Evaan Kheraj is a New York based photographer who grew up on the West Coast of Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia. He grew up taking road trips with his mother and father, and along with them always came the old family Nikon 35mm camera. His parents both loved taking photographs, so he aspired to be like them. At about the age of 13, he received his first camera and began shooting, not knowing at all if he was good at it, but was confident enough in the love he had for the medium.
It was on a backpacking trip to Europe for 3 months during college that changed the course of his life, career wise. He went to Europe as a Political Science student with 20 rolls of film, and came back to the states 90 days later with 80 rolls of film and a new college major. Enrolling in a specialized media program that touched on audio editing, graphic design, photography, etc. Evaan sought out to be more well rounded in media in general. Upon graduating from the program, he worked for awhile as an audio editor for the television show King of the Hill, and then as a graphic designer for a national bakery company. Directing their campaigns and shooting a plethora of food imagery for them, it was here that his world shifted back to photography for good.
In the beginning, Evaan focused a lot on travel photography— attracted to the beauty of place— and portraits of people. He had met a fashion editor in Vancouver— who would later end up his wife— who told him to combine the way he took photographs of people with the way he photographed places, and that would become fashion. He shot fashion for close to 7 years in Canada, and still occasionally does. Fashion was foreign to him when he first started in his early 20s, but he was very interested in the visual aspect of it. The clothes were amazing and looked spectacular in photographs, so for him it was always less about how competitive the clothing market is and more about the fact that he had access to designer clothes. Though upon moving to New York City from Canada, he noticed a shift in the fashion industry. It became more about selling the clothes and less about it being an interesting photograph, more practical, less weird. The competition in NYC, as many know, is stiff, and everyone Evaan looked up to was there and working for the big names like Vogue and Elle, which were pipe dreams for him to crack into. And as time carried on, he found there being less to chat about on set with fashion models, as their age stayed the same as he grew older.
Around this time he shifted his focus back to doing more portraiture work, allowing him to work with fascinating people and learning what they have dedicated their lives towards. This aspect of portraiture captivated him, and lucky for him, being in New York City is the perfect place to create such work. Fascinated by the world, but self proclaimed terrible with words, photography is how Evaan is able to communicate with the world.
Being a fashion photographer first before jumping into his documentary portraiture work helped him see “normal” people’s lives in a more glamorous light. He took his cinematic-style approach to shooting fashion and applied it to his portraiture. One major difference Evaan finds between shooting the two is that fashion isn’t a literal narrative, but more about a specific visual— like a story on stripes, or color blocking— but a documentary portrait is a narrative of what these people are doing. Being able to identify these visual themes so well allowed him to do the same with themes in documentary. And while he doesn’t necessarily have complete control over the environment in a documentary setting, he looks for spots in the given environment that will help him tell a thematic story along with a narrative story.
Some of his documentary work reflects his ongoing love affair with NYC. Growing up on the West Coast of Canada, he never had access to the kind of urban experience that NYC affords people. Street basketball, street fashion, and the hustle and bustle that i New York fascinates him. As a kid, many shows he’d watch took place in the city, the city itself leaving an imprint on his brain. Though he never grew up in New York, he feels most at home here because of how sealed into pop culture the city is. He has been trying to document different neighborhoods in the city by an approach he calls “the trap”, where he plants himself in an area that has really night light, and the activity he imagines he would like to see, and allows for life to pass by him and his camera. He is not trying to hide per say, but also isn’t right up in his subject’s faces, instead using a respectful approach around people and trying to capture the natural environment as much as possible. Being able to document it now, Evaan feels like he’s traveling to all these areas he remembers as child. He gets to experience the city right in front of him, the photographs documenting what he’s always wanted to be a part of. Taking a photograph is a way of not letting it slip out of his mind.
Whatever work he does, the goal is always being able to communicate his thoughts and share what he sees with the masses. Photography just so happens to be the way he is able to get those messages out to the world. The work that photographers do is a team effort. Evaan finds one needs to be able to work as a team, not just in ones job but also in life. He feels if he can do that, he will create his best work.