Brooklyn-based photographer Magda Zofia has captured many famous faces, from Karlie Kloss to Ashley Graham to Jason Schwartzman—but the photos of hers I find most engaging are the ones of people I’ve never seen before.
Take, for example, an image that she took while in Nairobi with Uber, which is one of her clients. An Instagram post about the trip shows one of the ride-share app’s female drivers dressed in a bold blue suit and smiling while standing in front of a pastel pink wall. In the caption, Zofia highlights the subject’s sense of humour, and how an impromptu sighting of the pop-y background really brought the photo to life.
This is what Zofia, at least after my hour-long conversation with her at a cafe in Bushwick, seems to be most interested in: life. During our chat, we discuss freelancing and how managing our own schedules is a constant work in progress. “It’s hard to take advice; they don’t have my lifestyle,” she says when I ask if any peers have offered insight into how they maintain a work-life balance. “I’m okay with taking a slower trajectory. I visit my family a lot. I still try to work every single day, but I make time for my relationships, my health.” Zofia says that making adjustments, such as waking up early to put in some work hours before her family awakens, allows her to not only be truly invested in quality time, but to also feel a certain amount of accomplishment. “When you’re running your own thing, you’ve always got this underlying [sense] of, ‘I should be doing this, I should be doing that,’” she reflects. “It’s about accepting and compartmentalizing.”
And Zofia seems to know what works for her in this regard. Noting that she once thought she would work in fashion photography—but “there’s this cool factor to fashion that I didn’t really click with,” she says—Zofia now has an image-making style that’s a little difficult to identify but is undeniably engaging. “It’s hard to define,” she says of her work, which could be classified as documentary-style commercial photography. Instead of being focused on technical mastery, Zofia’s photos exude the personalities of those in front of her camera, whether they’re code-savvy supermodels or little kids in cars. “I prefer to be a fly on the wall,” she notes; it’s a zone that serves her well in the current landscape of brand storytelling, where striving for authenticity is essential.
The urge to express the human condition is unsurprising coming from Zofia, who enthuses about coworking spaces and why working with start-ups appeals to her. “I love people. I love being able to interact with them,” she adds. But there’s a limit to her social spirit—at least when it comes to social media. One of the most important things I take away from our coffee date is the discovery of a phone function that helps limit time spent on platforms like Instagram, after I admit to her that the night before I whiled away an hour in a scroll hole. “That’s helped me so much,” she says. Because as her photos show, there’s so much more to life than what’s on our screens.