Ouka Leele: The Curious Name That Gave Birth to an Art Star


Ouka Leele, Artistic name of Bárbara Allende Gil de Biedma, she was a multidisciplinary Spanish artist, famous for her photographs, a mixture of photography and painting, with a great staging and an absolutely unique style.

She was a photographer, painter, writer, poet and designer, and one of the great exponents of the Madrid Movida of the 1980s, a countercultural current that emerged in the Transition, the years after the fall of Francoism in Spain.

If you haven’t met this artist yet, I recommend that you stay because we’re going to take a walk through her work that surely won’t leave you indifferent 😉 .


Who is Ouka Leele?: Biography

Ouka Leele was born in Madrid in 1957. Her original name was Bárbara Allende Gil de Biedma (niece of the poet Gil de Biedma). She studied Fine Arts but abandoned it to study piano and photography at Photocentro.

In its beginnings, it was dedicated exclusively to black and white photography. Over time, his way of conceiving color was by directly painting the copies with watercolors, thus combining both passions, photography and painting.

His work was published in many magazines such as Photo Magazine, Telos, Diorama, Penthouse, Reviste Actuel, etc., and he exhibited in the main cities of the world: Paris, London, Tokyo, São Paulo, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, Beijing, Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Rome, Buenos Aires, Caracas, New York and a long etcetera.

He lived in cities like Madrid, Barcelona, ​​New York or Paris; and she collaborated in almost all the editions of the ARCO festival, gave talks and workshops in cultural centers and universities, etc.

Ouka Leele was a photographer, painter, poet and even dared with the world of cinema. A multidisciplinary artist with a way of conceiving art full of freedom and beauty, which always fled from labels and conformism that gives us having found “a style”.

She died in Madrid on May 24, 2022 due to breast cancer.

What does Ouka Leele mean?

Ouka Leele, is the name of a star that he found by chance when he was looking at a picture of constellations invented by his great friend El Hortelano.

El Hortelano was a well-known contemporary painter of Ouka Leele with whom he shared many works. You can look for his star in this firmament invented by him.

Ouka Leele Quotes

Artists are known for their work, but also for what they think about it and the world around them. These are some phrases of Ouka Leele that I think define his personality and his way of conceiving the world:

Nobody escapes the fascination that photography produces, it is like a magic box.

You have to do what you want, what comes out every day. Your style is you.

For those wondering what camera Ouka Leele used, I think this quote has the perfect answer 😉 .

I advise people who are starting out in photography not to wait until they have a 30,000-euro camera, because cameras are like that now in the digital world and, furthermore, they fall behind in a short time (… ). Let them start with what they have, even a mobile. Each device has a language and you have to learn to handle it. The best school is poverty, because when you have nothing, you have to create whatever you can.

The artist always has to innovate, even if it counts the same. Although the circus has already been talked about, you have to talk about the circus again with another look.

Photography is not as easy as people sometimes think(…) A good photo takes a lot of time, for me it’s like shooting a scene from a movie.

Ouka Leele


Throughout his career, he received numerous awards, including:

self portrait ouka leele

National Photography Award, 2005Silver Medal from the Community of Madrid, 2012III Piedad Isla National Photography Award from the Provincial Council of Palencia, 2012Culture Award from the Community of Madrid, 2003 (photography category)Honor Prize PHotoEspaña 2022 posthumously

Artwork by Ouka Leele

The artwork by Ouka Leele It is always marked by color and staging. Despite the colorful photos of her, she did not like color photography, so she always took black and white photos of herself.

The author’s way of approaching reality was to paint her own photographs with colorful watercolors. That treatment of color and light allowed her to get closer to the reality of the emotion that she wanted to convey through her images.

ouka leele steak

ouka leele reflex dog

ouka leele naked

ouka leele ladder

ouka leele kiss

ouka leele flowers

hairdressing series

Peluquería is one of his best-known and longest-running series, as he was commissioned around 300 creations for an exhibition.

ouka leele hairdresser portrait color

ouka leele hairdresser

ouka leele hairdresser portraits

ouka leele hairdresser lemons

ouka leele hairdresser portrait color

ouka leele hairdresser

Ouka Leele Self Portrait

Self-exploration as a form of artistic expression could not be missing in the work of this artist.

self portrait with comb

her portrait ouka leele

self portrait ouka leele

ouka leele colorful self portrait

Beyond pigeonholing herself, she did not want to stay in finding a style that defined her but she continued exploring throughout her life. She painted murals, designed jewelry, and even dabbled in sculpture.

For her an artist should be, above all, free.

Ouka Leele’s look

Ouka Leele’s look is a film by Rafael Gordon about the creative universe of this author.

This documentary was filmed for more than 5 years and allows us to see how the author lives, works or thinks. You can watch the trailer here:

If you want to see Ouka Leele’s look, you have the documentary on Filmin.

If you prefer, you can see a brief interview with him here, which summarizes the main aspects of his life and work:

Where to Buy Ouka Leele Photographs

For buy photographs of this author, access her website, where you will find available photographs or make orders in other formats upon request in her contact email.


The best way to delve into the work of this prolific and unique artist is to take a look at her publications. They are not always easy to find books, but here are some:

ouka leele

Ouka Leele: This pocket-sized book brings us closer to the best-known works of the author. It has more than 100 pages and you can buy it for €11.87.

supernova ouka leele

Supernova: Compilation of his drawings, comics, notebooks and sketches, black and white and colored photographs, etc. It has more than 312 pages and you can buy it for €33.25.

of the stuff of dreams ouka leele

Of the same substance as dreams: Based on the exhibition that bore the same name, in which forty photographs belonging to the first decade of the artist’s work were selected: from 1977 to 1987. Most of them are black and white photos, although some portraits have also been included from the Hairdressing series. It has 65 pages and you can buy it for €11.40.

unreleased ouka leele

Unpublished: It brings together the lesser-known photographic work of this artist through 67 photographs from her first black and white images, to digital images made with a mobile phone, retouched in Photoshop, or the painted photograph that made her famous. It has 176 pages.

where the light takes me oukaa leele

Where the light takes me: Publication that promotes the creation of a collection of unpublished works inspired by Asturias and its people.

About 50 selected works where Ouka Leele captured the beauty and uniqueness of those lands.

It has 400 pages and costs about €34.

Without a doubt, Ouka Leele is a benchmark in the world of photography. Her personality, her unmistakable style of hers (as much as her style did not quite convince her), made her an icon of an era like The movewhere freedom, youth and art came together to create a generation of incomparable artists.

I hope you liked this article about her. If you didn’t know her, I hope you add her to your list of favorite photographers 🙂 and, if you already knew her, it’s always good to remember the great photographers of our recent history.

Oh, don’t forget to spread the word if you think someone else might be interested in reading it. Thank you very much and see you in the next article.

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