Leila Syed-Fatemi

Toronto, ON
1991, Milan, Italy

As a visual artist living between cultures, Leila is influenced by her own life experiences and understandings. Her work results from personal reflections as well as the attempt to create an appreciation and more informed understanding of Islamic culture and its foundations. Through the perspective of a practicing Muslim artist, she strives to create thought-provoking work that affords her viewers an alternative perspective on Islamic traditions and beliefs.

Leila graduated from Ryerson University's School of Image Arts in Toronto in 2014, and that same year won "Best in Show" from among 150 undergraduates during the end-of-year exhibition Maximum Exposure. She also won "Best in Show" Full Frame Holiday Show in 2013, and was runner up for "Best in Show: XII: Ryerson Third        Year. A grand format photograph from Leila's Wandering Veil series is installed in the lobby of the Ryerson Image Centre's new building and is part of their permanent collection.


Clothbound is a photographic series exploring the way in which the veiled Muslim woman is perceived in Western culture. The images employ strategies of concealing and revealing to visually depict the many facets of the veil and its place in Western society. The use of diptychs reveals the dichotomy between how Muslim women are often construed by Western society and the diverse ways they choose to represent themselves. The first image of each pair removes any notion of identity or individuality from the woman by blending her into the background, rendering her invisible, cloaked by stereotypes. The accompanying image uses a similar aesthetic but, through her gaze and bearing, she assumes a role of power and assertion, granting her an agency she is not typically afforded by Western society.

Clothbound also focuses on the artist’s role as a modern Muslim woman using photography as her medium of choice. Photography, historically used to reflect and reinforce Orientalist discourses, has likewise been used to deny the Muslim woman agency. In these images, the artist reclaims the medium and uses it to counter notions of the oppressed, submissive, passive Muslim woman propagated by Orientalism. 

Both the subject and the artist combine forces here to contribute their lived experiences and provide the viewer with an alternative, more informed perspective on the veiled Muslim woman.


Bachelors of Fine Art, Photography Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON

Solo Exhibitions

The Wandering Veil, IMA Gallery, Toronto, ON

Selected Group Exhibitions


Timeraiser, The Powerplant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, ON
Maximum Exposure, Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, School of Image Arts, Toronto, ON
SNAP!, The SNAP! Factory @ Andrew Richard Designs, Toronto, ON

Full Frame Holiday Show and Auction, Toronto, ON
Capstone II, Toronto Laser Services, Toronto, ON
Summer Emerging Artists, Gallery 1313, Toronto, ON
Outburst! Celebrating Muslim Women’s Art, Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto, ON
Maximum Exposure, Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, Norman Felix Gallery, Toronto, ON
RedBird Editions Online Gallery, RedBird Editions
XII: Ryerson Third Year Show, IMA Gallery, Toronto, ON


Best in Show: Maximum Exposure 
Timeraiser 2014

Best in Show: Full Frame: Holiday Show
SF Award in Photography
Dean’s List for the Faculty of Communication and Design, Ryerson University
Runner up Best in Show: XII: Ryerson Third Year 

Dean’s List for the Faculty of Communication and Design,
Ryerson University

Queen Elizabeth Aiming for the Top Scholarship Achievement of Excellence in Photography


Ryerson Image Centre


Function Magazine
TRANSFORM: Ryerson University FCAD Review

Function Magazine

EYE BUY Leila Syed-Fatemi...