Danika Magdelena, Photographer

This interview is part of the BEAUTIFUL x POWERFUL collaboration with Nike.
See more from the collaboration >

Danika Magdelena is still studying photography at university but has already built up an impressive client list and following meaning she's been able to develop her sharp skills on the job. With a drive for hard work and a keen eye for casting a diverse and fascinating range of people, Danika is headed for big things.  

How did you get in to photography?

I discovered film cameras at Places Plus Faces parties really early on. I got a point and shoot and I used to go to the parties and take photos, everyone would always wait for them to come out. I noticed that the photos were always cool because I just managed to capture the vibe.

So I started taking pictures of my friends with film and tried to involve styling in some way by telling them what they should wear and things like that. From there the opportunities came about more and more and I got more experience learning how to shoot on the job.

How do you think you honed your photographic craft? Was it just going out and constantly shooting?

I guess it was just trial and error. In the beginning of course mistakes were made - like my film rolls not coming out properly. I didn’t know that much about film cameras. When I invested in a better camera I was able to do what I wanted to do and capture the photos I really wanted to as well as trying different films, ISO and important things like that.

The women that you shoot are very powerful. How do you decide who to work with, where do you do your most casting?

A lot of it is through social media. They’re usually really nice open-minded girls or boys who are artists themselves. I try to keep it diverse but I do work with a lot of people of colour. I find out a lot about the people I shoot and we usually have similar interests, friendship circles or even viewpoints in life. It always turns into deep conversations. That’s another thing I like about being a photographer you get meet new people and have interesting conversations.

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When do you feel powerful?

I feel powerful when I’m happy with something I’ve done, whether it’s received a good reception like some photos I’ve taken. I guess I feel powerful when I’m supported. I believe in myself but sometimes you feel like you need that extra push or people to recognize what you do. I can be quite a pessimistic person so it really boosts my confidence when my friends, family and even strangers are letting me know that they’re into what I do.  It makes me realise that everything is for a reason, things will pay off and it will lead to something good and I’m working towards that.

So it’s a powerful female support network that you have with your mum and your friends?

Yeah definitely. My mum supports what I do. Sometimes photography isn’t respected as it isn’t academic but my mum saw my work and saw that I was passionate about it.

I get a lot of support from girls too. A lot of black girls actually I think because there aren’t a lot of black female photographers out there or there are they’re not being recognised. So it makes me happy if I’m inspiring young black girls because I am one and I want us to shine. Especially with what is going on in the world - with our voices not being heard - so if we have to express that through our art then I think then that’s a really important thing.

Your instagram profile name, Sirius Film is ambiguous and you kept anonymous for quite a while was this intentional?

Yeah I didn’t have a profile image for a long time and with the name Sirius Film a lot of people thought I was a boy. I wanted to keep it like that for a while so that I wasn’t judged based on my gender. I just wanted people to see the work. I think after coming out as a black girl, it almost helped because people were surprised. It’s sad that people had to be shocked just because I’m a black girl and a talented photographer.

Have you found being a woman has affected how people respond to your work?

Yeah I’ve been on shoots and not got the respect I deserve from well-known men in music. When I wouldn’t show my arse to one musician the shoot didn’t continue and I didn’t get the shot. If you have to walk away from a supposedly amazing opportunity then do it, there’ll be others with people who will respect you. Never sell yourself out and do something you’re not comfortable with.

What do you find beautiful?

I think people’s vibes. It’s all well and good having a beautiful face and a thin body but if your heart isn't pure and your intentions aren’t good then that’s not real beauty. Good people who actually want to help others. In the industry there are so many people with scenester vibes but there’s only so far that can take you. People can see through that if you’re not true. You can fall off as quickly as you can get on.

Where would you like to see you work go in the future?

I’m working on a lot of personal projects at the minute. One on love and heartbreak with a lot of real women, it’s something that evokes a lot of emotion so I’d like to carry on shooting those. I’d like to just keep on shooting my best work and letting it speak for itself.

 

Photography: Lottie Bea Spencer

Set Design: Amy Stickland

Make-up and hair: Ezana Ove

Styling: Holly Macdonald

Editorial Assistant: Rhea Dillon