Nadine Ijewere: A fresh perspective

Nadine Ijewere’s debut monograph, Our Own Selves, upends long-held notions of beauty. Here, the photographer talks about redressing fashion industry stereotypes and her own journey with self-belief

Growing up in southeast London, Nadine Ijewere often busied herself with arts and crafts. She enjoyed making structures out of cardboard, or using crepe paper to craft flowers – an emblem that would later become a mainstay in her work. “There are so many different types of flower, and I think they’re all beautiful in their own way. I think that always resonates with me: how different they are, but still striking,” she says.

She’s still absorbed by the beauty and splendour of flowers – a Lego bouquet is currently sitting on her dining room table – and they are often woven into her imagery, whether clutched in the hands of a model or in the form of floral fabrics that envelop the frame.

Ijewere took after her mother, who always had an interest in fashion and clothing. She would pore over her mother’s magazines, digesting the striking imagery that filled the pages. It led her to an A-level in photography, where she encountered the joys of analogue photography. The manual process it involved – the careful consideration behind each shot and the patience required to develop it – is why she still predominantly shoots on film rather than digital.

By the time she came to study at the London College of Fashion, she found herself questioning why the ­pages of the magazines she grew up with still told a homogeneous story of what constitutes beauty. “Why are there no pictures of women I grew up around, or beauty that was around me every day?

I’d look in fashion magazines and I’d be like, ‘There’s no one that looks like me or my friends.’ I asked myself, ‘Why is that? Why can’t I take pictures like that?’”

Top: Cuba Project, 2018; Above: Spring Dress for WSJ Magazine, 2019. All images © Nadine Ijewere, 2021