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Samiira Wali

Samiira is a creative director and fashion photographer who balances dazzle with delicacy through her portraiture of Black women.

Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Her work is reflective of 'Black Girl Magic' as Samiira aims to represent the strength, elegance, and beauty of Black women through her use of exuberant colours, bold angles, and the muses she collaborates with.

Who or what motivated you to begin your career as a photographer?

I hope it doesn’t sound weird to say, but I think I inspired myself. I picked up my camera during a time where I was bursting with newfound confidence and self-love. I just wanted to get to know myself better and I chose photography as my medium to document this journey.

What is your vision and approach with the work you create?

The vision’s always different with each shoot, I wanna give the client or whomever I’m shooting something that’s a bit of both of us. I need to have some creative control though, because I don’t just want to be 'an extension of the camera' or something. I also like to discuss and share ideas back and forth until we both feel like we’ve been heard, then be left to do my job. My approach is ever-changing too, it depends on what I’m shooting, but I'm always gonna give it my all. I get super invested every time, literally daydreaming about it and everything.

How would you describe your style? (If you believe you have one).

Yeah it’s all over the place, I don’t think I have a style, not yet anyway. I’m still trying a bit of everything just so I can see if it’s my thing or not. I’ve taken so many photos I know will never see the light of day, but I’m glad I took them because now I know.

As a Black woman yourself, do you feel it is important to represent Black women and their essence through your work?

1000%! Black women are always front and center in all works. Honestly, I am who I am today because of my hooyo (mum), a strong black woman who made sure to instill a love of self and dhaqan (culture) in me at a young age. She’s such a marvel wallahi, so dignified and unapologetic! Most of my work is a visual love letter to her, to be honest, but also to all the other countless black women in my life who’ve made me feel safe, included, and free to be myself.

Growing up, I didn’t see many people that looked or dressed like me on tv and in print, and on the rare occasions that I did, it probably wasn’t in a positive light. Shit was weird. I’m so glad that things are shifting a bit, and that so many of our stories are finally being told by us. Can’t even fathom the amount of positive impact that this better representation is having on the lives of so many black kids. It matters so much and I can't wait to see much more of it!

Are there any experiences, beliefs, or aspirations that influence your work or what you choose to create?

My diin (religion) plays a big role in my work. It’s such a big part of my identity and I love my diin so naturally, it plays a pivotal role in my art. Many of my personal works celebrate and explore the beauty of modest clothing, the hijab, and other cultural and religious themes. I’m really just trying to tell my story and I feel no need to placate anyone by “toning down” any part of me. I did that a lot growing up and I’m never doing that again.

When people discover your work, is there anything you want them to appreciate or think about?

I shoot those around me, family and friends mostly, even for my fashion stuff. So I do hope that people viewing my work can always sense that love, respect, and rapport. I care deeply about my work and put in a lot of effort in only working with people whose energy and ethics align with mine, so I hope that comes through too.

Describe how your work has changed over the years.

It’s getting more authentic; with each shoot I'm figuring out what I do and don’t like, and why. It’s such a cool process, I’m getting closer to being at a place where my ideas and skill are kind of in the same playing field if that makes sense. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s exciting to see the progress!

How long have you been making photographs?

As long as I can remember I guess, but I’ve only recently gotten comfortable calling myself an artist. I’ve kinda always been creating though, and keeping a “day job” to support it.

Aside from photography, have you ever made other forms of artwork?

I used to draw a lot when I was younger and I eventually got into digital art. That was my first path into the visual arts and I thought I’d want to pursue that professionally. I used to post my drawings daily on my instagram, and eventually it became a side hustle for me. After a while though, I figured out that drawing was something I loved doing, just not for money. I think I burnt myself out with the amount of work I was taking on with that, and ended up falling out of love with it. I’ve been working hard not to repeat that mistake.

Can you reflect on an interesting experience that influenced or shaped you:

I took a big hiatus around 2017 after I decided to stop posting my drawings online. I don’t remember exactly how long it was but I think over 2 years. I just fully disappeared off there, and it was the best thing I did. It was like getting out of an insanely unhealthy relationship. I grew up online and had a weird dependency on it; it was messing with my mental health so I got out. Just being able to draw for myself again without any added pressure was so liberating. I was trying out so many different creative outlets during that time and photography was one of them. I'm so thankful I took that time offline to reflect, experiment, and recenter myself. I take time offline often now, like whenever I feel like it to be honest, and I think I’m a better artist for it.

What have you overcome to be where you are now?

I’ve overcome a lot with Allah’s mercy. For one, he’s allowed me to get out of my own way, in ways that would’ve seemed impossible to me just a couple of years ago. Old me would’ve never even done this interview, I would’ve been too shy to.

What helps you to get through a creative challenge?

Just take a step back from it, that usually works for me. Take an hour or day or week, whatever time you can afford to, and recenter yourself in a way that works for you. I personally love to jump into another project when I get stuck in one, I don’t know how it works, but somehow it does. I come back to the other project in a whole new mindset. I’m also learning to put steps in place so that those moments happen less though, as well as just learning to be kinder to myself when things go wrong.

What is something you’d like to achieve in the near present future?

Collaborate more! Especially with other black creatives, Somalis, and Muslimah. Insha’Allaah when these borders open up, a lot of cool work will come out of it.

You can view more of Samiira's work by visiting her online portfolio at: or on her Instagram @samiira.wali

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