Bridging reality with a sense of magic. Homegrown photographer cum artist, Nadirah Zakariya captures what others may perceive as mundane and turns it into art.
From a very tender age, she had always known that she was an artist. Her incessant love for anything and everything related to art has carved her career and personality alongside a supportive family and equally supportive teachers.
During her primary education in the United States, attending art classes was a form of refuge from her struggles in a foreign land. She described it as “one of the classes that I could fully participate in despite the language barrier”. Her teachers instantly took notice of her interest and potential in the art scene as they encouraged her to pursue it as a career, not just an interest.
Since then, Nadirah seeks to master the art of revealing hidden beauty through other means such as photography.
“It all just happened by accident, maybe I discovered photography at a very curious phase in my life.”
Her conceptual photographs resonate an artistic quality that goes beyond imagination. And yet, it’s funny how she once thought that photography stumbled into her life by accident. Initially, she went to Savannah College of Art and Design to pursue graphic design but instead, she went for black and white photography. “I felt comfortable expressing myself through the camera and enjoyed being in the darkroom for hours”, she explains.
Having discovered her newfound passion, Nadirah transferred to New York, specifically the Fashion Institute of Technology to continue her studies in photography. The Big Apple offered endless possibilities to her blooming career as she worked freelance while studying to earn an additional income.
Nadirah is wearing YT x ALIA Emily Mules in Grey
When asked about her go-to references for work, she says that “a lot of my influences come from films and sometimes books”. Her cinematic references to directors such as Sofia Coppola and Wong Kar Wai gives her work the quality of a dramatic photo shoot. On top of that, she is mostly influenced by her mother whom she thinks has demonstrated strength and determination in more ways than one.
Using photography as a medium for storytelling, she emphasizes that, “We need more stories told by women’s point of view. We need more photographs of women taken by women”. Her desire to empower women through her work is truly remarkable as she too had trouble finding self-confidence at one point in her life.
Growing up with Vitiligo, a skin condition caused by the lack of pigment cells, Nadirah was motivated to educate the public on what it is. The artist shared, “I had my first vitiligo spot when I was 16, it was not really noticeable so I did not think much of it. It isn’t until the last few years that the Vitiligo spots spread on my hands and face where it was hard to hide”. She faced mixed reactions with strangers coming up to her to compliment how beautiful they are while her friends pitied her. Over the past couple of years, Nadirah’s personal work had focused on using Vitiligo as her main subject; allowing her to be more comfortable with it as she no longer finds the need to hide it with makeup and concealers.
Nadirah is wearing YT x ALIA Emily Mules in Grey
Besides her personal work that speaks for herself, she has also done a solo exhibition called GIRLHOOD two years ago which featured a series of photographs revolving a family oriented theme: Sisters. The artist says that “it was especially special because I dedicated the whole exhibition to my own sisters”.
As a Malaysian who has travelled halfway across the globe to pursue arts, she sees the current local art scene as a great time for artists and jokingly adds, “at least compared to when I was growing up”. With art festivals and workshops mushrooming every month, the future of the arts scene is steered towards a positive direction, slowly but surely.
Nadirah is wearing YT x ALIA Emily Mules in Beige
Nadirah is wearing YT x ALIA Maya Slider
Now, with Yoke & Theam, Nadirah continues to surprise us with her Wong Kar Wai inspired self-portrait. Most known for its dream-like beauty and melancholy tale of love and loneliness, Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece entitled ‘In The Mood For Love’ is reflected delicately in Nadirah’s photographs.
The classic setting of a 1960’s Hong Kong apartment building - used in the film - is reenacted in a quaint hotel room located in the heart of Ipoh, Perak. The overall mise en scène is given a twist to suit the holly jolly time of the year. This is where Nadirah steps in with her unique style, allowing mystery and drama to seep in while leaving the audience wanting more. Through enigmatic textures, lights and mood, she manages to evoke unspoken emotions in her images. One of her traits in achieving these photographs is simply by doing it in solidarity, as it enables her to achieve a sense of intimacy when one comes across the picture.
This month’s #ytwalkoflife has chosen to celebrate Malaysia’s art scene through this get-to-know session with the acclaimed photographer Nadirah Zakariya. Here's Nadirah in her own words.
How do you like the mules?
I love them!!!
Which pair is your favorite?
I love the grey/baby blue with black and white striped straps. I usually go for dark coloured shoes but I somehow fell in love with this tone. I also don’t wear heels so this is perfect!
How would you style them differently for different occasions?
I love that I can mix and match the straps if I wish, and play around with socks depending on my outfit. These are great and professional looking for client meetings but also perfect for a fun Sunday brunch.
#ytwalkoflife is about celebrating women who are successful in their own rights by pushing through boundaries and believing in their dreams, no matter how small and unique. What are your thoughts on our initiative?
I support this initiative 100%! When your team approached me it was a no-brainer that I would want to be involved. Encouraging and empowering women to share their stories and experiences in any form is something that is very important to me. Thank you so much for letting me have fun and be creative with this project, and also for allowing me to share my art and my story.
Tell us about your self-portrait project for Yoke & Theam.
I have not shot self-portraits in a while so I took it as a challenge. There wasn’t any specific concept, to begin with, I wanted to give space for the shoes and clothes to speak to me. I chose a hotel room to explore how I can creatively incorporate myself with these objects and somehow create a story out of them. I also added some shiny elements since it is the festive season after all!
Has this project compelled you to reflect on any aspects of your life in 2017?
So far I have done at least one self-portrait project every year and this would be the one for 2017. It is interesting to compare this series with last year’s and see how I have changed and grown in various aspects. I have also done a lot of non-photography related projects such as being a video producer, director, lecturer and gave a lot of talks. So this is quite special as I get to work on my own series through a medium that I love.
Photography & Styling: Nadirah Zakariya
Wardrobe Assist: Saerah Ridzuan
Wardrobe: Alia B
Yoke & Theam Walk of Life
We celebrate strong and independent women of all age, gender, race and sexuality. #ytwalkoflife is our very own initiative to showcase aspiring personalities to our consumers whom we consider our loyal friends. Our belief is that each individual possesses compelling stories that are unique and inspiring - from fashion darlings to expressive artists, to everyday people - let their life narratives play a part in filling the pages in your book of journey. Take a glance at what it's like to be in their shoes as we feature one personality each month.
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