Naila Ruechel is interested in photography as a tool for revolution. Through her work, she seeks to expand our perception of beauty by subverting stereotypes, challenging gender bias and celebrating a diverse range of women.
During her career Naila successfully conquered the difficult transition from working in front of, to behind the lens. Her evolution from model to stylist, and stylist to photographer was made possible by her perseverance, grit and determination. At every stage she was the underdog, working twice as hard to prove herself. “The industry is guilty of pigeon holing. People underestimate your abilities and feel the need to keep you in one box.”
The experience she gained as a model and stylist contributed to her success as a photographer. As a model she acquired the skills to communicate emotion through body language. As a stylist, she discovered the power of wardrobe to make or break a photograph. These learnings made her a stronger and more empathetic photographer. Unlike other image makers, she has unique insight into how to get the most out of the people she collaborates with.
From an early age, Naila knew she wanted to spend her life making images. Growing up, her father, a commercial photographer set her assignments shooting everyday objects. She learned how to construct an image and how to think visually. She was surrounded by images. Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Nick Knight were all part of her visual vocabulary.
At fourteen, she started making portraits of her class mates. She observed the transformative affect her photographs had on these young women. They felt empowered, had a renewed confidence and a stronger sense of self. Naila began to understand the power of photography and its ability to engage an audience and change perceptions in a meaningful way.
“Being a woman has shaped my journey as a photographer. I’m not interested in perpetuating racial stereotypes or conforming to the media’s standard of beauty. I want to make work which speaks to and reflects all women.”
Naila’s work explores womanhood; she blends her unique perspective on femininity with bold colour and graphic compositions to striking effect. Through her work she aims to bring a more universal representation of beauty into visual culture. In her most recent project ‘Hijabists’ she celebrates the hijab, and the culture of dressing modestly. The work portrays Muslim women in a fresh and modern way, while respecting their traditions.
As a female photographer, she has faced a male dominated industry head on. “Men hire men. There is definitely a brotherhood, which many women are excluded from. Often women photographers get siloed. They suggest women can only shoot certain subject matters specifically relating to women’s issues.
I believe women can contribute to things which are not just inherently female and diversity in gaze is crucial to a more inclusive media landscape.”
Naila’s strength and creativity have allowed her to navigate the challenging world of commercial photography. She has embraced career evolution with courage and conviction, making her a stronger, more versatile image maker. She has passionately focused her work on portraying a more diverse and inclusive representation of women, defying her critics every step of the way.