“I hope to continue telling stories based on my experiences, things I’ve seen and places I’ve been. I want to keep creating work including people who look like me and have had similar experiences”
There is something entirely captivating about the coupling and contrast of natural beauty with man-made urban environments. The pairing of the electric and mesmerising colours of nature, with the intimate details of a portrait. Shopping malls, colourful plastic sheeting, coupled with the pigment and pores of beautiful faces, or the natural beauty of wildflowers.
We were kind of blown away when we stumbled across Mariam Sholaja (22) on Insta and scrolled through her ‘gram of stunning imagery. Born in the United States with Nigerian heritage, Mariam was raised in the heart of south London and you quickly get a sense of her love of colour, the natural environment, and her incredible eye for a portrait.
Inspired by Nadine Ijewere, the first black woman to shoot the cover of Vogue, Mariam’s ‘Ladies Work’ collection emotes a colourful and playful 70s reference, while her ‘Cattleya’ collection evokes a depth of bloom-inspired beauty that srsly stirs something inside.
Not in the plan
A career in the arts is not for the faint of heart and yet, it is the creative culture that brings our world alive, the arts help us understand our world a little better both in the creation and our consumption. Artists document moments in time for current and future generations to enjoy and reflect on.
Drawn to photography quite by accident, Mariam says “I didn’t discover photography by choice.
I had one more subject to choose but I had no idea what else I had an interest in. [My guidance counselor] suggested I select photography and I looked over to my mum with a puzzled expression and [she] said to give it a try, so I did.”
Growing up in south London, Mariam was drawn to just about anything but the academic pursuits. She loved street dance, swim training, choir, piano lessons, “and anything that wasn’t to do with sitting in a classroom learning equations”. Thankfully, in high school, the young artist learned that “being creative was a thing and that academic subjects weren’t for everyone”.
Hitting a high note
In 2019, Mariam was invited to shoot the twelfth issue of GUAP, a youth-led platform dedicated to discovering, showcasing, and nurturing diverse emerging creatives. The cover was a bucket list goal for the young photographer.
Since this career highlight, the creator has continued to challenge herself creatively, since directing many shoots, one in particular, ‘Myriad Lands’ saw the multi-faceted photographer collaborate with several creatives to bring her vision to life. The shoot wasn’t without its challenges, “I was so nervous because I had always done everything on my own in the past, from the styling, creative direction, and even sometimes the makeup, but the result was even more beautiful than I had imagined.”
Inspired by strong women and colour
On the topic of her style, Mariam strives to “create images that are honest, vibrant and full of elements of life, nature, and colour, which is exactly how I am inspired to live life”. Much of Mariam’s art is inspired by her love of music, and often, she finds herself “trying to imagine how a song could look like before watching the music video” Perhaps videography direction is in the artist’s future.
Looking ahead, Mariam has a desire to document stories from everyday life, “I hope to continue telling stories based on my experiences, things I’ve seen and places I’ve been. I want to keep creating work including people who look like me and have had similar experiences. I come from a Nigerian background and I haven’t been back since 2012 and I am itching to go back and take it all in as an adult and of course with my camera.”
Watch this space, this is a young artist with an exciting future ahead of her.