October 21st, 2019
Three Artists Lend Fresh Perspectives to Burberry’s Latest Collection
Working with Aperture and Antwaun Sargent, New Black Vanguard photographers were commissioned to create images celebrating Burberry’s Monogram puffer collection.
To celebrate the launch of Aperture’s The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion and Burberry’s newly released Monogram puffer collection, three New Black Vanguard photographers— Arielle Bobb-Willis, Micaiah Carter, and Renell Medrano—were commissioned to make images for a social-media campaign. In their alluring images, the artists’ unique photographic styles mix with Burberry’s new aesthetic to provide a modern look at identity and fashion. The images reveal how each photographer has used their cameras to celebrate community and rethink notions of beauty and dress in our culture. Central to the power of these images are the conversations they open up about diversity and representation in fashion, art, and society. Carter’s studio portraits of youth, Medrano’s pictures of family, and Bobb-Willis’s street scenes draw on such genres as portraiture and documentary, conceptual and still-life photography, to bring a whole new set of references and possibilities to the fashion photograph. These artists are part of a global movement of Black artists who are working alongside fashion houses, like Burberry, to construct vibrant portraits that present fresh perspectives on the medium of photography, youth culture, and the notions of power and belonging.
Born in New York, 1994
“I love the idea of seeing Black people represented in an abstract way. It’s important to me to continue to reject the notion that Black expression is limited—or limiting.”
New York–based photographer Arielle Bobb-Willis was thirteen years old and living in South Carolina when a teacher gifted her an old Nikon N80 film camera, and with it the image maker captured her own body in the privacy of her childhood bedroom. There were pictures of her hands and feet all rendered in color, which were a metaphor for identity in free fall and a feeling of fragmentation caused by depression. “I became a photographer to step out of my depression in a way that felt the most fulfilling,” says the artist, whose images have been published in the New Yorker, British Journal of Photography, and L’Uomo Vogue. As her work has evolved, Bobb-Willis has maintained an interest in exploring what it means to claim joy through periods of sadness. She considers her work “anti-selfies,” containing visual complexity with a serene sense of movement and empowerment through a search for self, inspired by vivid painters such as the modernists Jacob Lawrence and Benny Andrews.
Born in Apple Valley, California, 1995
“Blackness can get pigeon-holed into a one-dimensional viewpoint, but in reality, it is as diverse as the galaxies in the universe.”
A central inspiration for fashion photographer Micaiah Carter comes from his father, Andrew Carter, a retired Air Force Sergeant who came of age in the 1970s, a period defined by the “Black Is Beautiful” movement and disco. “I’m using the past as a compass,” Carter explains, “while at the same time shooting new trajectories.” His growing oeuvre of impeccably lit, positive pictures of Black celebrities and youth, often in repose, have appeared on the covers of TIME, King Kong, Wonderland, Adweek, and Cultured magazines. Carter makes symbol-laden photographs, and his way of seeing the Black figure is influenced by his father’s scrapbooks, which in turn led him to the documentary images of John H. White. The Chicago photojournalist’s ability to capture his subjects with dignity—no matter their station in life—left an impression on Carter’s image making. Another influence on the Brooklyn-based photographer is artist Carrie Mae Weems. Of Weems, he says, “I am in awe of her use of intent, and her initiative to create a love language about the culture and Black experience.”
Born in New York, 1992
“I never try and make a perfect picture. I just try to photograph what I see around me.”
In 2014, New York–based, Dominican American photographer Renell Medrano shot Untitled Youth, an intimate look at the lives of four teenage girls growing up in the Bronx. The series, which mirrors her own uptown upbringing, was her undergraduate thesis project at Parsons/The New School, where she earned her BFA in 2014. The series established Medrano as an image maker interested in the beauty and patina of real-life circumstance. The evocative rawness and psychological intensity of Medrano’s documentary photographs, which won her a New York Times Lens Blog Award in 2014, have become trademarks, as have stylistic choices, such as imperfection as a marker of authenticity. “I don’t really give that much direction when I’m on set,” says Medrano. “I honestly try and just capture moments within the time that I have with my subject, and that mean something to me.” She has developed a fashion-photography practice in which she often depicts young, glamorous subjects against gritty, urban landscapes. “I carry this very scenic backstory—growing up in the Bronx,” she explains. “I try to portray that in my images.”
Learn more aboutThe New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion here.