An inside look into the art of capturing moments(photography).
Featuring Aliya Al Uariachi.
Interview conducted by Nenritji Esther Suwa
Interviewer: Would you like to introduce yourself?
Aliya: My name is Aliya Al Uariachi. I’m 19 years, almost 20, having a little existential crisis*, I come from an international background and I take music and theatre as my majors in ACM. I have always had a hobby for photography. Ever since I could take pictures on flip phones when I was a kid. I just love taking pictures of the people I love and that has translated to why I love portrait photography so much. I enjoy doing landscapes now and then, but portrait photography is my forte and my focus. I just love taking pictures of beautiful people and my beautiful friends. There is so much beauty in people and I love capturing that.
Interviewer*: Coincidentally, on the day of upload* today is also Aliya’s birthday. Happy birthday to Aliya from the whole Publishing Committee! 🙂
Interviewer: I love that. That’s amazing! I heard that you are the official photographer for study Association IK this year. Congratulations.
Aliya: Thank you.
Interviewer: That’s incredible. The official photos of the board were iconic, beautiful. I thought they were wonderfully executed and magazine-style.
Aliya: Thank you, I had so much fun taking the board photos. Those are really cool. It was so fun.
Interviewer: You are amazingly talented. The organization of the photo, they look very professional and the fashion that was incorporated into the photos was just wonderful.
Interviewer: Have you been working on any interesting projects with Study Association IK or concerning that?
Aliya: It’s been kind of slow, the current Covid situation doesn’t help, just because of minimizing contact with people. We are very much dependent on the weather. I prefer outdoor photography anyway. You can’t really plan for a good day, in terms of lighting or weather. It’s been a lot of Impromptu shoots. It has become my new year’s resolution to shoot at least once a week. I try to go out into nature and shoot, whatever I can see, helps get me out into nature. It allows me to have really nice distant walks and meet with my friends. I have been trying to just take more photos because I forget how much I love it. No specific projects, just me trying to immerse myself into my photography more.
Interviewer: I think also in a time of isolation you have to find various ways to express yourself creatively in any way you can.
Interviewer: I think it’s really cool to have the resolution to express yourself at least once a week in your hobby art form.
Interviewer: Earlier, you mentioned that you’ve been taking pictures since flip phones. Can you talk about how you discovered photography and how it became the passion that it is for you?
Aliya: Sure. I remember when I was a kid, I needed to give a presentation or make an argument as to why my parents should get me an iPod touch and my biggest case was so I could take photos. I was 13 at the time and didn’t have a phone until I was 16. So it was like a really big deal, I just remember that it meant I could get Instagram as well. So I could just take photos and do whatever. I was in a co-curricular fair event at the new high school I went to. I was really interested in the photography stand, I thought to myself that I couldn’t enjoy it because I did not own a DSLR. My dad was really encouraging me just to sign up. I didn’t realize that they were going to surprise me with an entry-level DSLR for my birthday that year. I was so excited…from there I joined a group at my school, had a teacher who was an incredible mentor to me for the past five years since I began taking photos. I realized that I really liked it and I was okay at it. I had realized that I was not messing around anymore and I had found a purpose. I started saving money from babysitting to get a better camera and better lenses. I became more immersed in the photography world. I got subscriptions to really good editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop. I began watching videos, and it really became my life for a couple of years where I was so immersed and interested in it. I would follow my mentor to his photoshoots and help him with lighting and things like that. I would learn so much from him. Eventually, I just really continued shooting, and it was trial and error. I would find my editing style. It just became a really great creative outlet for me and I had so much fun doing that. It can become an expensive hobby but once you get to the point where you have the tools that you require and are comfortable with, you can also have side jobs. I took photos of families as a side hustle, which was really great because everyone likes photos of themselves and their families. I learned a lot from doing that. At the end of the day it all circles back to the fun and it’s been really fun to have a small business out of it as well. It’s just a lot of fun and you can make some really cool things with a camera.
Interviewer: That is such an interesting story on your beginnings and your genesis. I take photos as well and it’s just really cool to have this conversation with you and learn about your journey as well and have it be related to mine as well.
Interviewer: Do you have any photographers that you look up to, or get inspired by their work? Why do you feel your creativity comes from your own mind?
Aliya: Oh my gosh I feel like I’m going to be so bad. I feel like I should know more about that and be able to name drop but I don’t really know. I follow a lot of feature accounts on Instagram, these platforms with a really big following that will feature artists every now and then. I’m also on photography TikTok, there are some really cool photographers there. It’s not necessarily a singular photographer per se. I think it is just a particular style that I may just come across on Pinterest, or in photography magazines. I’m not into it so much, where I have role models per se. It’s more about finding things that inspire me and being able to put my own twist on them. I’m just doing things from trial and error. That’s a cool thing about shooting with a friend, is that they get cool photos out of it most of the time and I get to practice. You just need to try things over and over again to see what works and what doesn’t. So I guess it’s more in my head and just practicing constantly and being a risk-taker. I guess.
Interviewer: That’s really cool. I think there are so many different photographers out there it is really difficult to have one specific favourite photographer. The photos can just grab your attention and you may not have a clue who took them, because you are just infatuated with the photograph. That is something cool about photography, you don’t always have a singular person, you have their art style and you just appreciate it.
Aliya: Yeah, I totally agree.
Interviewer: How would you describe photography in your own words, What does it mean to you?
Aliya: I feel like I am going to take this question so much more emotionally than you are anticipating.
Interviewer: That is completely fine. Go for it!
Aliya: I’m literally tearing up! Um, for me I just think that it is really reflective of my mindset and I am really proud and grateful to say that. I think there is so much beauty in the world. (sorry for the cheesiness). Photography allows you to really see the beauty in the ugly and I think it is reflective of how I love to see the good in people. The camera will see the good in people even though sometimes people find the camera unforgiving, if it’s really high quality, it brings out all your flaws. You learn to see that those flaws are beautiful. I think that it is a beautiful way to remind yourself of all of the things you have gone through and all the places you’ve seen. Even though a camera could never capture things the way that your eye does. It is a beautiful bank of memories, that you connote with emotion, experiences, and growth. It’s a great opportunity to look back but also look forward, be so excited about making more memories. Well, that was a very long definition, I would say it’s a bank of memories that are very special. I just love that I can have a gallery of remembering, how I was with photography and how I have gotten better and how I have grown. Also, just the amazing things that I have seen and been so lucky to experience.
Interviewer: That is an amazing definition. I think that one thing I love about photography can be that it can mean something completely different for each individual artist. I don’t know if this is my quote or someone else came up with it. Photography allows you to freeze time. You are capturing a singular moment in time, where no matter where you are in life you will always remember that moment because of the photo. I think that is such a powerful thing about photography that is not appreciated enough.
Interviewer: Do you see yourself pursuing photography in the future. I know you are currently studying Theatre and Music.
Aliya: I feel like photography for me is always about an opportunity and having options. Making it big time in photography is something that you can live on, like freelancing. I think it doesn’t matter how technologically advanced society gets, there will always be something special about hiring someone to take photos of you. You can’t take the same photos of yourself that other people would take of you, but there is definitely a business there. It is not my personal career choice. I will always have photography in my life, I just imagine the high-quality photos my kids will have.
Aliya: Or how I will always bring my camera when I go on family trips or when I visit family. Which I try to do, so I can take photos of family in these interesting times. So for me, it will always be a hobby, although there is an opportunity for it to be a side-hustle. Because I don’t know where I will be financially in 5 or 10 years. It’s not my plan, but it’s not an impossibility.
Interviewer: I completely get that. One cool thing about our generation is that we have so many things that we find we are interested and good at, the way society is progressing you don’t need to have just one job. You can do so many different things, and that’s so cool.
Aliya: 100% yeah!
Interviewer: So I noticed because I cyber-stalked you before this interview.
Interviewer: I have noticed that you love to take portraits of your family and friends. Would you say that is your main style of photography or would you also love to expand more and try different photography styles?
Aliya: Portrait photography is my forte, I don’t have as good an eye for architecture or landscape or sport photography or things like that. As I do for portrait photography, I believe that is where my strongest passion lies. I definitely have so much room to grow, and I want to keep improving my skills. There is a range that you can go with portrait photography and I want to explore all of that. I am also interested in fashion photography as well, I really want to learn more about that as well. I just love faces and bodies, my favorite thing is showing the photos to my clients (sometimes friends) and the response being “oh my god I look so good.” “I respond with yeah you do look good, like yes that’s what you look like.” It’s amazing just seeing them realize how beautiful they are when they would never really think they were beautiful. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy and cliche but it’s true. It’s such a really great thing to be a part of.
Interviewer: Would you say that for you that is the most rewarding part of being a photographer or your art form. Having your clients or friends see themselves through your eyes. I sometimes think that some people don’t see the beauty that is within them unless someone else points it out. This is about to get deep.
Aliya: Let’s go! Let’s dive in!
Interviewer: I feel like…for example, because as an individual you’re living with yourself, every single day in your own body for your entire lifetime. So I think as an individual, you may not see things about yourself that actually stand out to other people. So would you say that giving that feeling to your client or friend is the most rewarding part of being a photographer?
Aliya: Definitely. I’m going to give an example of when I was actually in front of the camera, not behind the camera, because I felt like I had an emotional attachment to this. But I don’t really like being in front of the camera. I’m far more comfortable being the one taking the picture. So I understand when people are like, “oh, I don’t really know how to pose.” I’m like, “you’re doing just fine.”
Aliya: And it’s part of being the photographer, part being the hype woman/life coach, like you really just got to make people feel comfortable being themselves. That’s the most beautiful thing. Capturing people being themselves is fantastic and that is very rewarding. But I remember I was taking photos with my housemate this one time. We were just in nature nearby my house, and it was sunset, and I was taking photos of her and she’s like: Oh, do you want photos of yourself, too? I was like, OK, I tried to get out of my comfort zone. And she took these photos, and I looked at them later, and I was like, “Hey, I actually kind of like these photos.” And she’s like, “That’s how I see you.”
I’m like: You see me that way? I’m like… I feel so pretty in that photo. And she’s like: That’s how I see you. And I say: Oh my gosh. Yeah, I don’t know, like you don’t expect people to see you in this particular way until a photo is taken of you and you really see it from their eye. And I can imagine it’s the other way around. Like when I get people saying: Wow, I never thought that this could look so beautiful or that I could look this way.
Aliya: And it’s not only about what you look physically because obviously our society is very much focused on our outer beauty. But it’s the fact that the outer beauty is really expressed through their ability to be confident in their ability to take the risk of being in front of the camera and to have their vulnerabilities exposed and to be vulnerable with me and with the camera. Like you have to trust a photographer so much to take photos that, you know, you’re not going to always look good. And like when people are sneezing or eating or their eyes are closed or whatever. But when you do capture those perfect moments, that is very rewarding.
Interviewer: So what would you say is the most difficult part about being a photographer?
Aliya: When things just don’t go the way that you planned. It can be really good sometimes, but sometimes not. It’s just incredibly frustrating when you thought that things were really meshing and when things are out of focus, or when the lighting isn’t as good as you had anticipated, or when things just don’t work. You had this image in your head and it hadn’t been translated to your computer screen. I think it’s one of the most difficult things because you’re always your worst critic, right, with your art?
Interviewer: So what do you want people to take away from your art? For example, someone who’s not your client, who just comes up on your Instagram page or somehow finds you, what you want them to take away from your art? That is just purely you.
Aliya: That humans are so beautiful and that there’s beauty in literally everything and everyone is beautiful in their own way. That there is something very strong about being vulnerable and about having your photo taken and about sharing your face with the camera and with the photographer. Yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing.
Interviewer: Do your clients inspire you in any way?
Aliya: Definitely, I mean, first of all, fashion-wise, I’ve had like some of my friends, they just wear really cool things and because I’m not a very fashionable person myself, but I really get inspired. And their confidence as well is beautiful when you see them transition from, laughing and feeling awkward into being like: OK, I’m a bad b*tch. I got this. You can tell I mostly photograph women and that’s just coincidental. It’s really good to see because we are so like our habits are ingrained in putting other women down and also putting ourselves down. So when I see someone able to uplift themselves is the best part. So seeing their confidence really inspires me as well.
Interviewer: Well, that rounds up our interview.
Interviewer: So thank you for joining this interview. Really appreciate your impact. And one of the reasons why we started doing this as a publishing committee is because we know that there’s so much art and so much talent within the community of ACM students, we feel like that is not being showcased since we are mostly busy writing essays and submitting deadlines. So I think this is a really powerful thing. And I love your photography. It’s so amazing. I really, really appreciate this interview. Thank you so much for coming and joining us today.
Aliya: Thank you. You’re such a sweetheart. Thank you for giving me my voice.