At C/O Berlin’s Amerika Haus, a nonprofit exhibition space on the Hardenbergstraße, photographer Nadine Ijewere is at the center of a striking new exhibition. “Nadine Ijewere: Beautiful Disruption,” on view from May 29 until September 2, gathers three films and some 80 photographs-many from sittings for Vogues around the world-illustrating her colorful and inclusive approach to image-making, one that has sought to challenge received standards of beauty.
The daughter of Jamaican and Nigerian immigrants, Ijewere grew up in London in the 1990s, where she recalls being inundated with advertising imagery that little reflected her own, lived reality. “The people around me inspired me,” she says. “I always envisioned people that looked like me, my friends and family one day having a place in fashion.”
She name-checks Seydou Keita, Richard Avedon, J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Gordon Parks, and William Eggleston as a few of the artists she’s long admired; although her personal aesthetic was also very much influenced by trips to her parents’ home countries. “One similarity I found on my many trips to these places was a strong sense of community; a warm, welcoming energy,” Ijewere says. Her photographs embrace that energy, extolling-alongside her peers Tyler Mitchell and Micaiah Carter-examples of Black joy. “I embody this positivity and togetherness in my work because it’s beautiful to see this type of love,” she says. “It’s also important to continue to chip away at the stereotypes that have been constructed over time...I think it’s important for people to gather their own point of view from real experiences.”
The images in “Beautiful Disruption” function like a timeline of Ijewere’s career from 2017 until 2020. Drawn from magazine editorials, a campaign for Nina Ricci, and personal projects, the portraits are warm and expressive, showing off her keen eye for tone and texture. “I have included some key pieces that mean a lot to me and represent my people,” she says. “I photograph beautiful Black people. Beautiful Black families. Beautiful people of color from many different backgrounds. My work has been penetrating an industry which for so long has shut us out. This to me, is a beautiful disruption.”
When possible, Ijewere likes to scout her own models-although what exactly it is that she looks for in a subject, she admits, is difficult to describe. “Whether it is a physical feature, or the energy of the person...their personality can draw me to them,” she says. But she’s as eager now as ever to foreground people who haven’t often figured in fashion photography. “I want to continue celebrating beauty, and help to reshape what has been the ‘beauty ideal,’” she says. “This is an important part of my journey.”