London born and raised, Wasi Daniju has taken her passion of photography and turned it into a career. Her debut exhibition held at Rich Mix, was fully crowdfunded and well-received. Halimat Shode of The Black Muslim Times UK sat down to talk to Wasi about her journey behind the lens.
As-Salaam Alaikum Wasi!
Can you tell our audience a bit about yourself?
I’m Wasi Daniju, a Nigerian Muslim born in London, grown up in London and in Kent. Having been through a few careers - university admissions, speech and language therapy, and the charity sector - I am now a qualified therapist and a photographer.
Photography is a passion, something I have done since I was a child for fun. When I started taking it a bit more seriously, I took pictures at protests, music events and other live events.
The passion drives a lot of what I do; when I take pictures of something I’m passionate about, it shows.
Would you say that your previous careers influenced your photography?
I think my previous careers, interacting with people and being exposed to very different ways of thinking and perspectives, I suppose in that sense it led me to my work. But I think other things outside my careers affected my choice.
Would you say photography has made you a more open-minded person through the experiences you’ve captured behind the lens?
I think that being open-minded had to come before, as that informs how I see things; the people around me, the ones I encounter and interact with have been more informing of my view of the world than the actual act of photography itself.
You recently held an exhibition that was fully funded by the general public, which is absolutely amazing! Can you explain how it all happened and what the reaction to the exhibition was like?
A heritage project called EveryDay Muslim were organising their third annual symposium, focusing on Black Muslim history and heritage in Britain. I saw it advertised and got in touch with them about offering my photography for the event as well as the idea of a visual archive. They thought it was a great idea and asked me to write a proposal.
I wrote about the lack of visibility for Black Muslim women and how we are not seen in the conversation about Muslims.
We often talk about seeing yourself and I don’t see myself in current media or stories that are told. I think of the recent BBC3 show ‘Muslims Like Us’ and how in the whole mixed house of Muslims, they couldn’t find one Black Muslim woman.
I also thought about my young nieces and how they’re growing up and perceiving themselves due to the media – for example, when you google the words 'woman', 'girl' or 'beautiful', what do you see?
Everyone’s reactions to the exhibition and the crowdfunding were amazing and so encouraging. I didn’t realise the impact my project would have when I started.
What obstacles would you say you have faced as a photographer?
Fear. Fear of where it’s safe for me to be, especially when I’m doing protest photography. I would love to do street photography but I would be nervous walking around as a hijabi taking photos of people.
Obstacles can be practical too; the costs of professional photography can be extortionate at times.
Also being a freelancer and worrying about money all the time; will I make money, am I overselling, and people don't appreciate the costs of photography because they don’t understand all of the work that goes in! You’re a photographer, admin, PA, marketing and keeping all of your business up to date and constantly looking for new work.
What advice would you give to your fellow Muslim sisters who are aspiring photographers and creatives?
Do it, do it, do it! Follow your passion, understand that it’s really hard work, but don’t be scared of that. It can be incredible being able to do the thing that you love. It can also be really boring being able to do the thing that you love because you have to do all the bits that go with it. It’s hard work, and part of it is making yourself do all the bits you don’t necessarily want to do. But, if you love something and you’re good at it, or know that you can become good at it, then do it!
Where can we find your work and yourself on social media?
My work can be found on wasidaniju.500px.com, also on flickr.com/knox1013.
My Instagram is @wasidphotos.
My twitter, @knox_o, is not work-related but filled with GIFS, rants and a lot of retweeting!