Taken over the summer of 2016, Akila Berjaoui’s sun-streamed photographs of bathing beauties are steeped with the heady colours of late 70s and early 80s photography. Quoting Riviera-rulers Slim Aarons and Juergen Teller as her inspiration, her film photographs seem to emerge from another time; every detail is rich in the romance of 20th century travel, right down to the Campari red beach brollies, sporty Speedos and azure-striped sun loungers dotting pristine, almost tourist-free white coves. Even the bodies – the soft curves and sandy tan lines of Berjaoui’s often unsuspecting subjects – hark back to a pre-selfie era.
Berjaoui wielded only a film camera while touring Australia, Brazil, France and Italy last summer, its analogue simplicity making it both easier to carry and more inconspicuous-looking. Of course, the quality of photographic film instills these images with that same scorching colour and vivacity of Teller or Aarons, whose searing pictures of the Riviera jetset resonate here. “It’s real,” explains the young photographer of her choice of medium. “It’s raw. And when I first returned to film it snapped me out of the digital malaise and reminded me what it means to actually make a photograph. Really, I still get so excited when picking up my film scans from the lab, I’m like a kid in that respect. I love that feeling of suspense and elation, it’s properly addictive.”
Berjaoui credits her gender as enabling her to take such candid, sensual photos. “Being a female photographer, women trust me more,” Berjaoui tells AnOther. “I love women and I love our bodies, what’s not to love and admire? I want to celebrate and explore that femininity. And I’m all for more nudity, especially on beaches. The majority of the shots are candid. With friends it’s easy; a lot of the time I have to get naked too!” A flick through her deliciously saturated photos will transport you in an instant; you’ll practically feel the sun on your skin.
Last Days of Summer by Akila Berjaoui is out now, published by Prestel.