I met Raff for the first time on a chilled night-out while listening to music, with one of our mutual friends. Although, it was the first time I met her face-to-face, with her hyped smiles and positive energy, I already knew, she was undoubtedly, one of the most inspirational young photographers in the country. The name behind the RFCC celebrity calendar; pioneering to create the first of its kind. She takes her name to the international arena, dazzling in the avenues of photography and fashion. Behind the daring lights, hefty camera, and her impeccable talent, is still a kind-hearted and grounded individual.
Raffealla is a homegrown brand active for about fourteen years, woven around her role as a fashion designer, photographer, bridal and fashion consultant, stylist and fashion lecturer. She is a multiple award winner, being the best fashion photographer at the IAA awards in London, and being a rank holder at the BAFTA UK. Her work gains spotlight at London Fashion Week, Prince Charles’ Charity Trust Fashion Show, and the Asian-European Fashion Week in Paris as well. So get ready everyone, today my Q&A column is sparkling.
It’s super exciting to have you for a conversation Raff! To start off, I’d like to ask you when exactly did you realized that photography is where you belonged?
Thank you Hirushi. Well, since I started dreaming of a career, fashion is all I ever wanted to do. Becoming a designer was definitely my dream but I never thought that photography would make me feel content as an artist. I studied at St Bridget’s Convent and I use to be in the school Photography Society, as it was something, I did to express myself, just like painting. It definitely took time for me to realize that this is where I belong, as I worked as a designer three years prior to that.
What is your global journey like? Being active in Photography and Fashion.
I’ve worked in about five countries starting off in India for portfolio photoshoots. I got my first call via my website as it was an active platform with networking and submissions. With time my opportunities started manifesting for me in London, Singapore, Italy and Paris. Experiences collectively gave me new perspective about the international standards and work ethic.
How do you perceive beauty? By observing your photography we can see that you experiment with different types of tones, textures, colors and moods that are not seen in conventional Photography.
I find everything beautiful, including the broken. You can see that through the color range, the neglected locations and backdrops in my shoots. I’ve always felt that there are unachievable levels of beauty standards, especially in countries like Sri Lanka. It’s not about me having a certain standard of beauty either. It’s about having a non-judgmental perspective where beauty is relative, especially in conceptualized art. Beauty is collective which includes either a story, lighting, concept, color, model, or maybe all together!
What is the conceptualizing process like when it comes to planning out your shots?
It’s a task! The first step is always a brainstorming session. We shortlist possible concepts, then develop on the selected ones. Afterwards we discuss and develop the color board and ensure to have a consistent feel to it. This also helps the makeup artists and designers to synchronize with the overall mood of the concept. We actually plan forty percent of the process and keep sixty percent for the day of the shoot. And in between, it’s always the outfit sketching, makeup, understanding model body types, skin tones and textures. We also take their social image and reputation into account as it is our responsibility to portray them in a respectful manner. In this process, there are exceptionally talented individuals taking over their role in concept development, wardrobe, modeling, styling, hair and makeup, photography, post production, lighting and many other technical aspects. At the end of the day, it’s how all of it comes together to show how well the model speaks to the lens.
There’s much glamour woven around photography. Let’s also talk about the challenges you have had to face.
When you are a woman taking up a role in an industry that was conventionally taken up by men, there are challenges; even if you have a very strong portfolio. It doesn’t upset me anymore and don’t want to put out any complaints. What I know is that it’s a personal journey and I aim to become a better career woman over the decade. Most of what I learnt was self-taught. And with time we can see how gender identity is gradually being taken off from occupations. With this atmosphere I am hoping to see many brilliant female photographers stepping into the spotlight.
Behind legendary work, there’s great partnership. Let’s talk about the post production and how it helps to bring the best in your Photography - done by your better half of course!
I met my husband Dilsh at a photoshoot, and after six years of dating we tied the knot. He understood me and was there with me in my journey of understanding who I am as an artist. He has a completely different style to mine, however the support is incredible. He has a great understanding when it comes to the type of treatment different photographs get, be it editorial, fashion, product, lifestyle, or conceptualized photography. Not only in post-production, but he’s a support system during all stages in the process. And not to forget my amazing father too who has been there like a shadow taking care of all the details, believing in me and protecting me. I’m really blessed to have them in my life.
Looking back, what are your most memorable moments?
Apart from many internationally acclaimed achievements, and good moments, I’ll always cherish the first mail I got from India ten years ago. This felt like a silver lining, as it was during a time when my dark photographic style was not received well in Sri Lanka. It was a call I needed to get, as I was doubting my style and was contemplating on changing it. There on, everything was full of good moments, lessons and blessings.