Gabriel Moses was just 18 years old when he landed his first campaign, commissioned by none other than Nike. For many creatives, working with a brand of this stature would be the peak of their career, but he was only just getting started.
Moses studied business at university but, having grown up on a diet of his sister’s fashion magazines, he was drawn to a career in imagemaking. After that Nike commission, the self-taught director and photographer went on to amass collaborations with desirable brands, designers, and musicians, including Dior, Burberry, Virgil Abloh, Pharrell, adidas, and Beats by Dre. He’s only a few years in, but his debut solo exhibition illustrates the artistic identity he’s managed to form in that time.
Held in the cavernous basement of London’s 180 Studios, the exhibition brings together over 50 still images and two short films that span his work in fashion, sport, and music.
The photographs that line the exhibition space carry rich, deep palettes and an atmospheric dance between light and shadow, which have all become hallmarks of Moses’ work. The mood conjured in his still imagery takes on an obscure, visceral quality in the films, thanks to an eerie approach to sound design and storytelling.
One of the films is the feverish yet seductive Regina, which he describes as “essentially my mind in the film. It’s the things I see as beautiful”. It shares its name with the studio that Moses set up last year, as well as the exhibition itself. Only a word with personal significance could do this much heavy lifting. Derived from the Latin word for ‘queen’, Moses has described the show as a “salute” to the women in his life.
The other, Ijó, is an unexpectedly haunting film featuring a cast of young ballet dancers at the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos. Ijó has given rise to further explorations: an art book comprising film stills and a limited-edition soundtrack vinyl release by the Vinyl Factory, whose creative director Sean Bidder worked across the exhibition.
The exhibition also features textiles, poetic interventions, religious iconography, and sculpture work. At the centre of the space is a bust of his childhood friend Tamsir – who appears elsewhere in Moses’ images – which plays with the exhibition’s Latin references.
Moses cites Malick Sidibé and Gordon Parks as two vital sources of inspiration, but otherwise he resists looking around too much for outside influences or trends. Instead, he has his eye fixed on the long game. “I don’t necessarily see things as project by project. I’m always thinking about the body of work. How will someone in 50 years, 100 years look at the work?”
Gabriel Moses: Regina runs at 180 Studios, London until April 30; 180thestrand.com