Akila Berjaoui is the insanely talented photographer behind some of our most favourite pieces.
Her incredibly sensual photographs often feature sand, sun, water—or a combination of all three. This highly sought-after fashion photographer, armed with her favourite analogue cameras, takes us to breathtaking seaside locations, from her hometown of Sydney, Australia, to the bathing hotspots of Italy, France, and Brazil, to name just a few.
We chat to Akila about how she is breaking the mould in the photography industry, her passions and working to your strengths.
Q1: In your own words, please tell us what you do and how it came to be...
I am a photographer, self taught. I've been shooting for over 10 years. I love my job as I have a lot of freedom to move and to express myself (relatively) freely.
We live in strange times, these days people are afraid to get naked in public due to everything being online, we are also more conservative than the previous generations. Thank goodness for the liberty of Europe.
I enjoy documenting people near water and in nature. I think this is where we are most relaxed. I guess i'm building a visual archive of my time here on planet earth.
Q2: Was your current business always on the cards or did you have other dreams growing up?
Not at all. I knew I was creative I just didn't know which medium to express myself in. I wanted to do all sorts of things from being a singer of a punk band to an anthropologist to working with wild african animals to being professional soccer player.
When I was in high school not many women were shooting professionally. It wasn't really presented to me as an option. Things have definitely progressed.
Q3: For Internationals Women’s Day and all of this month, we are focusing on strong women we admire and who we think are breaking the mould in their industry. Can you share with us how you are creating a point of difference?
Oooh ok! I realise that a lot of younger women follow me and from what I can see their main focus is on body image and appearances and idolising and emulating such women as the Kardashians and co.
I guess i'd like them to see that there are other women out there such as Jane Goodall, Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez as positive role models.
Also many many men doing wonderful selfless things too, all of whom are fighting for a better planet and humanity.
I'm very interested in not for profit organisations and I try to donate as much as I can to help causes that I strongly believe in and admire. And by sharing these stories via my Instagram I hope to shift these young womens focus there as opposed too far inwardly... self indulgence and the allowing of it to take place is a huge problem our society faces.
Q4: Did you study or are you self-taught?
Q5: What inspired the beginning of Akila Berjaoui photography and prints, and your signature style?
I often get tired of working commercially and I like to take long breaks to recoup and to focus on personal photography projects. And being female I knew i'd have to cross the bridge of not being always able to work if and when I bring children into the world or if I was to fall sick or in times such as these, where our planet is sick!
I needed a back up plan. So far so good. It's a really mellow side hustle.
Q6: We see you travel quite a lot! Do you travel to these destinations because of your work, or does your work follow your travels?
Both! I feel guilty investing so much money into my travels so I put a lot, actually far too much, pressure on shooting as much as I can over summer. It can really ruin some of my trips!! I'm going to chill on that vibe this year. Once all of this is over and I can resume my travels and jobs.
Q7: What is your favourite piece you’ve created (and why)?
It's too hard to say. So many photos.
Q8: We know from experience that finding stockists can be a daunting step in any business. How did you tackle the process of sourcing valuable stockists – finding the right people and then successfully pitching your product?
I'm very fortunate, i've not sourced any personally they have all come to me. It's astonishing and gratifying.
Q9: What does the future look like for Akila Berjaoui? Do you have a business plan in place or do you like to keep things fluid?
Ahahaha ask me again in a few weeks. Covid-19 has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works hasn't it?! I was so excited to start shooting commercially again and I had quite a few exciting and non fashion centred work trips lined up (with friends, I always try to work with friends if I can) to see countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, Ibiza, the US, Mexico and here I am sitting at my desk on the beaches of the central NSW coast with my family, unable to return to my apartment in Paris due to all borders closing.
This is a very challenging time for humanity - financially, mentally and physically. It's very important we reflect on how we can move forward in a much more conscious and conscientious manner. We have pushed mother nature to her limits. And we are all sitting here licking our wounds wondering how we got ourselves in this situation and why our governments don't have systems set in place to protect us.
This is an incredible time for us all, we cannot squander it. It's a time for growth, individually and collectively, including our governments. Especially our governments!
Q10: What are your strengths as a business owner and what roles you have found to challenge you?
I find it difficult dealing one on one with clients. I didn't have an agent for the longest time as I like to pick and choose which jobs to take. I say no to the majority. So a lot of my energy was spent on negotiations and discussions, admin and accounting and these aspects of my job are exhausting and frankly, boring. By the time I got to the shoot I was emotionally spent. I want to work differently from here on in.
Q11: What are you passionate about?
The wellbeing and maintenance of our planet. Music, friends, animal welfare, lovers, art, life.
Q12: What are your top 3 superpowers?
No idea! You will have to ask my friends and family.
Q13: How do you practice self-care? Do you have a particular routine that can adapt easily with your frequent travels?
For 8 years I have been practicing transcendental meditation twice daily, this has helped on so many levels. Running 3 or 4 times a week, no matter which city or island i'm on. I love to run in the streets of foreign cities I find it exciting, or preferably in nature. It's a bit of a nightmare in Paris!
Phone off at nights to entail a better nights sleep. Oh and I stopped drinking 8 months ago. I have a huge sense of clarity and a lot more energy these days. Maybe too much energy.
Q14: What advice would you impart on the next generation of women, and women in business?
Calm down. Relax. Eat! (I know so many women here in Australia with eating disorders, it's devastatingly toxic).
Please don't put so much pressure on yourselves, it's not worth it.
TRAVEL! Adventure, discover, enjoy life, enjoy your body, stop focusing purely on yourself, see the beauty in yourself and in everyone and everything you possibly can.
And keep your eye on the prize, it's worth it.
Q15: One last thing... share with us a quirky fact about yourself! Something that people might not know about you?
I'm tremendously lazy at the best of times.