist?
I honestly don’t think I’d be doing fine art photography if it wasn’t for Minted. The constructive feedback is huge for me, it really forces me to continue to grow and push myself. Even the voting scores are helpful in analyzing trends and learning how to read a customer. The validation is invaluable. Knowing other artists appreciate and relate to my work gives me confidence and credibility as an artist. The exposure is pretty great, too-—I never would have had my photography shown to so many people without Minted. In fact, I doubt if I ever would have sold my non-portrait photography at all. Minted has given me a vehicle to share the most creative side of myself with the world—an extraordinary opportunity I am tremendously grateful for.

When did you begin taking photographs?
My mom used to let me use her Kodak 110 camera when I was seven or eight. I would use up a whole roll of film just taking picture of clouds. We didn’t have a ton of money, so I’d have to wait months for my mom to get the film developed. She always got it developed, though, and she never complained about having 24 photos of clouds.

If you could sit down with any artist past or present, who would it be and where?
I’d love to take a road trip through the entire Western US with Ansel Adams in that station wagon he had.

How has your work changed over time?
Over the past few years, my photography has become more technically sound. My style is becoming more refined and simple and I’m seem to be doing more abstract work. I’m still am all over the place in terms of the subjects I like to shoot. I think I just get bored from time to time and have to change things up a bit.

How do you approach your art?
Photography is one of the few things in my life that I don’t plan. On a good day, I’d pile the dogs and the kids in the car and we’d head out to a new trail. With my camera in hand, I’d get lost in whatever wildflowers are blooming and the light dapple through trees while everyone runs amok around me. Then we’d all pile back into the car with grass-stained jeans and sweaty heads. If it’s a super good day, I’d have time to pull up the photos up to see how much of the magic I caught. For me the fun is in letting life unfold and freezing the happy accidents and beautiful bits in time.

What are some of your favorite Minted pieces?
If you are asking about pieces from other artists:
• “Lush Composition” by Melanie Severin: I love how the pinks just dance in and out of a fairly neutral palette. The composition is so well balanced–it’s active enough to hold interest, but not so busy that it overwhelms.
• “Foggy Forest” by Jill Nobles/Smile Peace Love: This photograph caught my eye the first time I saw it. Jill really does such a good job of beautifully combining quality of light with color and composition. I love the vertical lines of the trees playing off the warm forest floor and the perfect amount of detail in the trees and leaves.
• “Under Water” by Chelsey Scott: I’m drawn in by the color and movement of this abstract watercolor. It’s peaceful without being boring.

If you are asking about my pieces:
• “Cannon Beach No. 2“: There is a great story behind this piece that involves driving two and a half hours out of our way, finding the Goonies house, and eating grocery store chinese food with chopsticks on a windy coastal road. Beyond that, it’s very difficult to capture an ocean sunset scene that isn’t cliche. I love the soft color palette reflected in the water and that single rock formation that draws the viewer into the scene.
• “Baisse Blanc“: This was one of those images I worked very hard on. It can be challenging to get an exposure on a wall that shows detail, but still reads as being white. I especially love the texture in this and the small pop of pale green in the corner.
• “Weathered Arch“: This self-launched piece came from the trip to Antelope Canyon. It is my favorite image from the trip and I think of it as the place where I took my first step toward becoming an artist.

Kamala Nahas Interview

Kamala’s Favorite Things
We asked Kamala to share her current favorite art, style, home décor inspirations.

Who inspires you: Sir Kenneth Robinson. He is an author, speaker, advisor and advocate for arts education.
Favorite place in the world: The Redwoods
Favorite charity: Mercy Corps
Favorite movie: A tie between Say Anything and Shawshank Redemption
Favorite colors: Plum, magenta, the shade of blue the sky turns at twilight, dove grey, and a super soft blush
Fashion idol: My 15 year old daughter—she has an amazing sense of style.
Favorite city: San Diego
Last stamp on your passport: British Virgin Islands
Song in your head: My 12-year-old son beatboxing.

Favorite pieces of art in your home: “Imagination Plane,” a duct tape and styrofoam sculpture by my 10-year-old.
Pets: Bad Kitty (loud and opinionated Siamese Cat), Hawkeye (Wonder Dog), Blue Jay (Great Dane)
Favorite flowers: Sweet Peas
Favorite neighborhood restaurant: Yolandas Mexican Cafe in Ventura County
Favorite drink: Hot Chocolate or Cadillac Margarita, depending on what kind of day I’m having.
Favorite dessert: There is no point in playing favorites when it comes to dessert.
Coffee-table book: National Geographic: The Photographs
Favorite snack: Snickers candy bar
What’s in your Netflix queue? Outlander, True Detective, The Knick

Favorite artist: Ansel Adams
Favorite works of art: Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry, Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Favorite camera: Olympus OMD E-M5. It’s super tough at the beach, lightweight, and the lenses are very reasonably priced for the quality photo it puts out.
Other photography-related favorites: Fuji Instax wide 300 Instant Film Camera (fun!), sling photo backpack, VSCO Cam app for iPhone, cheap Samyang 8mm circular fisheye lens for the Olympus OMD. My favorite lens is a not-so-cheap Zeiss 55mm/1.8 for my Sony a7r (makes you only want to ever buy Zeiss glass). I also shoot a Nikon D7000, but it’s on its last legs.

More from Kamala Nahas:
• Kamala’s Minted Store
• Tall Poppy Photography (her photography website)
• Kamala’s Instagram
Kamala’s Facebook 

Photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | 45 | 6 | 7
All other photos are courtesy of Kamala Nahas

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