For Nina Manandhar photography is about entering someone else’s world. Obsessed with documenting her surroundings, this month Manandhar is launching her first photobook 'Money on my oyster', a compilation of images that archive her travels around the borough and many worlds of Hackney. Nina recounts her own experience through the camera lens, with a mixture of portraiture with an affectionate nod at street life, the real life, for kids up and down London's east, from smoking shisha at Wembley to drinking champagne at a Sweet 16 party. Dazed spoke to Nina Manandhar ahead of her forthcoming exhibition, and above she's shared some of her pictures exclusively.
Where does the title for this project come from?
‘Money on my Oyster’ – it’s that grime song from about four years ago. Basically it’s the idea that with money on your Oyster you can do a lot, you don’t need to be in some tropical place to get really interesting photos. I just walk around more when I’m doing errands and stuff and that’s when I get my best shots, when I’m just travelling around London.
And what is it about documentary photography that you find more interesting than something staged?
I really enjoy that experience of being in other people’s worlds, immersing myself in other people’s environments. It’s almost like becoming invisible. I find it quite nice that I’ve been able to meet strangers and document their lives. You see things that you wouldn’t necessarily see and that life is almost stranger than fiction.
You mainly work with film photography but you also work with your iphone, what is it about that which interests you, is it the same thing about getting involved in people’s worlds, obviously everybody has a phone?
You can literally get right up to someone’s face with an iPhone, like now (laughs). People feel more comfortable with an iPhone, rather than if you put a big camera in someone’s face and I’ve got my iPhone with me all the time.
Do you not have your film camera with you all the time?
I’d say I have my film camera with me 50% of the time, I have a little Leica. But it got broken recently and I haven’t fixed it, so I’ve been my iPhone with me. I feel a lot more comfortable and you can get really good quality on the iPhone.
Your work is mainly a product of approaching people on the street and asking them if you can take their photograph, do you need a lot of confidence to be a photographer?
In a weird kind of way I don’t find it that nerve-racking. It’s not that I’m super confident but in a way doing that gives me confidence to approach someone and hope they’ll say ‘yes’. I really enjoy that moment of engaging with somebody else. I’m not really one of those photographers who stand around with a long lens and shoot someone from a long distance. I like to really engage with that person and often when I’ve shot someone on the street I’ll end up going and shooting them somewhere else and finding a little bit more about that person.
Has anyone ever been really rude? What’s the worst thing someone’s said to you?
Oh, people can be like ‘give me that camera, give me that film, take that camera, take that picture of me away.’ It’s usually like the kind of mental people who’ll say that if I take a picture without asking, which I do sometimes as well.