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Artist's Story: The Heirloomist

Name: Shana Novak aka The Heirloomist

Occupation: Still Life Photographer

Art Medium: Photography

Favorite studio tool/supply: The Hasselblad H4D

Artists you love: Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Ed Ruscha, Marcel Proust

Sources of inspiration: light, articulate writers

Favorite time to shoot: 6am. With coffee.

Most unexpected quality: Chronic perfectionist

How did you come to be a photographer? It's in my genes I guess--my Grandparents owned a photography company. When I moved to New York after college, I met a lot of great people in the photography community and they helped form a really down to earth, professional desire in me to make photography my career.

Where did the idea of The Heirloomist come from? My Grandmother kept a closet full of boxes of family objects and each object had a fascinating story. As a photographer, I tend towards visual story telling so I started photographing all her heirlooms. It was my girlfriend who suggested it could be fun to share other people's stories. And The Heirloomist was born.


"My Grandmother kept a closet full of boxes of family objects and each object had a fascinating story."


What does your average day look like? Coffee and quiet time. Answer client emails. If I'm on set that day, I'll shoot straight through to 1pm and then I really try to get outside for some fresh air. I will likely spend the rest of the day shooting and retouching in a dark studio!

Have you photographed any of your own heirlooms? Yes - my pink Swiss Army pocket knife from summer camp, circa 1986, and my Nintendo Game Boy from 1989.

What is the most unusual heirloom you have photographed? A pair of jeans that saved someone from being burned in a fire during college. 

Check out the stories behind these cool heirlooms over here

How would you describe your creative process/how do you go about making art? My process is a lot about harnessing light. Still life photography can be really technical. Once I spend some time with my subject (heirloom) I spend a lot more time making shadows and highlights with my strobe lights. My creative process basically equals hundreds of image captures to get that one "just right" shot that captures the spirit of the object.


 "My creative process basically equals hundreds of image captures to get that one 'just right' shot that captures the spirit of the object."


What is the hardest part about being a creative entrepreneur? Separating yourself from your business. So much of myself goes into my work. But you have to power down the camera at the end of the day and have a life!

What tips would you give someone looking to buy art? If you're going to make an investment, make sure your purchase means something to you. A chance to collaborate with the artist and participate in the making of the art is something that gives The Heirloomist meaning beyond the typical art-for-sale model and it really seems to resonate with people.

What would you say to someone who is convinced they lack creativity or artistic ability? Telling yourself you lack something can be a self imposed barrier. Your only choice is to go out and do what makes you uncomfortable. And there is little risk in going out and being creative or artistic because no one gets to say what is art and what is not. It's a freedom.

Thanks, Shana! We're so excited to work with you as a part of our Artist Program. Be sure to check out more of Shana's work over here