Nabil West

2023 Professional Event Photographer of the Year

Q: Can you briefly tell us about your background and what inspired you to pursue photography?
Living in Brooklyn, I had a pretty typical life for someone working in music, with a lot of late nights and rooftop parties. In late 2009 I had a life changing accident, falling off of one of these roofs, which put me in intensive care for 11 days. The multiple surgeries and 9 months of rehab were quite difficult, having a profound impact on my value of life, and an appreciation for the abundance of visual beauty on this planet. Natural balance, colors, movement, depth…this planet is incredible to witness. I consider it an honor to be here, hopefully capturing some of that beauty in my photography.

Q: What drove you to submit your work to the IPA competition and your thoughts on how winning this competition impacted your artistic journey?
When I took the photo, it was a moment I couldn’t imagine ignoring. I immediately felt it was the most powerful shot I had ever taken, but didn’t have any intention of putting it out into the world, as at that time I treated my photography as personal observation. After Roe Vs. Wade was overturned in 2022, I felt that it was an obligation to publish and share it with the rest of the world. I did a run of limited edition prints, and promptly submitted it into one awards competition, the International Photography Awards. My hope was that with any luck it could inspire and give strength to those fighting against the inequities of how women are treated in this country and around the world. Though the Women’s March was birthed out of unfortunate necessity, it was beautiful to see solidarity for such a just cause. We can never lose our collective voice or undervalue strength in numbers, when in search for justice. Winning the IPA Event Photographer of the Year Award was not only a huge honor, but also an affirmation that my artistic work was truly valued by others. Photography can often be an isolated journey, where faith in one’s work is built on nothing more than your own opinion. It has been such an honor and privilege to receive such validation.

Q: Could you describe any challenges you faced while capturing this moment (winning image/s)?
Attending the protest, my original intent was to merely take part, though I thought bringing my camera along may become useful. I took a few shots of specific moments, primarily to capture them for myself to look back on. As I was crossing Manhattan on 42nd St in the middle of the crowd, I’d seen a vantage point I thought would make for a great place to take pictures from. It was just before sunset in January, and I knew if I was going to be able to get the shot with enough light, I had to hurry. With urgency, I made my way through a sea of people as quickly as I could, and got into position. The moment was incredible as it appeared to be a never- ending crowd filling blocks upon blocks chanting in unison, “this is what democracy looks like!” It was profound. I stabilized my old Sony camera against a metal rail, and spent a minute or two trying to capture the moment. I then went back into the crowd, with the previous experience holding me captive, silence now filling my head through introspection. Since that moment, whenever I hear “this is what democracy looks like”, it takes me back to that experience, and sometimes gives me chills.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the most important factors in creating great images?
I feel the most important factors in capturing or creating a great image is to be true to one’s self in multiple aspects of the work. “Is it moving to me?” “After any editing, do I feel this image is still sincere?” “Am I respecting the photography community and my peers in the work that I am doing?” I feel if you can answer yes to these questions, you are sure to be on the right path.

Q: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of photography?
I shoot a lot of landscape photography, and nature is really just going to run on its own schedule. It’s another reminder of how we’re essentially nothing more than that fly on the wall at times. That, and keeping my lens clean.

Q: What motivates and drives your photography?
Often, it’s the photography that motivates and drives me. The thought of capturing something beautiful or impactful has taken me to some unbelievable places I would love to experience and see in person, but otherwise might not. It’s the ability of taking the photograph and attempting to capture it that gives me that extra push. I also find it additionally motivating when I’m able to share some of the experience with others through my images.

Q: What’s next for you in your career as a photographer?
Through an unusual set of circumstances, and boosted by my IPA nomination, I’m now in the process of opening a fine art gallery in New Canaan, Connecticut. Though challenging, it’s an amazing experience and opportunity. I’m also preparing a shoot overseas in March, where I’ll be attempting to capture one of the more dynamic and intriguing phenomenon around us.