For many years now I've had cilents and friends ask me why I named my business Shalimar Studios. It was a very conscious decision, and one that I did not take lightly, after all, I wanted it to represent so many things about me, the vision of the business, and what it means to clients. But as many of you know, starting any type of business can be a large undertaking. All the market research, the start-up costs, the business plan, the paperwork, the long hours, it seems endless at times. However I am a firm believer that when I am completely dedicated to a task, fully invested emotionally, have clear set goals, and work endlessly, the universe will conspire to make it happen. And that is exactly how I felt about this business.
It was at a time where my hobby of photography had grown into a virtual obsession. I spent all my free time reading, learning about photography, practicing, emailing other photographers and in addition to working a full time job, also worked 1 day a week for a pet photographer. I had reached the point where I felt my skill set was at a proficient level to start a business and make use of the $38k MBA I was still paying off. I was frequently visiting family in Arizona at any chance I could get, and after dinner one night I sat them all down and told them about my dream to start a photography studio.
The first question was, “What will you name it?” And right there was the million dollar question. From having researched and networked within the industry, I knew it was very common for the business to be named after the founder and photographer. However what do you do when you have such an unusual and often mispronounced name like mine? I knew right away I was not going to use my name as the name of the business. Anything that would cause a potential client to hesitate at trying to pronounce my name, I felt would become a barrier large enough that they would just move on to the next photographer on the list. So with that in mind, I still wanted a name that would honor who I am, what I represent and also encapsulate something representative of my culture, target clientele and make it easy for any potential client to pronounce.
Taken in 1978, this photo with my siblings and cousin show us on the grounds of Shalimar Gardens. A 6 year old Yasmin is far left.
The name was so important to me because my branding and marketing would be based upon those few chosen words. Words were thrown out by family members randomly, and I kept referencing that I wanted it to represent my Pakistani heritage. But in a post 9-11 world, let's face it, Pakistan is not associated with positive notions. Any reference to the Muslim religion, (even though I am Christian), or a city, or something easily associated could have potentially turned away clients as well. There needed to be a delicate balance of honoring my heritage, making it easily pronounced by my clients, as well as associated with something historical, visually appealing, and mindful of design.
I started throwing out landmarks and points of interest in Pakistan so we could make some sort of association, Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Fort, Khyber Pass, and Shalimar Gardens. And there is was. Shalimar Gardens, the famed mogul era gardens built by Emperor Shah Jehan, (who also built the Taj Mahal), of beautifully manicured grounds, exuding elegance and calm amidst the large bustling city of Lahore. Now deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is visited by locals and tourists, and just at the sound of the name, reminds me of my only visit there when I was 6 years old.
Built in 1641 and equipped with fountains, areas where the royal court would spend their time, the four terraces provided for gracious space for them to live. Of the ascending terraces, the highest one was reserved only for royalty and women of the court. Intricate carvings and fretwork throughout the grounds speak of the dedication of their artwork and skill set. The visual layout of the terraces with its over 400 fountains emptying into marble pools, was representative of mughal era architecture and honored Shah Jehan's keen eye for design.
On one of the beautiful marble terraces, here we are joined by my grandfather and aunt. Is it any surprise I'm posing on the far right with my arm on my hip?
And thus, the more I thought about it, the more I was drawn to the name. Shalimar Gardens represented an elegance, a devotion and love of family, an intent and focused eye on design, layout and visual appeal. A leisurely walk amongst the trees and flower beds contrasted by the red walls, marble pools and geometric patterns was something I wanted to represent my business. The visual references, knod to my heritage, and fond memories of walking with my grandfather through those same terraces as a bright-eyed 6 year old, urged me to narrow down the choices. And at that point, I knew this was the name for me.
And thus, Shalimar Studios was born. A business I hope which conveys to you, the importance of cherishing family time, capturing something that will live long past the time we leave this earth, and a business that can turn a visual medium into something impactful through composition, design and imagery.