In Aldershot, a town in Hampshire, England, there is an old 1930s Art Deco theatre called the Empire. Since its renovation several years ago, it operates mainly as a Nepalese community centre. On the top floor there is a restaurant and a temple; downstairs is a function room, where groups of Nepalese men meet up every so often to play xbox, table tennis and traditional Asian games like carrom.
Aldershot is home to the largest Nepali community in the UK and, because of its close proximity to an army base, Gurkha families make up a large proportion of the population. The Gurkhas are Nepalese soldiers who were recruited into the British Army following the Anglo-Nepalese war in the early 19th century. Over 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in both world wars, but they were unable to settle in the UK until 2004. Since then, after a campaign famously championed by the actress Joanna Lumley, the population of Nepalis in the UK has increased from 6,000 to an estimated 100-150,000.
British-Nepali photographer Nina Manandhar’s most recent project, Gurkha Sons, questions the challenges and benefits of coming from a Gurkha family in the UK. The group she photographed calls themselves the k-BOYZ – the “k” standing for Kaprukka, the Nepali word for “frozen stiff” as that’s how they feel when they go out on their motorbikes in cold British weather. Manandhar asks how living in the UK informs their sense of identity, and most importantly, where home now lies for them
Fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø was awarded an Emmy in 2011 for his direction of a series of short films, shot for the website of the The New York Times Magazine. The series, 14 Actors Acting commissioned by Kathy Ryan, was acclaimed as a “new approach”, but the Norwegian photographer claims he simply “dabbles” in film.
“I’m not proficient or even adequate yet,” he says. “But film is a way of rejuvenating the work I’ve already done. It’s like a little vitamin boost.”
Sundsbø’s photography career has been meteoric. Four months into a course at the London College of Printing, he attracted the attention of Nick Knight, and became his assistant for the next four years. Now he’s a regular in Italian Vogue, Visionaire and W magazine. His commercial clients include Chanel, Hermès, Nike and Yves Saint Laurent and, outside the fashion world, Royksopp, Friendly Fires and Coldplay have all chosen his work for their album covers.
Diversity has never been hotter in the fashion industry. This year, more non-white, plus-sized, and transgender models have walked the runway than ever before, and a record number of black women have appeared on the covers of glossies worldwide. Alessia Glaviano, senior picture editor at Vogue Italia and director of the Photo Vogue Festival thinks we owe it to the internet. “I believe that nothing would have happened, or not this fast, in terms of inclusivity, if it wasn’t for social media,” she says. “It’s a progressive platform for talking about race, identity, sexuality, and disability.”
But diversity isn’t just a trend, it’s a reality. Years before #diversity began to take off, forward-thinking publications such as Vogue Italia were already poking holes in the industry’s representation problem, with initiatives such as the July 2008 “all black” issue. Vogue Italia is known for being adventurous, for setting a standard for cutting-edge fashion photography. Over the years has given artistic freedom to commissioned photographers such as Steve Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth and Miles Aldridge, who have shot stories unlikely to be seen elsewhere, engaging with themes such as plastic surgery and domestic violence.
“It’s been in our DNA since the beginning,” says Glaviano. “We’ve always been really engaged and committed to this part of fashion that can be very strong and influential.
“I’ve never believed in boundaries and labelling things,” she adds. “No one cares that Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Sistine Chapel. What they care about is the final result.”
Born in the Eastern Bloc, Adrian Samson has lived in the US and Canada but is now based in London, where his appealing, contemporary work has won him commissions from clients such as Hermes, Miu Miu, COS, Vogue Hommes International, Numero Berlin, Wallpaper*, The Plant, The Gourmand, and The New York Times. His latest project is a shoot for the Frieze Art Fair, which opens in London from 04-07 October, and which saw him handling ancient and modern artefacts taken from the Frieze Masters section. His images will be presented in Frieze’s newspaper for its well-respected event, which includes a talk by Nan Goldin on 06 October and a presentation of work by emerging Polish photographer Joanna Piotrowska.
Born in London’s prosperous Hampstead in 1904, Cecil Beaton went to school with Evelyn Waugh (who bullied him), and Cyril Connolly (who admired the beauty of his singing). Taught photography by his nanny, Beaton found work assisting cutting-edge young photographer Paul Tanqueray, and became famous for his portraits of the Bright Young Things – the decadent young socialites of the 1920s and 30s, whose hedonistic lives were captured in Waugh’s glittering, somewhat fatalistic novel Vile Bodies. Beaton was taken on by Vogue in 1927 and moved to the US in 1929; he was a staff photographer for both Vogue and Vanity Fair until 1938, when he was fired for inserting anti-Semitic phrases by the side of an illustration of New York society in American Vogue. Returning to Britain, he went on to take photographs for the British Ministry of Information during World War Two and later rehabilitated his career, going on to photograph stars such as Mick Jagger, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol. He also launched a successful career in set and costume design in the 1950s and …
“There were things happening in black America that lend themselves to the conversation in Italy in a way that perhaps people never would have imagined,” says Theaster Gates, a social practice artist and curator of a new exhibition,The Black Image Corporation, dedicated to exploring the legacy of the Johnson Publishing Company archive and its two acclaimed magazines, Ebony and Jet.
Presented at the Fondazione Prada from 20 September to 14 January, the exhibition gathers photographs from the company’s extensive archive of more than four million images, focusing primarily on the work of two photographers – Moneta Sleet Jr and Isaac Sutton. “When the Prada Foundation invites you to do a project, you know there’s already this big and ambitious living legacy; and so it felt really amazing to then put the Johnson Publishing Company in the context of this other fashion family,” explains Gates.
In 2015, when Poland’s most radical right-wing organisation, the Law and Justice (PiS) party, won the general election with a sweeping majority, photographer Joanna Wzorek and her liberal parents were shocked. Policies against immigration, same-sex marriage, and abortion just a few of the controversial views now channelled by Poland’s ruling party.
“Me and my parents felt deeply disrespected by the other side of our family, who voted right-wing,” says Wzorek, a Polish-born photographer who graduated from UAL last year with a degree in fashion photography. “I knew then I had to try and make something positive out of the negative nationalist standpoint that had dispersed within my country,” she explains.
He’s best-known for his work with British and Italian Vogue, but Tim Walker is also a successful solo artist, opening his third solo show at London’s V&A on 07 September (his first two were also in London, at the Design Museum in 2008, and at Somerset House in 2012). The exhibition will feature a “brand new body of work inspired by the V&A’s collection,” stated V&A director Tristram Hunt as he announced the show yesterday, adding: “He will work his magic and come up with a series of photos.”
Starting his career by working in the Condé Nast picture library, where he worked on the Cecil Beaton archive for a year before university, Walker went on to assist Richard Avedon and shot his first story for Vogue at the age of 25. Famous for his use of elaborate sets, Walker is collaborating with celebrated British art director Shona Heath on his V&A show, which will include photographs, films, sets and installations around the museum.
It was while working as an art director that rising talent Justine Tjallinks decided she wanted to make her own images. Born in a small village in the east of the Netherlands, the 32-year-old moved to the Dutch capital to study at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute before immersing herself in the commercial world, working on several leading fashion publications.
“Anxiety is universal,” says Arielle Bobb-Willis. “Some people paint, others do yoga or exercise [to help manage it]. Whatever it is, everyone can find something to make them feel more present. I was just lucky to have found mine early in my life.”
At first glance, Bobb-Willis’ work is happy and lighthearted – full of colour and movement. But there is also an uneasy element to her work, in the, often faceless, models’ awkward positions. “When you dig a little deeper, you see that part of me that was in a depressive state,” says Bobb-Willis, “All the uncomfortable positions I have been in, it plays a huge role in my work.”