Nadine Ijewere’s photography is a vibrant intervention in a world that largely glorifies narrow definitions of Eurocentric beauty. The intertwining beauty and fashion industries have long maintained and upheld these standards through casting decisions and shade ranges, source materials, and lighting choices; entire runway shows still occur without a model of color, sets are regularly predominantly white, and many times what feels like representation is just a highly-produced self-imposed pat on the back for brands and agencies. Against the vast white scrim of the beauty/fashion industry, Ijewere’s photos brim with warmth and color, and a sense of emotional authenticity often missing from the impersonal mechanisms of fashion modeling. Subjects, frequently cast by the photographer herself and atypical of rigid industry norms, gaze into the lens with brightly-lidded eyes framed by windswept hair, dressed in sumptuous textiles of the current season. The resultant images are dreamlike; whether set against a studio backdrop, historical architecture, or local nature. Ijewere’s photographs feel familiar yet unlocatable, snapshots from real life tinted with fantasy. Distinguished not only by her unique style but by her casting choices, her body of work highlights a breadth of Black beauty in an industry that mostly tokenizes what Blackness it does not ignore. With a portfolio showcasing subjects with dark and freckled skin of all shades, hair of various textures and styles, and a range of ages and cultures, Nadine Ijewere is broadening the possibilities for both Black representation and Black creation through her vivid, experimental style.
Having previously explored her Nigerian roots in projects like 9-ja_17 (2017), Ijewere pivots to her Jamaican heritage in the photo series Tallawah. From creative collaboration with fellow Jamaican, friend, and hair stylist Jawara, on-site shooting, and her trademark street-casting, a brilliant addition in her ongoing ode to Black beauty and style emerges. Taken on her first trip to Jamaica, the photographs celebrate the island’s dazzling hair culture while retaining the high-saturation, whimsical aesthetic Ijewere has perfected, replete with gravity-defying sculptural updos by Jawara, matching rainbow striped suits, and colorful backgrounds both natural and artificial. Tallawah masterfully tends toward both the classic and the futuristic. Sartorially it features conservative two-piece skirt sets alongside glitch-like glasses, structured garments in neon animal print, and lightly styled natural hair displayed alongside meticulously crafted ribbon curls, spikes, and hot pink streaks. Subjects stand against fences and storefronts as well as in clear green water, suggesting an appreciation for both the synthetic and natural forms of beauty on the island.