Meet Sharif Hamza, the photographer behind Vogue Philippines’ maiden issue.
When Sharif Hamza was young, he wanted to be a different kind of artist. “I had always loved drawing people, but I was terrible when it came to proportions,” the British Filipino-Egyptian photographer tells us. “Photography removed that issue. Once I started taking photos, I never stopped.” He traded his pencil for a camera at 15 years old he’s built an enviable career since. Hamza has worked with some of the biggest names in fashion and entertainment, including photographing Victoria Beckham and Tom Holland, and shooting forVogue UK, Japan, China, and Arabia. His most recent Vogue edition is the newly-launched Vogue Philippines, where he photographed the maiden issue’s cover.
Born in the United States but raised in the United Kingdom, Hamza knew early on that he was destined to be behind the viewfinder and went on to study photography. He even found the perfect gig as an assistant to New York-based fashion photographer and videographer Steven Klein, though, he recalls, he was still “nervous” at his first-ever shoot. By 2010, he was photographing for the likes of Dazed & Confused.
“Success in this pursuit is all about the people around you,” Hamza says, and judging by the people around him—at least in photo shoots—he’ll keep being extremely successful. When he isn’t shooting Doja Cat in a sparkling 1920s vision or capturing timeless portraits of seasoned model and activist Bethann Hardison, he’s photographing Beyoncé artfully holding a melting ice cream cone. Still, even with the incredible figures he’s regularly around, he himself doesn’t think he has “made it,” explaining that “every artist has frequent moments of self doubt, as one’s work is a form of self representation.” To aspiring creatives, he says, “I advise anybody doing this to keep their head down, be determined and always deliver quality.”
Hamza honed his distinct style of using light and composition, working with both film and digital mediums, which earned him recognition in the industry. Since then, Hamza has worked with global powerhouse brands like Tiffany’s, Ralph Lauren, J.W. Anderson, and Nike. He has photographed countless editorials and covers for big publications, such as The New York Times, GQ, Interview, Time, and Allure.
Despite building up quite the resume, Hamza maintains a deep connection to his mixed-race roots and still draws deep inspiration from his cultures. It shows in his work, which often centers on the themes of origins and representation. One of the photographer’s favorite projects to work on was a video he directed for Vogue UK, featuring Asian models discussing the diversity of Asian beauty, as well as their experiences as a minority in the fashion world. Hamza remarked, “For me, it’s a moment of truth and representation for a region of beauty that is often ignored. It’s something I would love everyone to watch.”
Of his Philippine roots specifically, he says, “I do not think that the country has been best represented and is often left behind other Asian countries in terms of fashion and beauty culture. Yet there is so much talent in the country that need a platform to be seen in the best light.”
Hamza speaks to the Filipinos in the motherland and those part of the diaspora when he says, “The Philippines has always been a melting pot of cultures, the mixture is part of the Filipino identity. I want to make sure that fusion is seen on a global scale and that the Philippines receives more recognition for what it is capable of on a global cultural level.”
By shooting the cover of Vogue Philippines’ maiden issue, the photographer was able to accomplish just that. Through the week-long voyage around the country, Hamza paid homage to his Filipino lineage. He explains, “My grandparents were farmers. They were honest hardworking people that raised a big family with love and modesty. That defines the best in Filipinos in my opinion and is something I try to live by and instill in my own daughters.”
Further talking about the touching and powerful experience, Hamza recalls, “I told everyone on the team at the beginning of this shoot that this is their collective opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and their grandmothers,” as he paid tribute to his own Pangasinan-born grandmother, Cresencia. “Working together on a personal and photographic mission, we created a love letter to the beauty of our Filipino women, our beautiful Filipina mothers.”