Storyteller, filmmaker, photographer and multidisciplinary artist Mahaneela has released her first photobook ‘Through My Lens’. The book exploring themes of diasporic connection and identity and shares new and archival works, documenting her travels and unique perspective in this bright, bold new vision that centres black & brown joy above all. At Yellowzine, we’ve been fans of Mahaneela and her work since her feature in our second issue, and witnessing her journey from freelancer to full-time artist and creator – has reaffirmed our beliefs in her talent. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
We spoke to Mahaneela about her latest project ‘Through My Lens’ to find out what she hopes the book can bring to her readers and what readers can expect from the photobook. “People can expect a collection of my works, both archival and new, documenting my travels and thoughts on identity. It's a love letter to the countries I've visited and lets you in to some of the experiences I’ve had.” Over recent years Mahaneela has lived in London, spent a lot of time in Johannesburg and recently relocated to the US. Experiencing the cultures of these different countries, amongst many others, has had a profound influence on her work, “I love to travel a lot, and Johannesburg is one of those places I always go back to. Travel is a huge part of my work, to travel is to learn more about yourself and others around you.” For her, travel doesn’t just aid her creative process, it defines it, “when you see the world from other perspectives, it really gives you insight into your own. For me as someone who's from many places, seeing the similarities across cultures is something that I find really inspiring.”
‘Through My Lens’ is a the realisation of a long-time dream for Mahaneela, after spending years honing and mastering her many creative crafts, creating a book is a milestone to mark the growth of her journey. “I've always wanted to get my work into a book. There's nothing like having your work in a physical, tangible form.” Mahaneela notes this project as one of her greatest achievements. “I'm still in shock I managed to make this! I can't wait to make more. It taught me a lot about the value of my work, and the amazing response and support has helped me to recognise my own worth as an artist.”
A few years ago, we saw a post by Mahaneela about leaving her full-time job to become a freelance photographer, it’s a move a lot of creatives dream of, but most are too afraid, or not in the position to take. For Mahaneela, it wasn’t easy either, “It wasn't as spontaneous as it seems, I had a plan, and I tried to do work that would help me get to where I wanted to be before I actually went freelance.” Luckily for her, she made the move years before the atrocity that is 2020, but recognises that not everybody has the privilege of perfect timing, “I'd say it's a difficult time right now for sure, but my best advice would always be to be strategic when you're making the jump from being employed to freelance.”
‘Through My Lens’ mark the beginning of a new chapter in Mahaneela’s career, one which transcend the barriers of social media, and takes her art to whole new level, “I would say it marks a milestone for me in that I've turned my work into a real-life experience. That's important to me.” She tell us. “I see it as an introduction to me. There's a piece I wrote called perspective at the start which really serves as an introduction to my 'lens' as it were. I think people will learn a lot about me through this book.”
Aside from the book itself, Mahaneela has also created opportunities for her fans (like us) to physically experience some of her work in exhibition form. Her work is currently on exhibition at the Maison Kitsune store in Manhattan. It's on show until January 3rd and the book is available to purchase for UK customers here and for international customers here.
Art by Mahaneela Choudhury-Reid
Words by Aisha Ayoade