“I find beauty in all its facets. My work is about showcasing different forms of beauty that I believe our society could do a better job of representing. We are so different, and I think it is especially important to show this in the world of fashion. I follow this principle when I cast models and also by exploring my own origins and identity.”
– Nadine Ijewere, December 2020
Tousled hair, turquoise eye shadow competing with freckles, a gap between teeth that turns a charming smile into a work of art, a long-stemmed hibiscus flower resting against a fragile, androgynous body: British fashion photographer Nadine Ijewere upends received beauty ideals in Ugly, her 2017 photo series for Vogue Italy. In doing so, she shows how attractive imperfection can be. Her photographs make people shine in all their imperfection. Thanks to her extraordinary visual language and her artistic conviction that beauty exists in countless varieties, Ijewere was selected by British Vogue as the first woman of color to photograph a cover for the 125-year-old, internationally relevant fashion magazine—a selection that was longoverdue. The cover of the January 2019 issue was a highly acclaimed sensation in the fashion world.
Growing up in South East London in the early 1990s as the daughter of a Nigerian father and a Jamaican mother, Nadine Ijewere was surrounded by billboards and fashion ads showing a uniform image of visual stereotypes that in no way represented the aesthetic variety of people in her immediate surroundings. During her youth, this lack of figures to identify with encouraged the photographer to develop her own visual world.
Ijewere’s work series counter the staged perfection of models and the pervasive beauty norms they represent. In contrast, the photographer offers brightly colored counterexamples to identify with, all telling universal stories of human charm and beauty. In order to ensure her photographs reflect her vision, Ijewere casts her models personally, scouting them from her circles of friends and acquaintances, on the streets, and on Instagram. They are people whose aesthetic appeal might remain hidden to the fashion industry, but whose elegance and aura Ijewere succeeds in capturing. Already, her work is regarded as necessary a corrective in fashion photography. She has pushed forward the discourse by showing how fashion and its visual world needs to expand to embrace a multiplicity of visual voices and experiences in order to represent a diverse global public and, in doing so, to transcend fixed ideas of how beauty should look.
This entirely novel approach in fashion photography has brought her commercial and artistic success and recognition. C/O Berlin is the first institution in the world to host a solo exhibition of the 28-year-old fashion photography pioneer, in Nadine Ijewere . Beautiful Disruption, which features roughly 80 images and three films.
Nadine Ijewere (b. 1992 in London) Ijewere’s photographs focus primarily on the themes of identity and diversity, informed by her Nigerian-Jamaican heritage. Her works have previously been shown in group shows at Tate Britain and at photography festivals in Amsterdam (Unseen) and Lagos (Lagos Photo Festival). In 2020, she was chosen for the Infinity Award by the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. Ijewere continues to work on commissions for fashion magazines around the world such as i-D, Garage, WSJ Magazine, and Vogue. She also photographs campaigns for fashion labels including Dior, Hermes, and Stella McCartney.