10 Black Photographers Shaping Fashion in 2021

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Images carry a great weight in dictating our perceptions of the world and the people living in it. Historically, photography has been a white male dominated field with photographers both inside and outside the fashion industry inciting an irresponsible and harmful legacy of framing through the “white gaze.”

The next generation of fashion photographers takes on a different form than their predecessors, one that is equally as authentic as it is enthralling veering the fashion world towards a more inclusive outlook. From shooting major campaigns for luxury brands to exhibitions in revered galleries around the world, CR looks at ten rising POC photographers that are redefining fashion and beyond through the camera lens.

Shaniqwa Jarvis

Combining a contemporary fashion aesthetic with intimate portraiture, when viewing photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis’ photos, it’s clear to see the unbridled emotion she expertly extracts from her subjects. Born and bred on New York’s Upper West Side, Jarvis attended Parsons School of Design for photography where she cultivated a sacred sense of trust between photographer and subject. Jarvis has since ascended to the top collaborating with a range of brands like Adidas, Supreme, and the Standard Hotel Group while garnering a vast portfolio of portraits ranging from President Barack Obama to Cardi B.

Extending her creative eye into an educational resource, Jarvis launched Social Studies in collaboration with Something Special Studios and Baque Creative in 2017. The youth-driven experiential activation aims to educate through creative workshops lending guidance to a young community of budding artists and creatives.

Renell Medrano

Born and raised in the Bronx, Renell Medrano has been photographing the people and fashions of New York City since she was 14. Before graduating from Parsons School of Design in 2014, Medrano was awarded the New York Times Lens Blog award and has since cemented her success garnering an immense following for her ability to create intimate portraiture. Medrano’s penchant for vibrant colors and a deconstructed rawness has made her a mainstay in fashion, and a go-to for a new generation of talent like Solange, Tyler the Creator, Megan Thee Stallion, and Virgil Abloh. Yet her compelling portfolio extends beyond these celebrities, big name editorial titles, and fashion campaigns. In the last year, the rising star has exhibited two deeply personal photography series; a testament to her mastery. Peluca, which means “wig” in Spanish, was an ode to her Bronx community and a celebration of the public’s acceptance of wigs into mainstream culture. The installation was showcased at Milk Studios in New York and hosted a star-studded opening night, with a guest list by the likes of her boyfriend, rapper A$AP Ferg, and model besties Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. During LFW 2020, Medrano shared an introspective layer to her work with an an exhibition that explored her Dominican heritage. Entitled Pampara, the captivating series homaged the countless summers she spent in the Dominican Republic growing up.

Nadine Ijewere

Born and raised in Southeast London with Nigerian-Jamaican roots, Nadine Ijewere’s photography often explores the complexities of diversity and identity inspired her heritage. After completing high school, Ijewere ventured across the Thames to get a bachelors in photography at University of the Arts’ London College of Fashion and has since been featured in large-scale exhibitions such as the Tate Britain Generation exhibition, Unseen Amsterdam, and at Lagos Photo Festival in 2017. Her array of work also includes campaigns for the likes of luxury fashion houses such as Stella McCartney and Valentino. The 28-year-old’s portraiture creates a window of clarity that celebrates the non-conformist beauty of her models and subjects. Her latest exhibition Tallawah showcased earlier this year at London’s Cob Gallery, was a collaborative project with experimental hairstylist Jawara. The duo illuminated Caribbean glamour in a collection of unabashed portraits. Ijewere has developed an ethos and dedication to illustrating the versatility and beauty of Black women.

Campbell Addy

A Central Saint Martins graduate, Campbell Addy’s highly stylized photos have been emblazoned across some of the fashion industry’s most esteemed publications. The British-Ghanaian photographer champions under-represented narratives and faces, following authentic emotions. Past exhibitions have proven equally personal and moving, his debut solo show, Matthew 7:7&8, explored and celebrated sexuality and a culture at odds with his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. Addy has exhibited across the world from Melbourne’s Bunjil Place Gallery with Aperture to The Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, and London’s Somerset House; where one could find Get Up Stand Up. The exhibit highlighted Black creatives, and activists who left an impressive and pioneering mark on the world. The photography virtuoso has earned many accolades, and with a modelling agency and magazine to his name Addy “combines entrepreneurship with genuine empowerment.”

Tyler Mitchell

Although Mitchell is one of the youngest on our list, he certainly isn’t the most accomplished.

The 25-year-old film and digital photographer is most known for being the first African-American creative to shoot the cover of Vogue for its September 2018 cover featuring Beyoncé. Mitchell’s work, focusing on the intimate details of sorrow and joy in the Black community, have been praised and documented across several labels including JW Anderson, Converse, Nike, Givenchy, and Marc Jacobs. Mitchell’s portfolio also includes work with BROCKHAMPTON’s Kevin Abstract and Teen Vogue’s digital cover featuring teenage gun control activists.

Rafael Pavarotti

Hailing from the depths of the Amazon Rainforest, Rafael Pavarotti’s work is undoubtedly shaped by the rich colors and textures from his native country of Brazil.

The importance of Black representation and beauty in the front seat of the young photographer’s portfolio. Like many photographers, fashion serves as a vessel for Pavarotti’s sweeping historical and social messages. During global calls for equity during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, Pavarotti’s vibrant work was celebrated through I-D magazine with a revolutionary fashion story titled “A Journey Through Sierra Leone.”

“The celebration of Black and indigenous experience specifically will always be a part of my work, because it’s also a part of me. As an Afro-Indigenous Brazilian photographer, my existence and work are already political,” he said in relation to his artistic roots.

Adrienne Raquel

Covering Selena Gomez for the inaugural issue of CR China, photographer Adrienne Raquel’s work dives into the feminine spirit of fashion and art. The New York-based creative’s work feels like a hazy dreamscape, a vibrant palette of colors traveling through space and time. Her aesthetic feels reminiscent of the ’70s filled with big hair, popped collars and glossy colors. Previously working with massive stars like Travis Scott, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, and Meg Thee Stallion, Raquel has a way of capturing the unique spirit of each of her subjects, shooting them in exactly where they need to be. Her work, particularly focusing on the beauty and femininity in Black excellence, has been the focal point of campaigns in Reebok, Pat McGrath Labs, Playboy, and NARS Cosmetics.

Micaiah Carter

If all of Gen-Z was a photographer, it would be Micaiah Carter.

The young photographer’s work feels like peeling the curtain back on an intimate gathering with friends. A recent graduate from Parsons School of Design, Carter’s contemporary youth culture and streetwear are all reflected in his work. His visual themes and aesthetics prominently featured in campaigns with designers like Pyer Moss, Adidas, Nike, and Puma.

Carter’s experiences as a Black man, and those of his father and grandfather before him, have always shaped his work. Rather than dive into stereotypes aimed at flipping the humanization narrative, Carter’s expressive work highlights the full technicolor ways Black men live their lives. With notable subjects like Spike Lee and Pharrell Williams, Carter plays with vibrant fashion and settings in a way that often feels indescribable.

“I think about my nieces and nephews, and how they need representation that goes beyond the stereotypes assigned to Black people,” he says of his work. “I want to create a wider scope for Blackness, bridging the gap so that everything doesn’t always start with us explaining that we are human.”

Luis Alberto Rodriguez

Like many other creatives, Luis Alberto Rodriguez uses far more than just one medium.

The Juilliard graduated toured the world, dancing on hundreds of stages, before settling down and becoming a self-taught photographer. Now based in Berlin, the Afro Latino photographer uses his motion-filled background as an inspiration for his work. Fashion editorials feel more like dance recitals with flowing garments kicked up in a fluid motion. His work often finds beauty in nature, the vast outdoors repurposed as a blank canvas to create. Rodriguez’s photographs feel timeless, focusing on human bodies and the power they create rather than fashion trends.

Ronan McKenzie

Despite scoring a coveted ticket into fashion academia’s Pearly Gates, otherwise known as Central Saint Martins, McKenzie dropped out a week in.

Her rebellious, youth-focused nature has taken her far more than schooling ever would, navigating both photography and fashion-based creative disciplines. Both McKenzie’s fashion work with her brand Selasi and her photography focus on the beauty of Black women, often overlooked by the traditional media. Her latest exhibition project, “I’m Home,” showcases Black female photographers after seeking a massive gap in the industry.

Aside from personal projects, McKenzie has worked with Glossier, Teen Vogue, Garage Magazine and Gucci.

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