I am a portrait photographer, filmmaker, and storyteller.
I am an artist, dancer, wounded healer, auntie, decolonizer and abolitionist.
My camera is an extension of my heart.
I bear witness. I feel what's unspoken. And I love to see people thrive.
To be photographed by me is to be seen by a dancer who has spent her life working with her body as a vehicle of expression. Dance is the river of life that informs and animates every single thing I do.
My aim is always to listen deeply and stay in service to what the moment is asking. I believe that the unadorned truth is the most beautiful, and all we have to do is relax and get out of its way.
Nilaya Sabnis is a first generation Indian-American dancer and photographer who grew up in two worlds—the suburbs of Pennsylvania and the city of Mumbai. She holds a BA in Economics from Wesleyan University. She received her training in modern, ballet, pointe, and West African dance at the Alvin Ailey School in NYC, and her training in Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) from guru G.V. Ramani in Mumbai. She toured the world as a dancer with Madonna, Cirque du Soleil, and A.R. Rahman.
It was during her years as a professional touring dancer, surrounded and influenced by some of the most powerful creative minds in the industry, that she picked up a camera to document her experiences backstage around the world, and discovered her love of visual storytelling.
After 10 years on the road, she left the commercial dance industry to explore her relationship with dance as a spiritual practice. She now works globally as a documentary and portrait photographer with an intuitive ability to communicate heart and soul viscerally through the visual image, providing photographic storytelling for nonprofit organizations and corporations looking to expand the emotional impact of their work in the world. She also conducts portrait photography and movement sessions as a creative space for women to explore their personal power.
Her footage during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Navajo Nation and with migrant farm workers in central California, is featured in Ron Howard's National Geographic documentary film, "We Feed People", which was nominated for an Emmy award for best cinematography in 2022.
She is a certified teacher of the 5Rhythms® movement meditation practice, continuing in the lineage of her beloved mentor and creator of the practice, Gabrielle Roth, for whom Nilaya served as creative assistant and artistic ally for the last decade of Roth's life.
In her ongoing work in both photography and dance, Nilaya's desire is to be an amplifier of unconditional love, to hold space for historically excluded voices, and give rise to an emergent world in which the true shapes of our souls can flourish.