Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go viral? I don’t know about you but I certainly have and this week, we got to pick the brain of Fatou, who did a photo shoot that took the Internet by storm!
Aida: As usual, I ask my interviewees to tell us a little bit about your upbringing and background?
Fatou: Uhm, okay yeah so I was born in New York and went to Senegal when I was four years old with my little sister. I went to learn more about the culture, language, and of course meet extended family. I came back to the States when I was 11 years old and started 5th grade. I didn’t speak English, just Wolof and French, and I got bullied and fought a little because of it (LOL). It got better over time though and then I went onto High School. I first started at a regular HS but then transferred to a Charter school. That was a hard transition because I started there in 10th grade. The Charter school started at 9th grade so all of my classmates were already friends and formed their groups – I was the newcomer.
Uhm what else? I used to be really into fashion before I started covering in 11th grade (wearing the hijab). Like I loved it! And that doesn’t mean I don’t love it now but I think it’s a little different! Let’s see, I graduated HS and am now in college, studying Communications and minoring in Photography.
Aida: How did you develop a passion for photography?
Fatou: Photography has always been a passion. I used to take pictures for our school’s yearbook. I never cared to be in the pictures, I just wanted to be the one holding the camera. I bought my first camera, which was a Nikon D3400 with two lens! I took pictures here and there but didn’t really get into it, into it until my little sister was putting on makeup one day and I tried taking pictures of her and it sort of re-fueled my passion again. I also found joy in taking pictures outside when I first started, because you didn’t have to do much editing if the natural lighting was really good! I took classes too to learn new techniques and the basics but recently, I’ve been doing a lot of research to become a better photographer!
Aida: What has been your favorite shoot so far?
Fatou: It would have to be the four girls in the hijabs shoot! That really showed the different shapes and faces of the hijab and it went viral! It wasn’t planned at all, I was just shooting with friends one day. We wanted to re-do a shoot we had seen but that didn’t work so we improvised. I brought the background and my camera and they brought their faces! It was the weekend that Black Panther came out actually and we joked around and did the “Wakanda Forever” sign haha. It took awhile to get the shot and I actually had to stand, hovering over them (see pic below). I edited the pictures, uploaded it, and it went viral!
That shoot really helped to promote me and gave me confidence. It was shared by Essence Magazine and TheShadeRoom and just really took off. I was seeing the picture everywhere!!!
Aida: Can you share a little about your journey as a young woman, first generation college student, hijabi?
Fatou: I can genuinely say it hasn’t been too bad. I get the occasional double-take look, kind of like a questioning look! Now as a photographer, it’s a little different. One time, I was booked to do a shoot for a bridal shower and the person that hired me didn’t know I was a woman. I did the shoot and she was satisfied in the end but that’s sometimes a reaction that I get when people first see me and I guess I don’t look like what they thought? Haha!
Another thing is I actually stayed away from the Senegalese community for a while because I feel like they don’t always get it. I used to be scared and shied away from shooting at our events but eventually, I broke out of that and started shooting. It’s been a good journey overall and just required me to kind of put that foot forward.
Aida: What role do you believe women hold in society/our communities?
Fatou: Ahh so let me start by saying I don’t want it to sound like I’m against anyone’s choices but the idea that you get married and stay home is so limiting!
Sexism exists in Senegalese society and while some people do believe in equality, it’s not all. A majority of people think a woman should be restricted. I’m glad that our generation is starting to change that because we don’t think like that. I think it’s okay to be a housewife OF someone who works, just depends on what your preference is. You just have to be with someone who is compatible with you. I recently got married and my husband and I talked about it. Like okay you’re the man of the house but we’re partners. It’s about being independent while also being able to co-exist.
Another thing: I am a big advocate for speaking up. Be true to yourself and don’t be afraid to say what you want, that’s also really important.
Aida: Who is your role model(s) in life?
Fatou: My mom (laughs). I mentioned I recently got married and let me tell you, not seeing her is teaching me a lot right now. She’s everything to me. She’s been through a lot but she’s still so strong. I just think back to when I was getting married – the way she was there for me, it meant everything! She’s definitely my role model!
Aida: What’s your life motto?
Fatou: Always be honest. Be truthful. I cannot lie. If something bothers me, I speak my mind right away. It’s important.
Aida: Fatou, thank you infinitely for your time and thoughts! You’re so vivacious and it’s always a pleasure catching up with you!
Fatou: No, thank you for having me. This is so exciting!
To see more of Fatou’s jaw-dropping photos, follow her Instagram page fatou.photography! You won’t regret it 😉 Thanks again for tuning in, until next interview! ❤