Essay 436 • Apr 13th 2020

I’ve felt stuck in a strange creative rut for a while now. I’ve been making work, and I like the work I’ve been making, but it often leaves me feeling dissatisfied, like I’m not growing and expanding as an artist. This shoot was simply about giving myself the permission to experiment and to play, a necessity in the creative process that I tend to overlook.

Danielle and I only had under an hour in a classroom with some seamless, and we went in with just a very basic preliminary sense of the creative direction. An artist herself, Danielle had created a gorgeous, almost fantastical wig, which was our only prop and, subsequently, the driving force of the shoot. I don’t have much experience in-studio — this was my first “real” studio shoot— but I was curious to see how I could experiment with portraiture within the inherent restrictions of a studio. How can I capture Danielle creatively in a variety of ways and make the photographs come to life through color? Through the use of space? Distortion and texture? Both the process and the result were gratifying and inspiring all at once, like a resurgence— comfortingly similar to the rush of excitement I experienced when I had first discovered photography.


Zayira Ray is an 19-year-old self-taught photographer based in New York City. Her work focuses on fashion and portrait photography with an objective to tell stories through photographs, seeking to push boundaries of the imagination, femininity, and beauty. Zayira has published several editorials and has been awarded for her photography at Scholastic, PDN, YoungArts, and the Dedalus Foundation.

Model: Danielle Mareka