Photographer Nadine Ijewere is a native of London’s Peckham district. Growing up, she didn’t really appreciate it, and tried to escape at all costs. She kept thinking, “I need to get out of here, I can’t wait.” This was in the 1990s, before Peckham became trendy, and still was a working-class neighborhood where old-fashioned Londoners mingled with people from all over the world (Bangladesh, the Caribbean, India, etc…). Lynette Nylander, whose interview with Nadine Ijewere opens the monograph, wrote about Peckam that, “at the time, [it] stimulated all my senses. My mind can conjure up the colors, the sounds, the barbershops. […] Peckham remains a resplendent demonstration of a certain black pride.” Ijewere now agrees with the writer: she loves her old neighborhood, and the thought of her uncles who came from Nigeria or Ghana, with their styles and clothes, brings a smile to her face. Nylander feels that the influence of Peckam is palpable in Ijewere’s photographs.
The first picture Ijewere ever took was of a radiator at school: “We were learning about depth of field and I got this camera from an old car boot sale in Canterbury. It was an old 35mm camera. A Zenith. […] Russian, made in the USSR […] with a couple lenses for fifteen or twenty pounds.” Since then, her passion for photography has never stopped growing. She used to love flipping through the fashion magazines her mother bought and noticed that none of the women in the photographs looked like her or her friends. This absence, as well her own personal insecurities, became a source of inspiration for Nadine Ijewere to create vivid, dynamic, lively fashion photos. There is nothing stereotypical about them. “I love a sense of movement in the images so that they’re not quite static. Sometimes some people are kind of cut off or their full body isn’t in the frame. I don’t mind that because that’s the energy I like.”
After having photographed for Dior, Hermès, Nina Ricci, Valentino, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and Garage Magazine, who has shown her work on several exhibitions and festivals, and having made her mark as the first black woman to shoot for the cover of Vogue in 2018, a solo publication was the next logical step. “This book is an overview of my journey so far.” Although she has a presence on social media, Ijewere shies away the world of “likes”; she photographs for herself first, not for others. She photographs because she believes in her ideas. Perusing her book is like reading a story with characters sprung from her imagination. We have stepped beyond fashion. Ijwere’s photography tells the story of her origins, her identities, the history of her generation and the generations before her. Above all, Ijewere brings back color, movement, and depth where they were sorely lacking.
By Sabyl Ghoussoub
Born in Paris in 1988 into a Lebanese family, Sabyl Ghoussoub is a writer, columnist and curator. His second novel, Beyrouth entre parenthèses [Beirut in Parentheses] was released by Antilope editions in August 2020.
Nadine Ijewere, Our Own Selves, with text by Lynette Nylander, Prestel Publishing, 160 color illustrations, 192pp, £ 39.99.