Kacey Jeffers wants people to feel seen in his photography

The photographer talks about the kind of stories he wants to tell, and how his experience as a model allows him to connect with his subjects

Initially, self-taught photographer Kacey Jeffers never saw becoming a creative as a viable option when growing up in Nevis, a small island in the Caribbean sea. “Nevisian culture pushes very traditional career paths,” he tells CR. “When I was around 16 I became interested in modelling and that opened up a whole new world for me. Years later in my early 20s while modelling in London, I realised that I much preferred being behind the camera. And the rest is history.” 

Jeffers started taking photographs in 2012 and bought his first camera with his earnings from modelling. To learn the ropes, he went onto YouTube and watched everything he could to understand the basics of the medium. “I don’t get caught up with the technical stuff. I feel I learned more about photography by looking at fashion imagery especially those from the 80s and 90s,” he says. “Images of that era are so amazing. The compositions! The narratives! The light! The models! The locations!”

Top: Mother tasting the pot. Above: Juliska, Uniform. All images: Kacey Jeffers

Fusing elements of this imagery as well as portrait and reportage photography, Jeffers sees his style and approach as being rooted in classic photography but with a twist. “It is emotive, moody, colourful and real. My inspirations are very eclectic from art to music,” he says. “Historically I’ve been informed by the likes of Peter Lindbergh, Cindy Sherman, and Gordon Parks. Now I am pulling references from my own life. I often ask myself: ‘what do I want to see in the world?’”

Drawing from his experiences as a model, Jeffers believes it gives him an understanding of what his subjects need in order to be more comfortable and to build trust. He also has the language to explain to his subjects what he needs from them in terms of movements or poses. “I don’t just throw out commands like ‘put your hands on your hips!’ I can actually show them or break it down in a way that makes sense.” 

Uncontrived
Be a Man

Past projects have mostly taken the form of portraits, including a thoughtful series for Vogue Italia. “I enjoy telling stories that I can see myself in, that will in turn allow others to feel seen,” he says. “I feel now my work explores themes related to identity, culture, representation, visibility.”  

One of his most recent series, Uniform, was a much larger project and saw Jeffers travel back to Nevis to photograph kids from the island’s local schools. The photobook was self-published by Jeffers last year. “I conceived the idea in October 2018 and I didn’t get the go ahead until summer of 2019. From the get go it was meant to be a book,” he explains. “I met with the principals of the schools and told them about the project. I asked them to present students who were not always in the spotlight. It was exciting to go to the schools and not know what the locations would be or who the students were.”

Nostalgia
Nostalgia

Jeffers enjoyed the feeling of walking somewhat blindly into a shoot guided only by his internal sense of what he wanted the project to be.

“Over the course of two weeks towards the end of the 2019 school year, I went around the island to 14 schools and photographed kids whose ages ranged from ten to 18. I spent roughly one hour at each school taking the photographs as well as interviewing each student,” he says. “I worked with two designers on the design of the book and had the books printed in China. The whole process was truly a learning experience.” 

Alesha, Uniform
Thaine, Uniform

While the past year has been spent mostly promoting Uniform, now he has the taste of it, Jeffers feels as though more photobooks are on the horizon, as well as being open to all kinds of other projects. “I’m currently in Nevis, and it so happens that there is a UK production company on the island filming. They’ve set up an acting academy and I decided to join,” says Jeffers. “I see myself as a creative who tells stories and sometimes photography isn’t enough to do that so I’m always up for exploring new ways I can honour my creativity. I’m definitely trying to figure out my next right moves and that in and of itself is a project these days.”  

Ultimately, through his photography Jeffers hopes people feel seen and that a feeling of belonging is created. “I want people to feel a sense of connection to something larger than their own immediate experiences or circumstances,” he says. “I want to create work that sustains human connection.”

Alixandria, Uniform

kaceyjeffers.com

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes