Before taking pictures to fill our Instagram profiles, people would take pictures to remember, to hold a memory still and have something you could look back to in order to re-live it in a nostalgic kind of way.
Ironically enough, we came across Zayira Ray through Instagram, a young photographer based from NYC. When you look at her pictures you feel a sense of passion, femininity, boldness. Her images are the covers for books of the people in them, the stories we have yet to read. We enjoyed looking through the pictures that she was able to capture with Spirit Jerseys.
Are you critical of your own work?
I tend to be incredibly critical of my own work, which ultimately has the most influence on my progress as an artist. Criticism either discourages me and makes me lose motivation, or pushes me to create better work and to be more innovative. Fortunately, the latter has become more frequent, and I find that it’s always important to take a step back and realize that I have so much time ahead of me to explore and make the most out of photography. Mistakes and downfalls in art are inevitable!
What is a quality you appreciate in other people?
Kindness and sincerity. I always appreciate someone who is down to earth and curious about others’ stories and experiences. I really believe that being a genuinely nice person is one of the best and easiest things you can do for both yourself and others.
When do you feel your best?
I definitely feel my best when I’m productive. The days when I’m out all day with back to back shoots are my absolute favorite ones. Although I love relaxing days with hours and hours of Netflix and an abundance of unhealthy food; I’m my best self when I’m working hard and making the most out of my time.
You are only 17, but with amazing talent, how do you see yourself in the future?
Right now, as a junior in high school, I’m at a crossroads in terms of choosing my direction for college, but I’m leaning toward studying photography at an art school. I plan on working hard every day, exploring the extents of my imagination, and experimenting with much larger projects. Ultimately, I think I want to become a full-time fashion photographer, but it’s pretty difficult to make that decision at the age of 17.
What do you love about NYC the most?
I love the feeling of adventure and exploration that lives in the streets of NYC. I absolutely love riding the subway for hours and shooting large projects in different boroughs and settings that can only be found in New York. The diversity is truly incredible; there are so many different worlds and stories in one single city!
Have your parents influenced you artistically?
Definitely! My dad, although an economist and a professor, has been collecting art and has educated me about art since I was a child. I grew up drawing and painting, eventually leading me to attend a specialized art school. My mom is a documentary film-maker, and although my interest in photography did not spark until much later in my life, I think that her passion for film has created a greater understanding and interest in my photography, which is something that has always been incredibly encouraging for me.
When did you realize you were interested in photography?
When I was 14, I started to take photos with my iPhone of architecture and random details I saw during my travels. Eventually, an interest in street photography grew, and I would go out all the time to take photos of different places in NYC with my phone. The passion grew really, really quickly. A few months later, I bought my first DSLR camera and experimented with portraiture, with I eventually found was my niche!
Do you ever feel awkward to take pictures of strangers? How do you get past that?
Before I started photography, I was much more introverted. Photography pretty much subconsciously pushed me out of that shell; I found myself meeting new people all the time, other photographers or even new people at school whom I wanted to photograph. When I became more serious about my work, almost everyone I worked with was a complete stranger to me- I was primarily meeting people through social media for either personal work or paid work. It’s never really awkward, honestly, it’s become exciting for me to meet new people and learn about their stories and passions, and it’s one of my favorite things in what I do.
Jerseys featured can be found here: