Nadia Martinez is an American-born Muslim of American and Palestinian descent. With only a few photography classes under her belt, Nadia is primarily a self-taught artist and photographer. Her artwork celebrates and brings together the joys, hopes, and beauty of her home, Oklahoma, and her religion, Islam.
An Oklahoma for the majority of her life, Nadia draws inspiration from the state’s unique features, such as its infamous red dirt and variant weather. Nadia appreciates Oklahoma’s unconventional beauty and tries to capture it through her lens.
Nadia’s Muslim identity also strongly influences her artwork. The complex American-Muslim culture she has been a part of continuously fascinates Nadia. She enjoys capturing the innocence and carefree nature of Muslim children, and also tries to break stereotypes through her work. In this time when so many misunderstandings exist, she feels it is important to focus on the truth and beauty of this peaceful religion, and to show the diversity of its followers through the diversity of her work.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to be interested in photography as a medium of artistic expression?
I have always been artistic since childhood. I would find myself constantly drawing, painting, or coloring. When our family got its first computer, I spent lots of time playing around with Paint, Photoshop and other graphic/image-editing programs to create simple graphics just for fun. I got my first digital camera at 16… and that was when it all began! I took my camera with me everywhere! I found out that with my skills in Photoshop, I could turn ordinary photos into works of art. Still, my photography was something I did just for fun. But then I took a few photography classes, bought a semi-professional camera, and that was when I “fell in love” with portrait photography. In 2009, a friend asked me to photograph her wedding. That was a big turning point for me. And I haven’t stopped shooting since!
2. How long have you been photographing the ‘American-Muslim experience’?
I’ve been photographing American-Muslims since 2009, when my husband and I started participating in MSA and attending CAIR events and programs offered at our local Mosque. I began volunteering and getting hired for weddings and other Islam-related events.
3. In what ways does your photography help dispel myths and stereotypes about American-Muslims?
My photographs show American-Muslims doing what any American might be doing… having fun, laughing and joking around, eating lunch, sharing special moments with loved ones, working on homework. We are not all that different. A lot of people think that Islam oppresses women. Yet the majority of my photos of Muslims are of women, and they are obviously educated, having a blast with friends, and standing up for change.
I have photographed events where Muslim youth are learning to participate in the American government system, as well as events where Muslims and those of other faiths are spending time together in a friendly, peaceful environment.
4. What is it about Oklahoma Muslims or Oklahoma in general that makes the work you do unique?
Not everybody can readily see what Oklahoma has to offer in terms of its aesthetic beauty. There are no spectacular mountains or forests or beaches, and that is exactly why I like to find beauty in unusual places whether it be a simple weed silhouetted by the setting sun or the aesthetic merit of an old can and drift wood laying on what use to be the bottom of a lake. Oklahoma has unique red dirt, fickle weather, spectacular sunsets and so much more!
Along with capturing both the hidden and the apparent charms of Oklahoma itself, I also love to capture the unique Oklahoma Muslims I have met here. The Muslim community here is very diverse and full of energetic, friendly, generous, and patriotic Americans. The Muslims here want to be involved and want to show fellow Americans that we are a fun and peaceful people. And where else can you find Muslims wearing cowboy boots and rooting so spiritedly for their college football team (Boomer Sooner!)?
5. What message do you hope your photography conveys to the Oklahoma Muslim community and the Oklahoma community in general?
Oklahoma and Islam are each a large part of my identity. I strive to break stereotypes about my religion and find art in unusual places in this great state. I hope that viewers can gain some insight into the beautiful nature of both.
For more information about Nadia Martinez and her photography, visit www.nadiasportfolio.com