“If our women are not celebrated and held to the highest standards of value in the media, then we damage the self-esteem of our people as a collective.” - Shamayim

33-year-old Shamayim realized the power of the lens in college. Friends with a classy, beautiful and intelligent woman back in college, Shamayim never understood why women like her were never depicted as icons in the world of fashion. It didn’t settle well with him that only a certain group of women were represented as emblems of beauty and inspiration, and years later, Shamayim changed the game.

Fast forwarding to 2019, Shamayim has worked tirelessly to create inclusivity in the niche of fashion photography. With his work printed in the United States, South Africa, the Caribbean, London and even Paris, the photographer tells bold tales of culture, ancestries, spirituality and power that exists in so many untapped parts of the world. Working with model Winnie Harlow, a Canadian model, woman of color, and a fashion icon with vitiligo, for example, Shamayim’s portraits feature women of various ethnicities in all their glory. Women with cork-screw curls, the hijab, cropped bleached mullets, sharp cheekbones, glowing brown skin – these are all recurrent themes in Shamayim’s portfolio. Not only that, but the catalog also boasts of women in dreadlocks and tight African hairdos featuring bold, fluorescent headwear and accessories – definitely a photographer I’m into.

Another distinct feature in his portraits is that all models are facing forward, with their eyes looking forward – proudly owning the space and bodies they’re in. Shamayim also travels to remote areas to re-write the rules of the modeling industry and capture women in their rawest form, in their essence.

In short, thanks to Shamayim, we’re now able to peek into what it’s like to be part of people who are just discovering their voice and are just gaining recognition. It’s freeing and empowering to see women – to see people –with their natural flaws and differences being lauded as normal and beautiful. The main cultural discourse has long dictated what’s acceptable, what’s beautiful and what one should aspire to be, but fashion photography by the likes of Shamayim are here to aid the body positivity movement by creating love and acceptance for the body and the temple that it is.

The stunning Instagram portfolio Shamayim has build-up is definitely one to be followed. To know more about how his stunning work is changing the world, head on to his page and revel in the magic that is fashion photography by Shamayim.