We had the good fortune of connecting with RaSia Khepra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi RaSia, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Initially, I considered my creative skills as only a hobby. I always knew I would start my own businesses, but I never thought my art would be one of those businesses. I enjoyed creating art and watching people interact with art, so I continued to hone my skills as an artist. Eventually, people started offering to pay me to create art, which helped me start to view my skill as an asset that could be built into a business. You know, when money is involved, it is extremely important to remain professional, and always provide a high quality service. Naturally, I learned how to provide a professional service through experience. Through my own experience, the experience of my peers and mentors, I’ve been able to kinda naturally evolve into a business owner.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
A major aspect of my art can be described as portraiture photography. When I first started studying art, I found inspiration in anime and manga. I started off very interested in learning how to draw manga and animate various characters and stories, so I applied to an art program called Marwen. My experience at Marwen was completely life changing, and gave me a solid foundation to explore as an artist. Marwen offered classes, mentors, and access to state of the art equipment. At the time, all the drawing courses were filled, so I started off studying various artistic mediums. For a couple years, I studied various forms of ceramics, painting, drawing, and I really enjoyed them, but nothing brought me happiness like storytelling and photography. After a few years of building rapport with Marwen, I was able to borrow their equipment for various personal projects. When I first started studying photography, I was living in Chicago, and learning to shoot and develop 35mm film. I would go to downtown Chicago and shoot for hours everyday. I started off trying to imitate street photographers that inspired me, like Henri Carter Besson. My early photographs focused on capturing candid urban moments and architecture. As I developed, I moved into shooting landscape images using a digital camera. Aside from the occasional event photography gigs, I wasn’t really being paid to create art. So, I took pictures of whatever caught my eye. Once I moved from Chicago to Claremont, CA I started to study portrait photography, and finally got my own camera. There is an extremely wild story about how I got my camera, but that story will have to wait until next time. Before then, I didn’t own a camera, so I would have to borrow cameras from Marwen, family members, friends, or rent them from camera shops. Once I got my own camera, I started posting more of my photography on Instagram. My work caught the eye of the right person at my college, which led to me being hired as the athletic department’s photographer. Although I was studying photography, I was also enrolled in college to study environmental science and physics. At the time, I was convinced I was going to be an engineer. I graduated college with a degree in environmental analysis, moved to Los Angeles, and started working in the field. However, I couldn’t give up on my dream of telling stories, I couldn’t give up being a photographer, I couldn’t give up being an artist. So, I kept growing my portrait photography business, part-time. I was trying to juggle a lot, but I hadn’t fully committed to running my business, full-time. I was working or commuting full-time, trying to figure my business out, debating graduate school, trying to keep a balanced social life, all while my older sister, Maakara, was battling brain cancer for her fourth year straight. I was exhausted, but felt not right to be exhausted, so I didn’t even notice. During the final months of her transition, my younger brother convinced me to take some time off from work. He hinted it was probably smart to spend as much time as possible with Maakara at this point. It honestly didn’t take any convincing, I just wasn’t aware it had gotten that serious. Maybe I was trying to stay optimistic. Anyway, I slid home, and was able spend her last months by her side. Maakara was an amazing sculptress, and she lost most of her sight and hearing to brain cancer, but she never lost her sense of humor or pride as an artist. She continued creating art, graduated from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, all while battling brain cancer and cracking jokes. I learned a lot from Maakara in those last few months. Life is short, and hard, so why not create art and enjoy as much time as you can with your loved ones. There are so many things that I still need to learn, but during those months, I learned it was time for me to commit full-time to creating art.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It really depends on the friend that is visiting, because I would customize our itinerary based on their interest. I’m currently located in Santa Monica. There is a farmer’s market in walking distance from my home studio, ideally we are preparing our meals, and we could pick up some local ingredients. When we aren’t preparing our meals, there is a number of street vendors, restaurants, and bars to explore throughout the Los Angeles area. Since the pandemic, I’ve been trying to stay away from crowded areas. So this is tough, but I’m going to try to keep it general. If you like the beach, the drive up the coast to Malibu is a must. Don’t forget your water if you drive inland and visit Joshua Tree. Try some Ethiopian food from one of those Ethiopian spots right off Fairfax Ave and Olympic Blvd. Little Tokyo is my favorite part of downtown. Taco stands over taco restaurants.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate this shoutout to my family and friends, without their support and love I would not be here today. Thanks to Justin Jackson for connecting us on this interview. Last, definitely not least, special thanks to my better half, Mahala Bryant, for always holding me up and keeping me grounded.