Interview: Fejz Sadiku

"I go by the name Fejz (like Faze) which is short for Fejzullah my full name, it means I was branded by my grandma because this name is kinda old in my country, Kosovo.

I was born when it was war in my country back in ’98 and I can say that our whole lives has been a war there, physically one or mentally.

I first found peace in graphic design which i could experiment with music covers or movie posters, but when I was editing them I felt that this is not 100% mine, because Im just editing photos they’re sending to me and just adding some effects and type. So I wanted whenever I produce something, to be everything from me. Like creative direction, shoots and everything else. So I had things to learn so I picked a camera and I really can’t describe the feeling.

Design kept me inside my room all day, but photography took me out there, in the streets, in the sunny day or rainy day, in celebrations or protests, this is one of the reasons I love now photography more than design, because you have to be there, you have to be outside, you have to live it and capture it. It made me feel alive, it made me feel seen. You can choose every of my images and I really can tell a whole story about it, they really mean a lot to me and I really try to improve myself daily on it, because there’s still a long road to go.

I tried not to talk so much but I really get hyped talking about it."

Follow Fejz on instagram @fejzsadiku

Sure Thing:  I know we just recently connected on Twitter but I was immediately into your work. Do you currently live in NYC?

Fejz:  Yes, I moved here in december last year, 2-3 months before lockdown.

Oh wow. Well I'm sorry about that timing haha. I promise NYC is a much better time when it's fully open. You moved directly from Kosovo?

First I moved in Delaware like a student and stayed there for 3 months, after that i was in Texas for a whole month visiting some friends but I didn’t like it, so I extended my visa and moved to NYC by myself.

Incredible. I think you made the right call. Excited for you to experience the city when it comes back to normal (hopefully). You already have a ton of photos from here though - are you out shooting often?

Oh man i shoot a lot, i have a lot on my archives too. I kinda shoot almost daily after 6pm, because I live in Astoria and is not so far from the city.  I think I came here in best time possible (if i can say that).
Documented lockdown, protests, riots, reopen phases, plywood around the city, celebrations of elections. Literally witnessed everything.

I love that. Sounds like you have a ton of drive behind you. And great transition - I was going to ask about your protest / riot photos since you sent a ton over. SUPER powerful work there. Some of the "best" i've seen throughout this time - you really aren't afraid to get in the action huh? Where do you think that comes from? I know you mentioned that photography makes you feel alive - is that part of it? I can't even imagine the rush in those type of situations.

I never in my life was in a protest. It was my first time protesting and documenting at the same time. I felt an adrenaline and I think I missed seeing people together, all those months in lockdown did good to no one.
Yes, it was very very risky, because if they arrested me they would cancel my visa or send me back to my country immediately. I still remember those nights, especially 30-31st of may, when things were heated a little bit, I remember I was always running and always pointing on my camera to police so they would not arrest me because I was alone there. I like to shot alone, especially in these situations because people limit you, I feel the rush to capture something, I don’t care about the quality of an image, as long as it does the work. Like I said, my legs hurted for 2-3 days because of running to capture the shots and then running from NYPD.

Damn dude that's determination right there. I gotta respect that. I love your point about just getting the photo and not focusing on the quality of it. It's not like you'll even have time to frame some situations up perfectly because of things moving so fast. I think that's a great takeaway as I think a lot of people wait and wait and wait for the perfect photo - so much so that they undershoot and under perform. Great images though - you need more recognition from these. What was the story behind this one?  How'd you get in there / did you notice the eye contact in the moment?

This is one of my fav ones during protests, the guy was landing on the ground and i rushed in front of him. I couldn’t do nothing about it so I just did my thing - taking a shot, he first looked me in the eye and then he looked at the camera. This moment really made me sad, i just wish i hugged this guy before nypd came there and separated us.
This is one of the things I regretted in every image, that I didn’t get that human’s contact info so I could share it with them. But I think that’s why it makes it unique, because is the same things when brands tag their models and the attention goes to the model and not the product, I think the same is here, now the attention is not only in this guy, but what he represents, who he represents, why is he there, what made him lay in the ground

It seems like a lot of people take photos for clout sometimes, but it seems like you come from a purely passionate passionate and caring place. Where do you think that stems from?

Like I told you I was born when war was happening in my country, and after that we had to build new houses and everything, and you can imagine how good the economy of a country can be after a war. There are a lot of people in my country that can’t even afford to buy the cheapest professional camera, and I always wanted to have one. I first started doing you know with iphone and stuff because I was focused in graphic design until someone said to me that you have to invest in your dreams if you think you’re good at it, and saved to buy a camera. But before I bought my first camera I already learned a lot about photography and art of it in general.
And I think that energy comes maybe from my desire to do it but didn’t have the chance to do it. Is like if you keep a bird in a cage and you release him, he will try to fly as much as possible and doesn’t want to stop because he spent years on a cage, and I think it’s the same situation with us too. 
I don’t want anymore To Learn How To Fly, I just want to fly.

You are dropping some SOLID quotes right here. Your passion about photo is something I honestly rarely hear in NY. I know people love it, but I dont know if there is much of a "feeling" that drives people to shoot here. Just my opinion I guess. That's what drove you to focus more on photo than graphic design right? I know you said you feel more alive and you actually need to get out and capture images so I guess you have more ownership in the work. How much credit do you give your graphic design work in you learning, or picking up photography? Do you think you would be as good of a photographer if it wasn't for your prior work in graphic design?

I liked photography and also we learned about it while we were studying graphic design, but design has too many rules that u have to follow them and I think this is where my love for design started to fade out, but I still do it. Yes, design I think made me a better photographer, because we learned branding and like how to stand out a brand from other brands, and I think that’s how photography is too, u have to stand out, is good if u have ur own style. That’s how I ended doing black and white stuff since 2014. First I started it so people won’t notice my shitty iphone camera, then it started as a brand, people recognized me as the guy who does only b&w pics for a while.

I feel like you're reading my mind. Great points by the way and I wish I could get into graphic design, but I understand there is a lot to learn with the rules you had mentioned. I did want to touch on the B&W concept and I notice you capture blurry / dragged shutter photos often. I understand the B&W for a branding purpose, but do you ever edit in color? And what's the story behind the shutter drag photos? I love that your instagram profile photos is pretty much a combo of both of these...

It started as a branding purpose but right now is just a part of my life, even my clothes and furnitures are almost all black or white. Yes, I sometimes edit in colors, I like the film look on them, probably will experiment with them in the future
I don’t know, I always was a fan of those, it adds movement, questions, and it feels like in rush, like our lives.
 I mean, I'm still trying to find myself and I think im far from where I want to be.

I have a buddy who gets black cue tips for his bathroom because it's his vibe haha. I'll let you run - this was a nice chat. Do you have any plans for the near future? Anywhere specific in NY you want to shoot, or anything career wise you want to pursue here in NY?

My first wish is to find a job here as a graphic designer or a photography something, started shooting fashion lately and i like that too!
It’s been a long time I haven’t been in Brooklyn, probably something there. Y
es man, thank you! i think i was waiting a lot for someone to ask me these questions.


Thanks again to Fejz for taking the time to chat with us. Go check out his work.
-Sure Thing