Binding Identities / Photography by TheMoonflowersArt

What message do you intend to portray through this striking collection of photography?

I wanted to address the many different ways that the Hijab is perceived by people. After wearing the Hijab for about 10 years, it would feel strange to picture my life without it. I personally feel empowered when I wear it - it’s become part of my identity - so I wanted to make a series with the Hijab as a central focus, whilst also showing some much needed representation for women who wear Hijab. For me, the inspiration behind 'Binding Identities’ was to present the way the Hijab has interwoven itself with my identity, and that of many other Muslim women. I also wanted to capture that while we are united by the Hijab, we still are very unique and different from each other.

What do you mean by ‘different identities’?

The uniting theme of this collection could really be anything from culture to ethnicity or even fashion. There’s not too much focus on categorising this aspect, its more of the awareness that it is unique to us all. However, to clarify [the sense of identity] in these images, the women are all wearing different coloured clothes, fashion was the way I showed this convergence in identity. However, as I plan to make this continuous series this aspect will be continuously changing also; so, again, their identities could be represented through anything.

Do your personal, lived experiences come through in any way, though?

As a British Pakistani Muslim woman, this project will of course resonate with my identity. I started photography on Instagram about two years ago; I used my iPphone to create my first work! I wanted to learn all I could and invest in my creative visions before in turn investing in a DSLR. At first I enjoyed taking a lot of photos of architecture and street imagery - which I still enjoy - but I couldn’t resist the pull of portraiture. I don't know if it was due to the perceptions surrounding the religious part of my identity, or because of the non-inclusive nature of our society. Either way, I wanted to see something I identified with and I saw my creative process as an opportunity to take images I didn't really see on these ‘portrait pages’ on Instagram. I was also able to conduct this through the help of Umma Models and their lovely models to execute this project. They are representatives of an emerging movement within the fashion industry as they are a modest modelling company. 

Do you think that the fashion industry needs to be more inclusive in this way?

I think that in recent years, more brands are becoming aware of the need to be inclusive, the recent Gap campaign received a varied response.

On the other hand, high-end labels can often be seen featuring different types of head-wear on runway walks and making it ‘fashionable’, but those who wear them day-to-day for religious reasons are perceived very differently, some countries have even gone to the extent of banning headscarves or veils. 

There’s a great deal that still needs to be done to promote inclusion, and some brands are making small steps in the right direction. Cultural awareness also plays a big part, I think brands have a responsibility of doing their research and respecting cultural or religious symbols before they interpret them into their designs.

What’s in the future for you whether in your artistic or your professional life?

I’m still in the experimental stage of my career and so, I have a lot of freedom as to what I want to capture and what narratives I want to depict. I have a lot of things that I want to try so I’m excited for where my creative visions take me. I have met a lot of people through my photography work, but I hope to possibly work with bigger companies and brands in the future. 

Naturally, as a photographer I play a part in the representation of women, no matter how big or small the difference is; but I want to encourage the positive representation of Muslim women (and women of colour also) in all areas, not just fashion. I anticipate future projects that will be creative in this way and will hopefully produce a unique and positive narrative to accompany. 

All photography by Safiyyah

Edited by Hannah Crosbie

Hannah CrosbieComment