Softness as resistance also informs the work of Nadine Ijewere, an award winning south-east London-born fashion photographer who was the first woman of colour to shoot the cover of any Vogue edition. Informed by her own Nigerian-Jamaican identity, Ijewere’s work showcases a new standard of beauty, and aims to give life to the uniqueness of disparate cultures. It is currently exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery as part of The New Black Vanguard exhibition. Works such as Joy as an Act of Resistance – a joyous smile amidst an explosion of orange tulle – or images from her recent Nina Ricci campaign – four black women, draped in pastel, resting on each other’s strength – capture softness in action.
In an interview with Bricks magazine earlier this year, Ijewere discusses her creative process for the campaign, and how the freedom to ensure representation in front of and behind the camera was an act of both self and community care. “I went to the Dominican Republic, which was somewhere I had never been before. On arrival and throughout the trip, despite being so far away from home, I felt like I was at home the entire time. That familiar feeling of love within the communities was so powerful,” she says. “I shot a mixture of models and street-cast people all from the Dominican Republic. I had so much creative freedom with this project, so I just immersed myself in it and found my references along the way. I wanted to translate the love and energy within the community while also focusing on the fashion.”
For a social media trend to have nurtured a movement of black women – pioneers leading the way in redefining strength as softness, and reclaiming a life of joy and healing – is something of a quiet revolution. So, snuggle up in your comfiest outfit, take yourself on a walk, or curl up by the fire, and be prepared to allow yourself vulnerability. Be gentle with yourself as you battle with an internal dialogue that requires repetitive self-talk, self-questioning and ultimately, self-love. Feel the liberating sense of freedom as habits, patterns and expectations are discarded, then melt into the creative, imaginative, possibilities of what a soft life could look like, for you.
The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion is at the Saatchi Gallery, London, until 23 January 2023.
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