“To celebrate your Noor is to be proud of who you are, and sticking to your principles,” emphasised 27-year-old Aqilah Nizar, who once faced workplace discrimination for wearing a hijab.
The Malaysian works full-time as an architect and in her spare time, freelances as a photographer and teaches photography for free to underprivileged kids. She pursues her loves with passion and determination and she does it all without compromising her values.
When she was working as a photographer in Brisbane, she was told to take off her hijab and dress “less like a Muslim”.
Unwilling to compromise her values and determined to succeed, she resigned and started offering free photography services to models and actors, building up her portfolio.
Her hard work paid off and she started getting work and recognition from fashion magazines, modeling agencies, and makeup artists.
“I chose to be comfortable and true to myself. I believe my skill has nothing to do with how I dress. I knew that as a photographer, I wouldn’t be able to form the trust and connection with my subjects if I was not comfortable with myself in the first place,” Aqilah said.
After four years in Australia, she is now back in Malaysia to put her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in architecture to use. Amidst her busy schedule, she also makes time for her passion in photography and giving back to the community.
In addition to doing freelance work, Aqilah holds free photography lessons for primary school children from lower-income households. Twice a month, she volunteers her time at a school in a poor suburban area in Kuala Lumpur, bringing her own digital cameras as lesson tools.
“I was deeply affected to hear that many of the kids have never touched a camera before,” said Aqilah, who started volunteering three months ago.
Aqilah takes a very personal approach to her classes which have about five students each time. Due to the limited number of camera she has, she has had to turn down those who have attended her class before to ensure that every child in the neighbourhood would get an opportunity to participate and she hopes to make an impact in the lives of these children.
“As a photographer, I see the beauty in all things and I strive to capture god’s creations in a positive light. I hope that my students too will know that despite their hardships, there are things and beauty in this world that they can be appreciative about,” she explains.
To see her work, visit: http://aqilahnizar.wix.com/photographics