We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Saleh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
If it sets your heart on fire, even when the world tells you it’s never going to happen, I say go for it. When you want something bad enough, you will figure it out. Perhaps it’s that dream job, or your dream space for your studio. Whatever the case may be, go for it. If it doesn’t work out, get to the root of why it didn’t work out, and try again. What’s meant to be will always find a way.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am the owner of Sababa Studio, a lifestyle photography agency. I specialize in portraits, food, and product photography. I prefer to shoot in natural light as opposed to studio lighting.
I am from Philadelphia, PA and I currently reside in West Palm Beach, FL. Prior to that, I lived in Miami. I have some formal training but most of my knowledge came from internships and assisting positions.
As a creative, I faced many challenges along the way. I started my business in college. In college, I changed my major twice before I decided on communications.
Establishing my identity and brand as a photographer was a huge challenge. I remember those around me not taking it seriously until I showed them my work. Once I started getting commissions and shows, people started to respect the hustle. My work has been shown in hotel galleries in Manhattan and across Pennsylvania.
What was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Starting a business just seemed like a logical step. In college, I had an amazing internship with my university where I was able to help small businesses start their online presence via social media, press releases and websites. I really enjoyed the photography and writing aspect to it, taking product photos at a local boutique and writing press releases for major events. Simultaneously, many of my friends were graduating and needed graduation photos. Luckily enough for me, I had a camera! Word spread, and social media definitely helped. It was then that I started to take photography seriously. I assisted a lifestyle photographer in Philadelphia for many years while I learned the trade. Eventually, I landed gigs working for Bumble HQ, Kimpton Hotels and Spoon University.
Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time? How do you think about the balance?
Growing up, the importance of working hard was instilled in me from a very young age, and I’m just now realizing the negative effects of burnout. Hustling was romanticized, and I remember I would work 12 hours as a production assistant until 6am and then go to class at 8am. I will never do that again! It’s important to set aside time for yourself, even if that’s not convenient for everyone else at work. It’s a shame it took a pandemic for some companies to realize the rigorous 9-5 office structure doesn’t work in the modern age.
Social impact: how does your business help the community or the world?
I like to organize craft markets seasonally that promote local women owned businesses. Events bring people together and build a community which is why I love organizing them so much!
Risk taking: how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career?
Ask anyone I know, and they’ll tell you I’m a daredevil. I’m really good at taking risks. I think that’s why I set myself apart: because I do the things that most people are afraid of. I actually moved to Miami with four days notice and one suitcase, and the rest is history. I had no job, no plan, I just knew I wanted to be by the ocean and to be in the biggest entrepreneurial city in America. I moved into my friend Gaby’s spare bedroom in the Flamingo in South Beach. It wasn’t easy at first but eventually I found a great community of like- minded entrepreneurs (Ladies in Miami) who encouraged me to pivot and shift my focus towards my goals.
If I’m walking around and I see someone interesting that I want to photograph, I introduce myself and ask permission. It’s risky, but some of my greatest photos were made from moments like that.
How do you define success?
Success is doing what you love everyday. I know it sounds cliche, but your happiness is the most important thing. I would much rather make less doing what I love, than making 200K as a CEO workaholic and be miserable. Money definitely doesn’t define success for me.
Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career?
I am a creative in every way shape and form. Growing up, I was always making something. As a kid I made jewelry, painted, embroidered, and made a lot of messes for my mom . When I got to high school, I started taking film photography classes. I was fascinated by the darkroom. My love of photography started there.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc. In your view what are some of the most fun, interesting, exciting people, places or things to check out?
If I were to spend a weekend in Miami, I would spend it in the Design District. I would start out at The Institute of Contemporary Art, and then walk around the designer shops and look at all of the neat structures outside. I’d have lunch at Magdoos, the best Lebanese food in Miami! After that, I would grab an iced coffee and stroll to Wynwood and shop. For dinner, I’d go to Sugarcane. I’d end the night with ice cream and some drinks at 1-800-Lucky. The Design District is hands down my favorite neighborhood of Miami.
The next day, I’d head to the beach and eat burritos at Bodega. I would take a yoga class at GreenMonkey and eat dinner at Lucali or Pubbelly. Next door to Lucali is Bay Club. Every other Monday, Alex Morizio and Will Lopez host an amazing comedy show there.
What is the most important factor behind your success / the success of your brand?
I think my persistence and determination has really made me and my brand stronger. I was always told that I couldn’t be creative and successful. Once I stopped caring about what other people thought, I focused on myself.
What makes you happy? Why?
I’m happiest on the beach with my boyfriend, Joe. There’s nothing better than staring at the ocean with someone you love!
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