‘I burst into tears’ – dental nurse wins fashion photography award

'I burst into tears' – dental nurse wins fashion photography awardA dental nurse who walked away with a fashion photographer award said she ‘wasn’t expecting’ to do so well.

Sheila Barbosa, who lives in Ipswich, Suffolk, was handed the Fashion Photographer of the Year award at the inaugural African Fashion Awards.

The 35-year-old mother – who has been a dental nurse for 16 years – discovered her love for taking photos when she was living in Portugal.

Childhood roots

‘Before coming to the UK, I was taking pictures in Portugal with my friends – but just for fun,’ she said.

‘I came to the UK with the goal of becoming a fashion photographer. I did a year of digital photography, English and maths and then applied for the London College of Communications.

‘They said my work was very academic and that I could be on the way to becoming a fashion photographer. But the course was £6,000 a year. I was 19 at the time and asked my mum for the money but she said she didn’t have it.

‘This is where the dental nursing came into it. I started in 2005 and since then I’ve done oral health education, impression taking courses – so even with the nursing, I’ve been growing and learning more.’

In 2013, Sheila, who was born in Guina-Bissau, set up her own photography business. She started to take photos of babies, families and parties.

But in 2018 she turned to fashion  – and that is when things really started to take off.

Sheila and her two children

Examples of Sheila's work


She achieved numerous editorials and decided to enter the African Fashion Awards – where she won Fashion Photographer of the Year.

‘I wasn’t expecting it at all,’ she said.

‘I was happy enough just to be one of the nominees and just to be part of the whole event. A lot of the other photographers have thousands of followers and when you compare yourself to that, you don’t think you have a chance of winning.

‘I was running late due to difficulties with the Uber and I got stuck in traffic. So my mum called me screaming to tell me I had won. I burst into tears in the car, I couldn’t believe it.’

Examples of Sheila's work
Examples of Sheila’s work

Examples of Sheila's work

Now, Sheila has resigned from her current role as a dental nurse to pursue photography full time.

But despite her photographic success, she is still keen to one day go to university and train as a hygienist.

She added: ‘Within dentistry, I would like to do more. I’ve studied for so long and I feel like I’ve got the capacities to do it.’

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