Getting To Know: Nadeena Seodarsan of Art & Anthem

MaggieGentry interviews Nadeena Seodarsan, the exquisite brand & lifestyle photographer from Art & Anthem, in her latest edition of the Getting To Know series.

Nadeena is one of those creative souls that I feel so lucky to have connected with over on Instagram. She is a Brand + Product Photographer for creative small businesses who share that same love of true connection with their audiences, and she tells their stories through impeccably meaningful images. There is a depth to her imagery that makes me feel like she's letting us peek into her soul, and it was that intention, that raw, passionate soul that made me sit up and take notice of Nadeena. 

Whenever I'm needing a shot of honest life advice followed by a chaser of warm & loving encouragement, I go to Nadeena. She has a way of seeing the world with it's endless possibilities and knows how to pull out your truest desires and then helps hold you accountable. 

She's living my dream life in Queens, NY, and it's so fun following along as she shares her creative pursuits, artistic process, and life musings. Read on to see what I mean, and go give her a follow. If you're needing a visual strategy that feels so perfectly and uniquely you—Nadeena's your gal. 


Let’s dive right in! Tell us about your background and how Art & Anthem came into being.

I initially wanted to focus on portrait photography but looking back that’s just the catalyst that set me off on the right path and direction. After treating photography like a hobby, I had decided I wanted to earnestly go after it and knew that in order to do that I had to figure out my branding.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew nothing of the creative world, branding or figuring out My Why. For anyone that has gone through this process, you know how deep you have to dig to make sure you’re creating something that resonates with your values and also serves your target market. I did a deep dive and came out on the other end knowing I wanted to serve small business owners specifically. I’m grateful for the time that I had spent on portraiture however, because it introduced me to lifestyle photography which is what I focus on when it comes to the brands I work with—whether it’s shooting the person behind the brand, a specific product, or understanding the lifestyle of the target market I’m creating for.

What aspect of your work is the most life-giving for you?

I don’t know if I can just pick one, and honestly it’ll probably just sound cliche, but I’ll give it a go. The most life-giving thing for me in this aspect of my life would be knowing that I hit the mark with the work that I created. That it resonated with who it was supposed, that I was able to take someone’s ideas and words and create these beautiful photographs that they only ever imagined in their head. If they feel a connection to my work then to me, it has value. If not, then I think I’d consider it a failure on my part.

Was there ever a time when you happily ignored external validation or outside advice about your business so that you could follow the True North that you created for yourself? If so, how did making that choice to follow Your Why impact not only you, but your business?

When I first started with Art & Anthem, I dabbled in stock photography. It was what a lot of people wanted and so I thought, let's try this. It didn’t fit, and I hated it. I hated creating something that a large group of people could use because when you do that—you have to leave a lot of things out. It can’t be too this or too that. It can’t really say anything but you better make sure it looks pretty. And use all the right colors. I felt like it watered down the power of visual marketing. I think that bothered me the most. I wanted my work to say something, to mean something. As a consumer I didn’t connect with brands that used stock photos and as a photographer I need to create images that really spoke to specific people—with likes and dislikes, who had different varied lifestyles and celebrated that. I’m not a one-size-fits-all kind of gal. By taking away the “please the general public” feeling behind stock photography, I was able to create for people who wanted to stand out and were interested in connection through imagery, not just looking pretty. It was a battle between finding meaning in what I was doing—I didn’t choose this simply because I liked it, but because as an INFJ I need to feel like I’m doing something that has meaning. I knew myself well enough to know that it wasn’t stock photography. Also, this isn’t a side eye to stock photography, it’s creator or users. It’s just about knowing what was best of me and knowing why.  

I am so envious that you live in Queens, and I know you really love it, too. How does your immediate environment impact your daily inspiration as a photographer?

It grounds me, and I create best when I’m grounded. I don’t think it’s the only place for me, but it does keep me sane and happy, and I’m so grateful for that.

Thinking back over all the projects you’ve been involved with, do you have any that come to mind as being one of your favorites? What made those shoots so special for you?

Probably the first lifestyle shoot I ever did with a creative here in Queens.  This shoot probably planted a subconscious seed that would bloom about 2-3 years later into Art & Anthem. It was a mixture of all the things that I would later end up wanting to build my business around. It’s funny how things come around full circle because at the time I didn’t know what the shoot would be like; I just walked in blind, and what I loved the most about it was that it was very natural.  It was shot in the person’s home—a home that was a true reflection of who she was as a person. Maybe I’m ridiculous, but I get really excited about details like that.

For all business owners, we try to keep our photos and visual strategy consistent across platforms. What is your best piece of advice to help us maintain that uniformity if we’re managing that all on our own?

Understand the way you want your brand to feel. It’s like designing a home—as a visitor flows from one room to the next, each is different, but all represent your style and who you are so it still feels like you. Understand the feeling you want to evoke and use that to drive the direction of any creation of visuals for your brand. If you’re a service-based business your brand is probably tied at least somewhat to who you are as a person.  If you’re a product-based business, it might not be. In both situations, understanding what you want people to feel (even if it’s just a connection to you) helps to drive your visual strategy on each platform. Let’s go with the connection thing for a minute. Create a list of YOUR qualities or values that are integral to your brand. Then create a list of the same for your target market. Cross reference them and think about which ones really serve your business and connects with Your Why. You need to focus on themes that are on both lists because you need to care about it, your target market needs to care about it, and it needs to back up Your Why.

Hiring a photographer is always a good investment for your business, but it is just that - an investment. From the client’s perspective, what questions do you think are important to ask before hiring a photographer to ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible?

So this is a combination of things you should ask and things you should have figured out before you hire a photographer (because nothing sucks more than getting images and realizing 3 months down the line that they no longer reflect your brand after all the changes you’ve made). First and foremost, make sure you like their work. Then, ask them if they’ve ever worked with clients with your specific needs before. Let them know what you’ll be using the images for and make sure they’re okay with sharing usage rights with you at the level that you need. Do they seem like they’re actually interested in shooting for you, or are you just another client in the books? Understanding what you need before you email them is also very helpful. Do you know what you want, or are you still not sure about what kind of images truly represent your brand? If you’re going to rely on the photographer to figure that out, that can be a recipe for a disaster if they don’t specifically work with brands or focus on visual strategy.  If you know what you want, include it in your email to them. Communication is key, especially in the courting process where you guys figure out if you’re a good fit.

What are some other brands that you think are absolutely killing it with their visual strategy that we should take note of?

Katie Dean Jewelry - I’m really not a pink, pink, pink girl but the photographer and visual strategist in me gets really excited when I look at her feed because she does a wonderful combination of straight product shots, lifestyle product shots (my favorite), and her actual life. Even her Instagram stories are connected to what you see on her feed—I don’t like it when businesses get too “corporate” on me—in that they really just use the platform to sell their product.  Even though it’s clear that this IS a business, you know the face behind it, and you get to see her behind the scenes so it feels more inclusive.

Do-Hee Kim - I love love love, Do-Hee’s visual game. When I hop from her Instagram to her website, I still feel like it’s her—one is just a more polished version while the other shows us a mixture of all the things going on in her life.  She’s one of those accounts that as soon as I landed on it, I scrolled for about 2-3 secs and hit the follow button. The interesting thing here is that her Instagram feed is a little less “polished” than Katie Dean’s, but I think that each woman knows what she’s about and uses that to fuel their strategy. #takenoteguys

I love the way that you share and connect with your audience about your life and creative journey in such a real way. When I first stumbled across you on Instagram, I felt so connected to your thoughtful and intentional approach that I’m curious: Do you have a credo or manifesto that you live by to ensure that the art and creativity stays at the forefront of everything you do?

Thank you so much. I actually don’t have a credo or manifesto when it comes to creating, and I think that might be mostly because I’m a visual person who relies heavily on emotion to create. That and the fact that a lot of what I share on Instagram is just me sharing myself. So it’s always key for me to be connected to myself and being aware of the feeling I want to build Art & Anthem on (there’s that dang feeling thing again). For this, I rely heavily on music and a collection of images that ground me.

Let’s get dreamy for a minute. If you could take a look at the future, what do you see for not only yourself personally, but also for Art & Anthem? What are you doing today to help you realize that vision?

Mmm. Love this. I’d like to see some traveling while work being done. Or even living in another country for a year. ^_^


Want to know more? Eager to connect with Nadeena? Here's how: 

Work with Nadeena:

I know something people struggle a lot with is fleshing out the visual strategy for their brand--what to post about on Instagram, what kind of images would serve their brand well, what creative direction to go in that resonates with their brand, etc. so I offer visual strategy coaching calls. I also love working with creatives that are ready to outsource their social media content creation.

Fun little extra:

For your readers who are interested in booking a visual strategy coaching call, for the months of June & July 2017, I’d love to offer them a complimentary personalized Instagram Style Guide with their coaching call. All they have to do is let me know you sent them in the contact form.  

Photo credit: Katelyne McMahon of Our Beautiful Adventure