Based in Los Angeles, California, Farhad Samari is a prolific photographer with deep experience in a wide range of spaces and industries. Though he is not dedicated to one specific niche, he has always held a special affinity with denim and worked alongside some of today’s most revered denim brands and industry folks; including Cone Mills, The Flat Head, and Roy Jeans.
As we only scratched the surface of his work in our previous article, “11 Denim Heads To Follow On Instagram“, we highly recommend you visit his newly re-designed website and online portfolio. However, to gain an even better understanding of the man behind the lens, we feature a special interview with Samari by Paul Trynka, author of “Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks“.
PT: Tell me about how you got into photography?
FS: When I was studying graphic design I took a Photoshop class and a photo class. I was exposed to the work of Bailey and Avedon – and a lightbulb went on. I was searching for a creative field, was wondering whether it would be architecture or design, and was talking to a Polish friend who directs plays and he told me: stick to one thing. Everything else, you can channel into that one thing. And photography turned out to be that one thing. All my other loves, all my creative interests, they’re channeled into that one thing, photography.
PT: I know your work mainly from the denim scene, you’ve shot a lot of denim-related stories, how did that happen?
FS: I’ve worn jeans since a little kid, always been a jeans and T-shirt kinda guy, I’m interested in character and timelessness – and I’m interested in how things change and fade over time.
PT: The campaign you shot for Flat Head has a very specific look, a very exacting take on an aspect of Americana. How did you come to work for them, and was that specific aesthetic hard to capture?
FS: I was shooting a feature on Flat Head for Inventory Magazine, I just worked my butt off and the owner noticed, and asked me to do it. Everything I’ve ended up doing has been a work of passion, working hard and making it come to fruition. The shoot came naturally, somehow, because I relate to it, that quality – and the timelessness.
PT: I’ve seen a lot of your photos, and even the ones you shoot on an iPhone are distinctive, recognizably yours.
FS: Well, thank you, that’s what I want to achieve, that sense of style. I don’t want to go back in five years and the photos look gimmicky. I learned on film, old school, and even though I shoot digitally because it’s more practical, I try and make it look like film because it’s timeless. And as my career’s gone on, I’ve become more focused on story-telling than simply capturing images. I feel that’s the work that most people relate to.
PT: Tell me a little bit about your approach.
FS: I like to use mainly natural light and I like to keep it really mellow on the set. I almost always approach whoever I’m shooting without a camera in my hand and strike up a conversation. It breaks the ice and makes them feel more comfortable. I also like the in-between moments and the unexpected. I give minimal direction. I try to observe the person’s natural movements.
PT: Who are some of your major recent clients and shoots?
FS: Inventory, Flathead, Nissan, Mens File, Nylon Magazine, Panerai, Lyft. And of course you and I did that recent story together on the Cone White Oak Denim Mill, which is in the current edition of Inventory, which was a great one to do – it’s such a historic place.
PT: You come from Iran originally, did you grow up in L.A.?
FS: I grew up in Southern California. I was lucky. It’s really beautiful, growing up here, you’re exposed to so many things and a diverse group of people. The weather is nice, it’s easy to be inspired. And I was also lucky because my school, Orange Coast College, had some amazing teachers. My fashion photography teacher was the studio manager for Richard Avedon and another worked with Ansel Adams, so I got a really good education. Then I learned a lot assisting.
PT: What are you working on right now?
FS: I’m working on a project documenting heritage companies here in the US. As a matter of fact, I just got back from Portland and Seattle where I photographed Pendleton Woolen Mills, Filson, Danner Boots and Tanner Goods to name a few.
I also just launched my new website, as well as finishing up a denim specific promo piece – and I’m working on a book on denim.
PT: What drives you, when you get up each morning and head for a shoot?
FS: Pushing myself to take better pictures, pushing myself to be a better story teller, to connect with people. Pushing myself to work with exciting brands, to collaborate and create strong imagery. I love people, collaborating with them – and when I create, I feel alive.