The Photographer Defying Stereotypical Western Beauty Ideals

"Girls grow up reading magazines that don't have people that represent them. I want to change that"

‘Punjabi Skinhead’ by Dejah Naya McCombe

Despite only having started taking photographs a year ago when she first moved to London, Dejah Naya McCombe is making her mark on the British photographic scene with her personal portraits.

McCombe’s photographs hold more significance than may appear on the surface; as well as being brilliant, they are essential in contributing to the ongoing discussion about the disproportionate representation of people of colour within the fashion industry.

“Beauty isn’t defined by western culture” – Dejah Naya McCombe

She particularly aims to represent South Asian women with her hauntingly beautiful editorials that feature a variety of racially diverse models.

‘Seventeen’ by Dejah Naya McCombe
‘Punjabi Skinhead’ by Dejah Naya McCombe

“Beauty isn’t defined by western culture. Girls grow up reading magazines that don’t have people that represent them. And I want to change that.”

Dejah often has models by her side whilst editing photographs of them, to ensure that they are happy with the way in which she has portrayed them. This habit comes as a result of modelling herself for a short time. “I learnt that you have to be respectful of the person you are shooting.”

Hard-edged femininity is at the core of her editorial ventures. “I am a strong woman shooting strong women, and I think that’s a very powerful thing. Women are shape-shifters. We can be sexy, strict, cut-throat, sad, sassy, empathetic. And I love capturing that.”

‘Simisear’ by Dejah Naya McCombe
‘Seventeen’ by Dejah Naya McCombe

McCombe speaks of the influence that living in London has had on her work. “I’ve only been in London for a very short time but moving here was the best decision I ever made. I’m a very self-critical person and in London it’s very easy to be too consumed with what other people are doing in your creative field. It isn’t healthy. But overall I love it.”

With expression, individuality, culture and personality at the heart of Dejah’s work, it is clear that she will remain an enduring talent due to her rare authenticity.

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