The 27-year-old photographer, whose tender images explore the fine line between girlhood and adulthood, was one of the winners of the JW Anderson photography prize “Your Picture/Our Future”, which gave aspiring image-makers the chance to shoot the brand’s Autumn 2018 campaign. “I make most of my work in Denmark, in and around the town I grew up in,” she says. “My work is fiction: I’m not interested in documenting the girls’ actual life. It’s more a reinterpretation of my own memories and experiences, as well as imagination. I think there’s a sense of escapism in my photographs.”
She’s wary of talk about the female gaze. “I still think photography is a very male-dominated industry, maybe more so in fashion. Certain things tend to be ascribed as feminine qualities. I don’t like these generalisations. It all comes down to the relationship between subject and photographer — how do you make your subject feel? I think it’s really hard being in front of a camera. You are made so aware of your own image and yet you can’t see it. How you behave as a photographer can affect your subject a lot. It’s a really complex and somehow intimate exchange.”
Zhang’s work centres on “Chinese girls and their daily lives”. Based in Shanghai, the 26-year-old looks to find “a sense of serenity” in his frames, creating images in which his subjects are almost regal and the wider world is deliciously magical. His most recent work includes a series of images for Simone Rocha’s guest-edited issue of A Magazine Curated By, which explored the designer’s mixed heritage: part Irish, part Chinese.
“I think the high fashion industry has always been centred in Europe and the US. But in China, or other Asian regions, the landscape looks a whole lot different,” he says. Commissions from western publications have been limited but meaningful. “A Chinese perspective can bring something new,” he argues. In the meantime, Zhang is shooting for Vogue China and Nylon China. “I hope I can continue to focus on sharing the beauty that is special to me, to China.”
In September, Mitchell became the first African-American photographer to shoot the cover of US Vogue in its 125-year history. The 23-year-old photographer’s images of Beyoncé, who was instrumental in getting Mitchell the job, were widely praised. Speaking to Vogue about the story, Beyoncé said: “Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like.”
Mitchell remains modest about his contribution: “If my perspective can expand any sense of narrowness or closed-mindedness then that’s enough.” When asked what makes a great fashion photograph, he replies: “I’m not even sure what a fashion image is.” Mitchell comes from a generation of image-makers who have narrowed the divide between fashion imagery and documentary photography, rarely distinguishing between “personal” and “commercial” work, as photographers traditionally used to. He argues that his work is about a “new energy”. Is it political? “Yes and no. Of course, it holds political weight,” he says. “But it doesn’t necessarily always have to be activism in the way community organisers are activists. I like what Arthur Jafa says about art operating on a subconscious level, or a visceral one. I like to think all good art does this. And that mine does the same.”
Ijewere describes the main themes of her work as “identity and beauty”. The London-based 26-year-old, who is of Nigerian and Jamaican descent, says: “When I was studying fashion photography, there wasn’t a celebration of different types of beauty and I didn’t feel I saw myself within any of those images — that’s a theme I carry through my work. [Diversity] extends beyond the people within the images to the people behind them: the photographers, the art directors.”
Michael Famighetti, editor of the photography publication Aperture, says: “People tend to talk nostalgically about the 1990s as an immensely creative time for inventive, even socially engaged fashion imagery.
“Ijewere seems to harness that sort of energy to reflect the moment in which we live. She challenges reductive ideas of beauty and is acutely aware of how colonial residues mark contemporary image making. Her images — and even her references — feel outside the canon in the best possible way.”
“Intention and relatability” are key to making a great fashion photograph, argues the 23-year-old image-maker from California. Selected as one of Time’s portrait photographers of the year in 2017, he shot musician The Weeknd for the magazine’s Next Generation Leaders cover this year.
“He has a pitch-perfect ability to blend social themes and youth culture in beautifully executed images,” says Chiara Bardelli Nonino, photo editor of Vogue Italia. “There’s nothing more interesting, or powerful, than someone who is able to join the political discourse with beauty.”
“I don’t intend my work to be political, I am just honest about what I am portraying,” says Carter. “Showing the black experience in new ways; the political nature comes from the directness of my black pride.” We’ve been limited in the past by misguided conservatism, he argues. “Those in higher powers didn’t believe having multiple perspectives behind the lens could be popular or profitable.” He’s proving them all wrong.
“I do believe a new wave of image-makers is coming up,” says the 25-year-old photographer from Croydon, London. He shoots regularly for the British style magazine i-D and has established his own journal and agency named Nii.
“Within the journal I try to work on topics and issues that affect me and may well affect my people. Like our slogan states, we are ‘here to educate, not irritate’. As for Nii Agency, I wanted to create a space that represented the world of models that I see when create my own imagery. It’s not one governed by measurements or restrictions but one by reflecting the truth and potential of people.”
Though proud to spotlight black beauty, he is wary of the fashion for categorisation based on race or gender. “My work comments on a lot of things other than race, but by being born a black person everything is categorised as a ‘black experience’, when in reality it’s a ‘Campbell Addy experience — who happens to be black’. Black people aren’t monoliths, so neither is our work.”