Antwaun Sargent’s first book celebrates a new forefront of genre-bending photographers “using their cameras to create contemporary portrayals of black life”
Nataal.com was born in 2015 as a platform to communicate the creativity coming out of Africa. It was launched by Sara Hemming, former art director at AnOther, Helen Jennings, former editor at Arise magazine, and Senegalese actor and director Sy Alassane. Focusing on fashion shoots, long form features and visual essays, Nataal collaborates with emerging artists around the world who are shaping global narratives around African culture.
This year, Nataal published its first annual print magazine, built around the theme “Future Gaze” and containing 336 pages of photography by well-known artists such as Viviane Sassen, Lorenzo Vitturi and Ayana V Jackson, as well as commissions by up-and-coming photographers such as Arielle Bobb-Willis. The photography is accompanied by in-depth editorials covering a range of topics including fashion, visual arts and music, as well as a short story by American-Ghanaian writer Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, and articles about contemporary African culture and business.
BJP spoke to creative director Sara Hemming and editorial director Helen Jennings about Nataal media and why photography is so integral to their magazine.
“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.”