By Leksey Maltzman • Photos by Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)
It’s probably hard to count how many dozens of times Alexa Nahas’ name has been in the Manayunk Magazine over the past few years. Three years ago, her neighbor, Chris Barnes, owner of Lucky’s Last Chance, recommended she do some photo work for us, and now she is one of our go-to photographers.
“I was here all the time anyway,” Alexa said, “so it was nice to feel like I was in the cool kids club getting backstage with the small businesses in Manayunk.”
Long before starting her own small business, Alexa Nahas Photography, Alexa was gifted a 35mm film camera from her grandfather when she was eight-years-old, and began documenting her family and surroundings.
“I grew up in New York City, so when I was 11, I saw 9/11 first hand,” Alexa remembered. “That’s when it really set in for me — how important documentation can be for both personal and historical reasons.”
Unfortunately, without an emphasis on arts education at her all-girls Catholic school, Alexa’s passion for documentation with photography was put on hold until she transferred to a public high school.
“I had purple hair and a nose ring, so my school decided to kick me out. It was actually the greatest decision that was ever made for me because I was able to take a photo class,” Alexa said.
After high school, Alexa studied photography at Drexel University with the intention of becoming a photojournalist until she unexpectedly switched gears.
“I gave up on the whole photographing wars thing,” she said, “and kind of fell into wedding and family photography.”
The two might seem like complete opposites, but Alexa found them to be comparable.
“In both situations, you’re documenting your surroundings and you never know what to expect,” Alexa explained. “Obviously, it’s different from a warzone, but sometimes with a two-year-old, it can feel like a warzone.”
After graduation, Alexa worked two part-time photography jobs while building her own business.
“They were both wedding and family photographers, but they approached things differently,” she said. “It was nice to get a different taste of things and find my own happy medium.”
After three years of juggling her two part-time jobs and getting her own business off the ground, she pulled away from her two mentors and focused on her own company full-time in 2015.
“I started doing weddings first,” Alexa explained, “and then my clients were having babies, so I started doing family stuff.”
After adopting her dog and enjoying photographing him as well, Alexa decided to add pet photography as a secondary specialty.
Alexa’s photography style is all about capturing real moments, or as she likes to call it, “unobtrusive documentation.”
“I would like to be as much of a fly on the wall as possible,” Alexa explained. “I want my clients to see the photos I take 20 years from now and have it be exactly how they remember that moment.”
“Clients” might not be the right term for Alexa, though. She prefers to get to know them as personal friends when capturing their special day.
“I tell people they should like their wedding photographer as a person, not just as a photographer,” she shared. “You want to feel comfortable with this person who is providing you with the one thing that is going to last you forever.”
That’s why when you hire Alexa for your wedding, the first step in the process is simply getting to know each other.
“We just hangout and then schedule an engagement session where we really get to spend time together and I get to know them as a couple,” Alexa said. “The more I know you on your wedding day, the more comfortable you’ll feel and the better the photos will be.”
Just like for weddings, the photos and experience are better for family shoots when the kids are comfortable with the photographer, too.
“For family or newborn sessions when there is a child who is two or three, I tell the parents to say that our new friend Alexa is coming to hangout,” she explained, “and sometimes, I play with them for a couple minutes before I can even put my camera on just so they feel comfortable with a new person.”
Anyone can tell Alexa’s process is pretty relaxed, which is why she describes her ideal client as “laid-back, natural, enjoys finer things, but also embraces imperfection.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever taken a perfect photo and I don’t think I ever want to,” she shared. “I don’t think that exists.”
That might be why one of her most memorable shoots was a destination wedding in Vermont that involved embracing the mud and rain.
“It was perfect because there was so much love that it didn’t matter that nothing went perfectly.”
Emotions are the other key to capturing a memorable moment for Alexa.
“I really like when people let their guard down and let their emotions flow,” she said. “I almost always cry at weddings and I think that’s okay because I’m really experiencing it, so it allows me to do my job.”
Newborn shoots can also be emotional for both the parents and Alexa.
“I’ve had some newborn sessions where the parents had struggled to get pregnant and it’s finally here and the three of us are just staring at this baby,” Alexa described. “It’s a really cool moment I get to be a part of.”
Alexa has been operating her business by herself for five years. She does all of her own photographing, editing, scheduling, blogging, and so much more.
“I’ve never actually counted how many hours a week that I work,” she said, “but it’s definitely way over 40.”
Despite a sometimes overwhelming schedule, Alexa has kept her business small for a reason.
“I would like to stay as small as possible because I think that gives a more personal experience,” Alexa said, “but as I’ve become more busy, I do need to have someone in the office soon.”
Alexa’s interest in capturing history to pass on to future generations still applies to her work today. Her goal is to make her photos feel timeless, which is why she places a huge emphasis on printing photos.
“Our generation is not remembering to print photos,” Alexa said, “so I would encourage everyone to print their photos because it should never require electricity to see a photo of someone you love.”