1. Tell us more about the personal-branding photography business that you launched in 2016, your clientele, and what aspect of the job excites you the most?
I had a photography business in London but when I came to NYC in 2015, I moved to Flatiron NoMad and spent the first year exploring the vibrant area and getting to know my neighbors, local businesses, and community. I lived very close to Madison Square Park so that became my “backyard” to meet people. I enjoy meeting people and getting to know them, so in 2016 when I launched Rashmi Gill Photography officially, I was lucky to already have people who wanted to also be my clients.
I take a lot of time getting to know each and every client and curate a shoot just for them so that when we get to shoot day, we know what is needed and the client has the photos that they need for their website, marketing, social media, press, talking engagements, or whatever else they need them for.
Meeting new people and getting to know them and their businesses excites me the most – everyone’s story and journey is different and fascinating. I am fortunate that most of my clients become friends too so I get to know them even more beyond the shoot.
My clients include James Mettham, your very own President of the Flatiron NoMad Partnership, Zarna Garg, comedienne and entrepreneur who has created a storm on the comedy scene across the U.S., Ronita Kalra of Compass and “Million Dollar Listing,” and other entrepreneurs who have started or have businesses, especially in or around the area.
2. You’re also an Associate Board co-chair at the Madison Square Park Conservancy and take photos for the organization. Describe your dual role at the Conservancy.
Madison Square Park was a huge part of my initial time here – my daughter even took her first real steps there. We did not have any family or friends here in the NYC, but now I have a “NYC family” and largely because of the people I met at MSP. I soon fell in love with the park, the events they put on for the whole community and wanted to do something to support it, especially as I soon found out that they raise all the money to support it privately.
It was at their annual tree lighting event that I really took to step forward to ask them what I can do to help. Next thing you know, I was at NeueHouse having coffee with Keats Myer, the previous Executive Director of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, and we were talking about the relatively newly formed Associate Board. When I first joined, Deepka Sani was the only chair and they were looking for a co-chair. I applied and got that role and I haven’t looked back since. I am in awe of the work the whole team at MSPC does to keep the 6.2 acres of park clean and green and an oasis in this crazy but amazing city.
As the official photographer for MSPC, I get to take photos of the park for their marketing, annual campaigns, and social media. I get to have more of an intimate contact with the artists and their installations, and also with the MSPC staff. One of the photos I took of the flag pole and eternal light was published in the New York Times, which was quite special.
3. Flatiron and NoMad are among the most photographed places in the world. What’s your favorite architectural element to photograph in the area?
Isn’t that amazing? We are fortunate to live and work here. I still pinch myself when I am walking in the area and I look up and see the trees of Madison Square Park and then the recognizable buildings surrounding it. I LOVE photographing in the Flatiron and NoMad area, it feels so iconic New York and most of my clients want to shoot here because of that. A lot of my clients have their businesses in the area too.
If I had to choose a favorite element, it would have to be the Empire State Building, especially as you walk across 22nd Street from Fifth Avenue and Broadway – no matter where you live, when you see the Empire State Building, you know where it is. I often am photographing from the pedestrian area with the tables and chairs sometimes having to lie down when doing so to get the right angle – boy, the things I do to get “the shot!”
4. Before relocating to NYC, you grew up in England as the daughter of immigrants from India and Kenya and earned a law degree. What inspired you to pursue photography as a profession and engage in entrepreneurship?
I actually studied and qualified to become a lawyer in the U.K. As a child of first-generation immigrants to London, I saw how hard my parents worked and also admired their work ethic. They sometimes worked 2 or 3 jobs, plus studied and then eventually got their respective full-time jobs. They always told me to become a “professional,” which back then meant a lawyer, doctor, dentist, or engineer. They basically saw those as professions that would secure a good, financial independent future where I wouldn’t have to struggle like they did. I totally see where they were coming from. They wanted the best for me.
But we as a family are all very creative – into art, music, and dance. We all did something on the side as a hobby. Mine was photography. I started doing it so much that I found myself getting photography jobs from clients and started a part-time business on the side on weekends. Then when my law firm was merging with a new firm and offered the choice between joining the new firm or redundancy, I jumped at the chance of the latter as I knew I would never do it otherwise. That’s when I really started my first photography business, VividClicks.
I knew when I came to NYC, I was not going to do the NYC Bar Exam. I would wake up in cold sweats at the thought of doing an exam at my age! So, I eventually started Rashmi Gill Photography here and have never looked back since.
5. For those aspiring to own their own business, what professional advice can you share?
Owning a business is not easy, it can be 24/7 especially if like me, you run it on your own. But, never give up, follow your heart and mind, build a supportive community around you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
6. When you’re taking a break from photography, how do you like to spend your time in Flatiron and NoMad? What do you love most about these vibrant communities?
Oh goodness, so many to list! I recently started working out and I do not like working out! But I found Wolfpack near me and have been working out with Diego twice a week. He started his business at a young age and I really admire his work ethic. I had my second baby in 2020 so with that plus having been pregnant over the Covid-19 lockdown, I felt I needed to do something to help me get healthy and feel good again. Plus, I need the energy to run after a 2-year-old!
As a family, we love Blackbarn – they opened when we first moved here, so Chef John and Chef Brian have a special place in our hearts. It’s my daughter’s favorite place to go on celebrations–she loves their Butternut Squash Ravioli.
I turned vegetarian last year, so I go to Planta Queen A LOT! They have delicious food and drinks and all the staff are always welcoming.
Project Gaia NYC, a women-owned business, opened about a year ago and I get excited to go in to see what new and unique pieces they have–each one carefully curated and have a sustainable or ethically element to them.
And of course, MAISON 10 – Tom and Henri are family now. I discovered M10 when I moved here and instantly connected with Tom as we had the U.K. connection. My daughter who was 2 at the time, would join me for the Friday Night Live events and cling onto “Uncle Henri’s” leg while he would speak to the crowd.
7. Finally, choose three words to describe Flatiron and NoMad.