Life is too precious.

As a photographer, it is not often that you get to have the honor of capturing the special day of someone close to you. It is an even more rare honor to capture what would be known as the last photos.

About a month ago, I had the honor of attending and photographing the wedding celebration of Almaz and Segun. Almaz and I literally grew up together. She is only a year and a half older than me, so she is like a big sister. She had already been married for a couple of years, but she finally got to have her dream ceremony. It was such a great sight to see her so happy and surrounded by love.  It is a gift to be able to capture the beauty in someone I know.

I have a newfound definition of love. I have a newfound calmness about life. I worry too much about the smallest things. Almaz, on the other hand, was the definition of a free spirit. She was also a fighter, figuratively and literally, haha.

She loved to sing, loved to dance, and loved to laugh. She was a great woman, friend, sister, aunt, and wife. The kids loved her and she loved the kids.

I know she’s gone physically, I am not in denial about it, but I also know she is still here. I cannot grieve for too long because she lives on in spirit. She is such an angel. She was an angel on earth and now she is an angel in heaven, but she is our guardian angel now; I can feel it.

I am grateful I rarely missed the opportunity to tell her I love her.

I am grateful to have been there for her, seen her happy, sad, and mad. I have so many childhood memories that will forever be in my heart. I have seen all the faces of Almaz. Now, she is safe and she is at peace. I am grateful to have seen her at least 3 times this year.

I am grateful to have heard her voice as of recently. Our last conversation was a couple of days ago. She called me talking about wanting to travel to Lagos, Nigeria; she was so excited about the trip! Now, I want to go to Nigeria for her, for the love of Mazy. I am grateful to know she was able to celebrate another year of age right before God called her home.

She is my hero. If I just think, What would Almaz do? I know I will be just fine.

I love you Almaz. I hope you continue to dance. I’ll see you again soon.

Key to My Heart

It was my freshman year in high school. I was enjoying lunch with my girls when I saw a table being set up right in front of us. As they were putting a banner up, I read the words “Key Club.”

I asked out loud “What is Key Club?” We ended up jokingly going back and forth for a while about what it could have meant. Then, I asked, do they make keys?”

Shortly after, a friend and I walked up to the table to find out what it was all about.

We asked they answered. “Oh no, we don’t make keys, we are a service club. If you want you can sign up to attend our meeting to find out more about volunteer projects. Most of them are on the weekends.”

My friend brushed it off, “Oh, no, I don’t have time for that.”

But I was slow to move and respond because something really resonated with me, so I took a brochure.

As I was reading it later, I became really intrigued by all that I was reading. Founded by Kiwanis, there is an elementary school level (K-Kids), middle school (Builders Club), high school (Key Club) and even college (CKI) level. I excitedly blurted out a fact I just read about the organization. “Did you know Brad Pitt was a Key Clubber?!” None of my friends seemed as enthused as I was.

Fast forward to a few months later, I am volunteering at numerous service and fundraiser events on the weekends. I even ran for a club leadership position during elections. I didn’t get the one I wanted, but I ended up being nominated for an even better position: Sophomore Class Director. During the end of my freshman year, I received training for my role. I was responsible for maintaining communication between the sophomore Key Clubbers and the board of directors. I ended up only holding it until the end of winter semester due to moving.

When I moved to South Florida in the middle of the school year, it was almost like a drug. I could not stand to be at a school that had a service club nowhere close to Key Club. I missed having those interactions and the instant connection with people who genuinely enjoyed serving and leading like me. So, with the help of my classmates Stefano and Whitney, a Key Club was formed at McFatter Technical. We were sponsored by a local Kiwanis Club and attended regional and district events in the first year. I was nominated President for both years of school. It was a huge part of my life, it taught me a lot about people, planning, leading and initiating. It was hard work, but it all paid off. Unexpectedly, I received an outstanding Key Club President award at the end of my second term. I recently came across photos of my sponsoring Kiwanis Club still hosting meetings and events at my high school with my school’s Key Club. Talk about a proud legacy left behind!

I did not want to miss out on being a member of the Kiwanis Family so once I moved to Washington D.C., I immediately connected with the alumni network to find local clubs of interest.

After a little bit of research, I became a member of the D.C. Young Professionals Kiwanis Club and remained an active member for the two years that I lived in D.C. Ironically, the president of the club was also a Florida Key Clubber in high school. It was full of great service projects and fun, outgoing people. I became an Eliminate Project Club Coordinator for a year. I was also Member of the Month for my active participation. Before I left, a new member joined a meeting, and we recognized each other: I met her at DCON (District Convention) as a Key Clubber when she was a CKI (Circle K International) president. What a small world! This year makes four years since my last attendance at DCON.

This year makes Key Club’s 90th anniversary and Kiwanis’ 100th anniversary. I would encourage any parent who wants to get their kids involved in their community and to gain leadership skills to allow them to join. I would encourage any teen who is looking for someplace to fit in and make a difference while in school to join. The skills, memories, and friendships carry on with you throughout life. Even though I have taken a brief hiatus from being a Kiwanian, I will always be a proud Key Clubber and Kiwanian. The will to serve is forever instilled into me.

My Memorial Day Weekend was spent with a road trip to Memphis, TN! I finally got to visit Memphis! I now feel accomplished that I have visited all three parts of Tennessee (East: Chattanooga, Middle: Nashville, West: Memphis) It is only right considering my dad is from Tennessee and I learned that he also lived in Memphis for six months at one point. Being the music head that I am, I had to see what this music city was all about. I stand corrected, Memphis is Blues City, Nashville is Music City. It was rough getting there, but I am glad I was able to spend four hours in the city while visiting with my track star friend from high school. As I tour the states, I easily see how the southeast was once all formed together. We drove through Mississippi and I visited Alabama for the first time since childhood on March 2014, and I can honestly say they look and feel the same. Based on my visit, here are five of my observations:

  1. It is definitely Blues City; blues, blues everywhere! They honored B.B. King everywhere.
  2. It’s one big circle. I had this visual that the FedEx Forum is a super long walk from wherever my hotel or place of stay would be if I ever got the chance to see the Memphis Grizzlies play, but boy was I wrong. Walk up and down Beale Street, you will get to everything in a one stop shop.
  3. It is soo close to Mississippi and Arkansas. With me being a Florida girl, you can travel four hours and just be in a different part of Florida and feel like you have been someplace new, but that is one of the biggest learning experiences I learned once I moved outside of Florida. We drove through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee in approximately 6 hours. I was so fascinated when we drove across the bridge (with the Mississippi River underneath us) to get to the Arkansas state line before turning around. I also understand why Memphis was the city for the big break for the musicians who were born and raised in the country coming from places like Mississippi such as B.B. King. Memphis is also not too far from that good southern home cuisine with numerous food choices along Beale Street. I had lunch at Blues City Cafe!
  4. It needs A LOT of work; high crime rate, not so booming businesses, buildings outdated and torn down. But like a lot of metropolitan areas that I have been to, MLK Blvd is on the not so well kept parts of the city but also where most of the people of color reside.
  5. It’s like other parts of the south as far as the scenery. When it comes to bright colorful lights, it closely resembles Nashville except downtown Nashville’s bright lights are on a few more streets within Downtown. In my opinion, Nashville is the place where most country musicians go for their big break, Memphis has been the spot for blues and R&B artists, with the exception of rap (Three6Mafia). No wonder Justin Timberlake always stood out growing up because of his music tastes.

All in all, it is a place like no other. I encourage you to visit! I always encourage you to go places you have never been to or never or have always imagined visiting; it will open your eyes!

Photos by Zaakirah | Nayyar Photography

In honor of Senegal’s 55th Independence Day on April 4th, here are a few photos from my week long visit to Dakar, Goree Island and other places in Senegal over the summer in 2014. Despite going during a time where it was, what I considered a Ghost Town, because it was the Fasting Month of Ramadan, the city is very colorful and vibrant. Dakar has such a balance with its temperatures, easily because of its close proximity to the water, but also because of its location in the equator (along the same equatorial lines of the British Islands). My fiance (at the time) and I were able to enjoy a beach day with my niece and nephew (we stayed with a family friend whom I knew in Florida before she moved back to Senegal). I have always had a huge love for the French lifestyle and food, especially after my visit to Paris and various cities in France 5 years back. Despite, just like any other African country, there is the very poor side and then the more developed side, it is still a beautiful and friendly country. I was able to see both sides and spend some time giving back to the poor community during their fast-breaking; it was quite an experience. The children are so precious. I also witnessed that a lot of the newer cars are the European imports, such as BMW, Mercedes Benz. The buildings are mainly constructed by North Koreans. All in All, I would go back if I could. I would definitely recommend anyone to visit. Especially the humongous Renaissance Monument, located right smack in the middle of the city, located not far from the airport. Happy Independence Day, Senegal!

blackadventuristas: What We Do Wednesday | #BlackAdventuristas tell our stories! The second installment of our campaign, #MyAdventureStory, Features Zaakirah Nayyar Demba {@illuminousone @nayyarphotog}, an avid traveler, photographer, writer, music & people lover, & survivor of retinoblastoma (a rare form of eye cancer). When asked what inspires her to live adventurously, she said: I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to live a fulfilling life. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am not just living for myself, I am living for the many other people out there who are like me, or who are going through what I have gone through. I have always considered myself a part of many different cultures. The most important culture that I am slowly learning to fully embrace is the (Retinoblastoma) Survivors culture. Being a survivor and in remission for 21 years now, I don’t always fully realize how blessed I am and tend to take it for granted. I am very health conscious. It is in the front of my mind that (my) life is very short. Because I firmly believe that life is short, it also contributes to me always genuinely wanting to live adventurously, travel far, and love hard as if there is one life to live. I encourage others to do the same, and it’s why I am so humbled when people do tell me that I have inspired them. As an effect, I feel like I am closer to having fulfilled my destiny of being of service to others. Read the rest of her story here: http://tmblr.co/ZB1csm1glSxLS  #WhatWeDoWednesday #WhatWeDo #Storytelling #Adventurer #Traveler #Wanderer #Survivor #Inspirer #BlackGirlsRock #BlackGirlMagic #AdventureSeeker #AdventureAwaits #TravelFar #LoveHard #LifeIsShort #LiveFearlessly #LiveAdventurously

blackadventuristas:

What We Do Wednesday | #BlackAdventuristas tell our stories! The second installment of our campaign, #MyAdventureStory, Features Zaakirah Nayyar Demba {@illuminousone @nayyarphotog}, an avid traveler, photographer, writer, music & people lover, & survivor of retinoblastoma (a rare form of eye cancer). When asked what inspires her to live adventurously, she said:

I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to live a fulfilling life. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am not just living for myself, I am living for the many other people out there who are like me, or who are going through what I have gone through. I have always considered myself a part of many different cultures. The most important culture that I am slowly learning to fully embrace is the (Retinoblastoma) Survivors culture. Being a survivor and in remission for 21 years now, I don’t always fully realize how blessed I am and tend to take it for granted. I am very health conscious. It is in the front of my mind that (my) life is very short. Because I firmly believe that life is short, it also contributes to me always genuinely wanting to live adventurously, travel far, and love hard as if there is one life to live. I encourage others to do the same, and it’s why I am so humbled when people do tell me that I have inspired them. As an effect, I feel like I am closer to having fulfilled my destiny of being of service to others.

Read the rest of her story here: http://tmblr.co/ZB1csm1glSxLS 

#WhatWeDoWednesday #WhatWeDo #Storytelling #Adventurer #Traveler #Wanderer #Survivor #Inspirer #BlackGirlsRock #BlackGirlMagic #AdventureSeeker #AdventureAwaits #TravelFar #LoveHard #LifeIsShort #LiveFearlessly #LiveAdventurously

Photos from the OWN Network Press Luncheon Hosted by 135th St Agency at the Twelve Hotel in Atlanta on March 24, 2015. Photos by Nayyar Photography. Watch If Loving You is Wrong Tuesdays at 9pm EST and For Better or Worse Fridays at 9pm EST on OWN. 

Why I Love Operation Crossroads Africa

#OperationCrossroadsAfrica blossomed my love for Africa. Because of Crossroads Africa, I have been able to visit three African countries and do not plan to stop. Through this organization I have been able to find love, and continue my love for giving back and gaines new lifelong friends in return. Traveling with this organization was the start of what I discovered as my destiny. I love @operationcrossroadsafrica

#OperationCrossroadsAfrica blossomed my love for Africa. Because of Crossroads Africa, I have been able to visit three African countries and do not plan to stop. Through this organization I have been able to find love, and continue my love for giving back and gaines new lifelong friends in return. Traveling with this organization was the start of what I discovered as my destiny. I love @operationcrossroadsafrica

Trumpet Awards Red Carpet. Cobb Energy Center. Atlanta, GA. January 24, 2015.

Honorees: Jamie Foxx, Janelle Monae, Isley Brothers, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, Arnold W. Donald, Franklyn R. Wilson, Lou Brock, & Guy Vickers.

Watch the 23rd Annual Trumpet Awards on TVOne February 21, 2015.

Photos by: Zaakirah Nayyar and Kaylah Bias

www.nayyarphotography.com

A huge thank you to Danny & Vaughn for the opportunity!

2015 Trumpet Awards Red Carpet. Cobb Energy Center. Atlanta, GA. January 24, 2015.

Honorees: Jamie Foxx, Janelle Monae, Isley Brothers, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, Arnold W. Donald, Franklyn R. Wilson, Lou Brock, & Guy Vickers.

Hosted by Laila Ali & Dolvette Quince

Watch the 23rd Annual Trumpet Awards on TVOne February 21, 2015.

Photos by: Zaakirah Nayyar and Kaylah Bias

www.nayyarphotography.com

2015 Trumpet Awards Red Carpet. Cobb Energy Center. Atlanta, GA. January 24, 2015.

Honorees: Jamie Foxx, Janelle Monae, Isley Brothers, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, Arnold W. Donald, Franklyn R. Wilson, Lou Brock, & Guy Vickers.

Watch the 23rd Annual Trumpet Awards on TVOne February 21, 2015.

Photos by: Zaakirah Nayyar and Kaylah Bias

www.nayyarphotography.com

2015 Trumpet Awards Red Carpet. Cobb Energy Center. Atlanta, GA. January 24, 2015.

Honorees Include: Jamie Foxx, Janelle Monae, Isley Brothers, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, Arnold W. Donald, Franklyn R. Wilson, Lou Brock, & Guy Vickers.

Watch the 23rd Annual Trumpet Awards on TVOne February 21, 2015.

Photos by: Zaakirah Nayyar and Kaylah Bias

www.nayyarphotography.com

Dorinda Clark-Cole Album Listening Party. January 23, 2015 BMI Atlanta. Her new album “Living It” is now available for pre-order on iTunes and available everywhere February 17th! 

Photos by: Zaakirah Nayyar and Kaylah Bias

www.nayyarphotography.com

www.dorindaclarkcole.net

@Dorindatherose “Living It” Album Listening Party. January 23, 2015 held at the BMI office in Atlanta. Dorinda Clark-Cole’s latest album is available for pre-order now and will be available everywhere February 17th! The album is something for everyone, no matter what you are going through! Support good music!

Photos by Zaakirah Nayyar and Kaylah Bias

www.nayyarphotography.com

#happybirthdaydwaynewade #happybirthday @dwaynewade #dwaynewade #happybirthdaydwayne #afatherfirst #nba #basketball #miamiheat #photography #photo #event #eventphotography #nayyarphotography

#happybirthdaydwaynewade #happybirthday @dwaynewade #dwaynewade #happybirthdaydwayne #afatherfirst #nba #basketball #miamiheat #photography #photo #event #eventphotography #nayyarphotography