Great fashion photographers create original, unforgettable and arresting images that reflect the society and culture of their times. But it was not until 2018, the first time in its century-long history, that US Vogue commissioned a black photographer Tyler Mitchell to front its September issue covers with Beyoncé. He was just 23.
It was the start of what is now a burgeoning new generation of black photographers who are challenging conventional ideas of beauty and style with images that expand the view of blackness in all its diversity and in so doing reinventing fashion media.
The latest international star is Rafael Pavarotti, a pioneering young Brazilian photographer in his 20s from the Amazon Rainforest who brings a particular perspective as one “who grew up in an indigenous territory and lives in a metropolis later in life”, he says. He creates extraordinary images, unforgettable for their exuberance, colour and imagination.
Pavarotti left the Amazon at 16 to follow his dream and having moved to London, started to establish his name. In tandem with Ib Kamara, a gifted stylist from Sierra Leone, his work has featured in Vogue, i-D and in impressive campaigns for Matches, Browns, Dries Van Noten and, most recently, Dior.
His images have a magical, mystical quality, but also a powerful energy. He has cited growing up in a family of “great, strong women” surrounded by nature as a continuous source of inspiration and a grandmother with a “gorgeous” palette of colour in her house. His work is also driven by a deep need to address the absence of black representation in the history of photography, presenting a broader view of black lives. “It’s a tool for transformation and cure, sharing and illuminating black and radicalised bodies through fashion and image,” he says.
His latest campaign styled by Kamara is for H&M’s recently launched Circular Design Story, a collection that focuses on forward-thinking design and innovative materials; he and Kamara were given complete freedom to bring their own vision to the campaign. Designed using recycled and recyclable materials, the collection includes everything from a pink padded coat made of recycled polyester to sweaters in recycled wool and tailored items crafted from waste material fibres.
In his lens, and with such a talented stylist, they are transformed into powerful and playful images. Visit hm.com.