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Regardless of whether you’re taking a family vacation, putting in extra hours at work or simply enjoying some downtime with some of your favorite books this winter break, you can still return to work or school more cultured than when you left — without having to step foot in a museum.

Photographer Monica Baddar is a rising star in the fashion world, and we’ve been swooning at her gallery-worthy portraits ever since we discovered her work on Instagram. Check out some of Monica’s stunning portraits below and learn how she creates each work of art.

 

BIKINI: How do you capture your subject’s genuine personality?

MONICA BADDAR: Before I even start shooting, I get to know my subject. Taking someone’s portrait is a very intimate experience. You need to create a connection. Talk less and listen more. Once they’re comfortable with you, that’s when the magic happens. You are the catalyst, the camera is the vessel. Always cater to the subject. Photography is like a puzzle. The same ratio and angle won’t work on everyone. Find their light.

 

 

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BIKINI: What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever shot?

MB: Right now, this one:

black and white portrait of gap toothed girl in shade by monica baddar

BIKINI: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

MB: Inspiration is everywhere. You have to keep your eyes and your mind open. It can be anything. A color, a destination, a plant, a person. People who aren’t afraid to express themselves. There is no right or wrong, but the delivery has to be genuine.

 

BIKINI: What photo best encapsulates your aesthetic?

MB: I think this image is a good representation of my aesthetic:

 

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BIKINI: Which shot did you work hardest to get "just so" — and how did you do it?

MB: To be honest, I don’t try to plan any photo too much. Of course I have a basic idea, but since I photograph people, their personalities come into play. It’s better to collaborate and both bring something to the table. If I try to push too hard for an idea, it can come off contrived. You have to be flexible.

 

 

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BIKINI: What photo marked a turning point in your career?

MB: My turning points are usually the photos that I create personally. They usually coincide with personal challenges. You overcome them, you expand, you learn. To me, there is no separation of my work life from personal life. They’re the same thing. I think this photo is a great example of that:

redhead with braids and freckles eating goldfish cracker by photographer monica baddar

Sometimes I shoot basic things [with] no team but it’s always the ones I produce myself with a full team that really stand out, like this one. I also love this photo because it’s a mix between commercial and my usual moodier tone. It shows I can have a range. Don't get stuck in anything.

 

BIKINI: What’s your favorite thing about your job?

MB: My favorite thing about my job is that I sincerely love it. I don't consider it a job. I love the entire process. Making a concept, casting, shooting, retouching, etc. I meet awesome people all the time and get to explore places I probably wouldn't otherwise. It’s very meditative for me. I get lost in it and I always feel so good after. I get a buzz.

 

 

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BIKINI: What do you do when you’re not working?

MB: Well as I’m writing this, I’m packing for a one-way trip to Southeast Asia. I love to travel and see the world. To me, there is no bigger inspiration than submerging yourself in a different environment and culture. It opens your eyes. You change and grow. I feel like my work is never done. Even when I’m not shooting a job, I’m still shooting. I’m always inspired, looking, searching. I have a hard time sitting still ... I love to go dancing, visit friends, whatever. Just keep moving!