Almost two years ago, Egyptian-Canadian Muslim artist Alia Youssef grew personally tired of the representations that circulate in the media about Muslim women, and she knew she had the skills and passion to make a project that could make a difference. That’s when she decided to start The Sisters Project, and immediately began connecting with women to photograph and interview. After capturing the stories of nearly 80 women, this year she wanted to take the project across her home country of Canada.
"I have learned that there is nothing more fulfilling than pursuing a cause or message you care for with the tools you are passionate about." -Alia Youssef
“The Sisters Project creates a space of inclusion and belonging for all self-identifying Muslim women to embrace and celebrate their unique identities,” says Youssef. “My mission is to counter the one-dimensional view of who Muslim women are and to create a platform that highlights the authentic stories of Canadian Muslim women through photography and text. The photographs in the project aim to tell a story about who the subject is by being in a place that is meaningful to them.”
Asalah. Sony α7R II. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens. 1/100-sec., f/4, ISO 2000
With the help of an Inspirit Foundation grant, Youssef was able to travel to 12 Canadian cities over the summer and photograph 80 more women in the matter of a month. Often using her Sony α7R II with a 24-70mm f/4 lens to capture portraits for the project, she now has the stories and photos of 160 women documented. She continues to share these stories with the world, and has learned plenty from the project she’d also like to share – great lessons for photographers, and really anyone, to hear.
Sumaiya. Sony α7R II. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens. 1/125-sec., f/4, ISO 100
“I have learned that there is nothing more fulfilling than pursuing a cause or message you care for with the tools you are passionate about. I have learned that people, especially the Muslim women in my project, are extremely generous with their time and their stories, and that I am extremely grateful. I have learned to be quick on my feet in any shooting situation. Nothing like a cross-country trip to instill that! I have learned that there is no one image that can define who a Muslim woman is, or any identity for that matter. I have learned to never make assumptions. I have learned to embrace the cross-sections of my identity by seeing how multifaceted and unique each woman in my project is.”
Ananna. Sony α7R II. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens. 1/160-sec., f/4, ISO 3200
You can learn more about The Sisters Project at their website and on Instagram (@the.sisters.project). See more of photographer Alia Youssef’s work on her website and on Instagram (@aliayphotography).