Misan Harriman on photographing the human condition

The photographer rose to prominence with his protest coverage, celebrity portraits and poignant covers for British Vogue’s activism issue. He talks to CR about how his recent ascent has been a lifetime in the making

“I only picked up a camera just as I turned 40, so just over three years ago, but I would say that my eye was training from birth, really,” says Misan Harriman. In the space of a few years, after pivoting from a career in recruitment, the photographer has become known for his thought-provoking and widely shared images of Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion protests.

Running in parallel to this is an ever-growing string of commissions from leading titles to photograph stars, from his portraits of Steve McQueen, Kate Winslet, Lewis Hamilton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, to his landmark spread documenting leading activists for the cover of British Vogue’s September issue. He was also behind the recent photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which was used to announce that they are expecting another child.

Top: Naomi Campbell and Adut Akech. Above: Misan Harriman © Camilla Holmstroem. All other images © Misan Harriman

Born in Nigeria and raised in the UK, Harriman attended boarding school in the English countryside, a period he found tough, compounded by his experiences in an education system that wasn’t designed for people like him. “I’m neurodiverse – a term that’s only been used recently. I’m very dyslexic and I’m sure on other spectrums that probably haven’t even been discovered yet, in the way my brain is wired, so I really struggled in the classroom,” he recalls. “I was at the bottom of most of the classes I was in, and it wasn’t until this thing called the internet came into my life, I realised that I could consume information in the way that my brain is wired for, which is a lot and fast.