When I was a style and party editor for HFN magazine I had the chance to work with a very young
photographer Shana Novak. She not only captured every shot that I wanted perfectly, but was
a joy to work with as well. Fast forward to today she is a successful commercial photographer
that now regularly shoots for some of the biggest names in publishing and fashion.
However, she is branching out and her newest venture The Heirloomist
has me totally intrigued.
Shana is capturing the stories behind cherished family heirlooms the best way she knows through stunning
photographs of meaningful family heirlooms. These ravishing images capture the essence of the meaning
of cherished pieces. In the process these portraits are becoming the next generation of
heirlooms unto themselves.
Read on and discover her work and what inspires her in her own words.
The family silver.
How did you become a photographer?
My mother's parents owned a photography business together so I guess it's in my DNA. I started working at Women's Wear Daily when I first got to New York, which got me out into the world
looking at things through the lens. I learned from some really great people there.
I eventually settled on still life photography because gadgets and objects fascinate me. They can tell a story even though they are "inamimate."
Photographer Shana Novak and friends.
What inspires you?
Sunshine piercing through fog. Highly articulate people. Good writing. Anything that makes things interesting and better than they were before.
Shana's work has an appealing clean contemporary look.
What started The Heirloomist?
Honestly, my Grandmother is the root of this. She kept so many fascinating knick-knacks and
gadgets and family objects…I loved getting them on film and talking with her about the stories behind the objects. But that was before I knew I was The Heirloomist! I just loved the stories, really.
My girlfriend kind of opened my eyes to the idea that other people have special stories too.
In the beginning, it was clear that the concept was really going to resonate with a lot of people. That’s when I came up with The Heirloomist as a vehicle to branch out from my commercial work and capture people's histories, stories and family heritage.
To date, my favorite commission is from Alisa Berg Goldsmith. She came to me with a pair of jeans that saved her husband from being burned in a fire. Ironically, the jeans had a label sewn into the fly that says "Lucky You" so we honed in on that for the picture. This was the first time I knew that the
term "heirloom" could mean so many things to different people. That's when things really got interesting.
My dream project would be to photograph an item from someone who has made an enormous impact
on our society. Gloria Steinem, as an example. I approached her but her office told me she was too
busy at the moment. But, I'm not giving up on that.