Nadine Ijewere unveils her new project
celebrating Nigerian youth at Nataal: New African Photography II


Nadine Ijewere debuts her most personal body of work to date with Nataal and Red Hook Labs as part of our group show, New African Photography II. 9-ja_ 17 is the result of the photographer’s recent trip to her grandmother’s home city of Lagos with the aim of creating a refreshing and contemporary story. “This series of vibrant portraits captures a positive image of youth in Nigeria by showing a diversity of subjects and how they self-identify,” Ijewere says. “I’m really excited to be reflecting part of my own heritage and the next generation of the country.”

Born and raised in London by a Nigerian father and Jamaican mother, Ijewere hadn’t been to Lagos since she was five years old, so realising this trip became a family affair. “My father decided to come with me and he and my aunt, who lives there, both helped out while we were shooting. It was so nice to work on something together.” She street cast all of the models and used local hair and make-up teams too. Meanwhile her friend, London-based stylist Ib Kamara, sourced clothing and fabrics from the nearby markets. His raw ensembles, more art pieces than fashion looks, fuse reams of netting and lace with sporty pieces and corsets, all held together with black and yellow tape and the odd plastic bag.

“This series of vibrant portraits captures a positive image of youth in Nigeria by showing a diversity of subjects and how they self-identify”

“Everyone we met was really lovely, great characters and super friendly,” she reflects. “Our main girl is Victoria, who is aged 18 and wants to be a model, so I will be pushing her with agencies back in London. Then there’s Joseph, who was so quiet when we met but once we started shooting he really got into it. Ib’s styling is very flamboyant and out there, which he embraced, and that felt genuine. I always use ‘real people’ in my work rather than models because I am interested in all ethnic backgrounds. Everyone is beautiful in his or her own way. Working with a local team also meant we were giving our budget and opportunities to the community.”

Ijewere studied photography at the London College of Fashion, during which time she developed her deep passion for exploring under represented ideals of beauty. “Growing up I always tried to fit in but once I got to university I had the freedom to be myself and start drawing on my culture and identity, which has become a recurring theme in my work. I want to create a platform for people from different and mixed race backgrounds to represent themselves and to encourage girls to embrace what is unique about them.”

She wanted challenge the all-too familiar tropes used in fashion photography when it comes to non-white beauty, which led her to study concepts of orientalism in Western art through a series of highly staged, gently rendered studio shoots featuring diverse girls, such as Same//Difference, and Flowers. Since graduating in 2014, her editorial and commercial clients have included Selfridges, Nike, Liberty, Tate Britain, Dazed, i-D and Gap. 9-ja_ 17 was supported by Getty Images, and Ijewere was commissioned by Stella McCartney to interpret the brand’s SS17 collection in her own special way while in Nigeria too. “I’m so glad I went. It was an amazing experience and I was left in awe of Lagos,” she says. “This is by far my favourite project so far.”

Nataal: New African Photography II runs from 4-14 May at Red Hook Labs, 133 Imlay St, Brooklyn, New York, open 10am-6pm daily

Photography Nadine Ijewere
Styling Ib Kamara
Subjects Nelson, Joseph, Victoria, Blessing, Olasunkami and Michael
With thanks to Dafe, Adesua and Stephen

Visit Red Hook Labs
Visit Nadine Ijewere

Published on 03/05/2017