INTERVIEW: Amaarah Samnakay

Yoshika sat down with Amaarah Samnakay, emerging photographer and first time participant for Mosaic Capture Day. Amaarah talks to Yoshika about the WA community, cultural identity and how these two intertwine.

Amaarah Samnakay. Photo credit: Yoshika Kon.

Amaarah Samnakay. Photo credit: Yoshika Kon.

You recently started Atria Photography, your own photography business. What do you love about photography?

I’ve always liked capturing moments for people ever since I was a late teen. What I like about photography is that when I have an idea, I like using creativity and the technical elements of my camera to create an image. I never see it as simply clicking down on the button. I also like doing things for people. People want me to capture memories and so even though the end product is important, the photoshoot experience is probably more vital. The more relaxed and fun the client is having, the better the photos come out and I enjoy that journey more.


With September being Mosaic Month, there’s a big sense of WA and the community in the Propel Office as well as the events we’re hosting. I know how much you love WA, do you get photography inspiration from your surroundings?

I get a lot of inspiration from a location. We’re really lucky in WA to have so many diverse and picturesque locations to choose from. For example, I recently did a shoot in Kings Park and spring has definitely sprung – all the native flowers are blooming! It adds the additional element of beauty and texture to a photo. There are endless options in WA. You also have to take advantage of the glorious Aussie weather – especially with golden hour, which is my favourite time to shoot. Outdoor photography is my go-to because of this.


You’ve mentioned before that you like taking photographs of people in the community like your friends, family and neighbours. Do you also do landscape photography or do you solely focus on portraiture?

I do take landscapes and that’s why I love travelling so much as I like to capture architecture, nature and a good sunset. Creativity is important though. If I don’t challenge myself to be creative, I know that the picture will be just a stock standard replica. So I have to do something special with it, whether it is waiting for the sky to change colour or using props or natural elements. 

Kalbarri National Park. Photo credit: Amaarah Samnakay.

Kalbarri National Park. Photo credit: Amaarah Samnakay.

You’ve never participated in Mosaic Capture Day before, so why have you decided to participate this year? What interests you about Mosaic?

There are two main reasons why I chose to sign up for Mosaic Capture Day. Firstly, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see other West Australian photographers’ work. It’s not every day that we get the same task like for Mosaic Capture Day. We all have the same assignment, so it’s going to be great to see how other people deliver the brief. These opportunities don’t come along often!

The second reason is that it’s based on WA. Like I said before, I love travelling, but we have such beautiful gems in our Aussie backyard. I went up north this year and it was stunning. The fact that Mosaic is centred around WA really attracted me to the event. 


We’ve had many varied submissions for Mosaic in the past years that range from a quick shot taken from a phone of someone’s breakfast to a detailed close up of a spider taken on a DSLR. What are your plans for Capture Day? Are you going to plan it out or do a candid shot?

I really enjoy experimenting with different photo techniques, editing techniques and different props, so I may do some experimenting to keep it interesting – no pressure now is there!

Mosaic is from the perspective of the people in WA and we’re hoping to get all sorts of perspectives from all sorts of people in different areas of WA and in different industries. What does WA mean to you?

To me, WA means opportunities. We live in such a safe and sunny place with friendly communities – the opportunities here are endless. I’ve travelled and I’m very fortunate to have seen quite a bit of the world, but I always miss home because of the lifestyle. Sometimes we don’t know how fortunate we are till we are away from home.

Amaarah Samnakay. Photo credit: Yoshika Kon.

Amaarah Samnakay. Photo credit: Yoshika Kon.

Moving on to cultural identity, you have a very mixed cultural identity, you’re born and bred in Perth, your family is in WA but you also have family all over the world like the UK, India, Africa and America. Speaking more on WA and cultural identity, how do these two intertwine for you?

WA is growing in diversity and there are so many opportunities to celebrate culture and explore one’s identity – I really enjoy participating in these opportunities when it arises. We say that Australia is multicultural which we are, however it is really important that we embrace culture to understand it and have fun celebrating it. Events that I like to go to are the Buddhist Festival, Navratri, Eid Festival, Holi etc. I have my own culture and identity so I like to celebrate it when the opportunity arises.


Cultural identity can mean really different things depending on the individual. For example, someone’s citizenship can equal cultural identity but sometimes it doesn’t. For those who are reading about you for the first time, can you describe your cultural identity?

I have always identified myself as being Australian. I was born and raised here but I do have a diverse cultural background. I often get the question though of “Where are you from?”, they ask because they’re curious. I answer and say I am from Australia, but usually they persist and ask “But where are you really from?”. I know the answer isn’t “I am from the northern suburbs!”. So I exchange my life story with them and tell them about how my parents immigrated here from Africa to start a family in a safe country that I am proud to call home.

You can follow Amaarah’s photography on Facebook or Instagram. Registrations are now open for Mosaic Capture Day Saturday 28 September. Propel is also hosting three photography workshops and a Creatives Picnic with young local creatives in Perth throughout September.