Guilherme da Silva’s new zine provides a vision of utopia and safe space for the LGBTQ community  

In 2019, when Guilherme da Silva took a picture of his friend in Venice, he knew instantaneously that he needed to build a wider series. Perhaps it was the aftermath of being broken up with by his boyfriend – enduring a somewhat sensitive outlook on the world – or maybe it was more of an inherent drive hidden deep inside, that only needed a little nudge (or picture) to be let out. Either way, it was this very moment that sparked the idea to produce what would later become Overture, a zine which encapsulates Guilherme’s deep truths both as an individual and as a photographer: to support and provide a safe space for the LGBTQ community.

Nodding to the concept of Arcadia – a vision of utopia – and inspired by the work of Thomas Eakins, Guilherme has collated an intimate documentation of queerness in Brazil. As a country that’s less than accepting of the LGBTQ community, Guilherme turned towards photography as a way of understanding his own identity and experiences; he urges those who see themselves in his pictures, and those observing this works, to do the same. It’s not been an easy ride for the photographer, having experienced LGBTQ-phobic attitudes in the industry which sparked a bout of depression. But having self-published his own zine, Guilherme is taking matters into his own hands and hopes to continue building on this empowering body of work. In fact, it’s in the zine’s name Overture, which alludes to the opening of an opera. This edition is an introduction to a longer body of work in the future. I chat to Guilherme to find out more below. 

Dries at the park, 2021

What’s your ethos as a photographer, and what stories excite you?

I think it’s diversity to say the least. When it comes to my work, everything is so deep inside me that sometimes I can’t explain in words. But what has been driving me to create since the beginning is the people that I’ve met throughout the years; the connection I created with them. Part of what I’ve been doing lately in my work (and what I did with the zine) is creating this sort of tribe of young people who live in this utopian land away from the corruptions of society. And this is not just in the pictures; we ended up creating a community where everyone supports each other. What excites me about being a photographer is what comes after the photography.

Ayrton and Matheus at the park, 2021

What inspired you to make this zine?

Well, when I’m not doing my personal projects, I work as a very commercial fashion photographer in Brazil. What inspired me to start the zine was the frustration I had with people who wanted to shape the way I was supposed to be photographing – not just the technique, but also who I was photographing. I heard so many LGBTQ-phobic speeches during meetings and work that sometimes I felt like I was not welcomed, that I was there just to press a button. I ended up with anxiety and depression and, to pull me out of that dark place, I knew I had to find a place to be safe. During the process, the pandemic hit and I had to postpone the beginning of the project. The situation in Brazil has been awful because of the government and I knew this was another reason why I should start this project. The zine is about this group of queer people that I wanted to portray in this place that nobody knows where it is but everyone wants to go there. It’s Arcadia, it’s a scape. 

Heart-shaped tongue, 2021

Who are we meeting in the zine, where are we visiting, what stories are we hearing?

All of my personal work feels like a self-portrait to me, so the zine is pretty much about the feeling I was talking about in the answer above. We are meeting this group of queer people who lives in this utopian land, like the concept of Arcadia. I was very inspired by the ‘Arcadian’ paintings of Thomas Eakins, the political view behind the work of Justine Kurland in her book Girl Pictures, and also the works of Nan Goldin and David Armstrong. 

Tell me more about the people you’re photographing in your zine, and how you strive to represent them? 

I think everything happens so effortlessly. Most of them I meet online first and then we meet to take the pictures, most of the time with their own clothes, sometimes I use some of mine. It’s so simple and beautiful.

What does photography mean to you, what’s its purpose?

Photography for me is my joy, it’s what allows me to understand more about the world and more about who I am. It’s what makes me feel sane.

Kenzo at the park, 2022

What can your audience learn from this zine?

They can learn how important it is to create communities when you are LGBTQ+, where you can meet people and talk about your experiences. It’s important to have this safe place where there’s no judgement and you learn more about who you are. We spend so much of our lives trying to hide ourselves when we were kids that when we are adults we have to discover our true selves. Being inserted into a community that protects you can help a lot.

What’s next for you?

The title of zine means this one is just the first, I’m already working on my next publication and I definitely want to work more collectively with stylists, make-up artists and creative directors who are open to accept my view. 

Leo at the park, 2021

Lucas and Leo kissing at the monument, 2021

Pedro at the park, 2022

Limbo Accra

The spatial design studio infuses architecture with art to transform unfinished structures in West Africa

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku

“We all need each other” is a phrase that suitably defines both the output and ethos of spatial design studio Limbo Accra. Founded by Dominique Petit-Frère and Emil Grip in 2018, the work of Limbo Accra is cyclical and non-wasteful as it operates amongst unfinished structures in West African cities; it puts the planet and its people first. By doing so, decaying buildings are given new narratives, while public spaces are provided for the local communities. Below, I chat to Dominique and Emil to find out more about their impactful work.

Can you begin by telling me a little about your backgrounds?

Our backgrounds are within urban development and education – so our approach to design and architecture has always been from an intuitive and autodidact perspective. The whole process for us has always been informed by the multicultural essence in our relation to each other, since we are constantly moving between Accra, Copenhagen and New York. We met in Ghana in 2014, but we didn’t form Limbo until 2018. In that sense Limbo is a culmination of all the experiences and ideas we had over those four year. 

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku

When we started Limbo Accra it was out of pure curiosity to transform and investigate the architectural and built conditions of modernising West African cities as we were keen on exploring the intersection between art, architecture and sustainability within this new-age context. The studio’s name is a nod to the many incomplete and since-abandoned buildings in Accra and other West African cities. 2018 was a truly transformative period in Accra and we both felt compelled to take action in that transformation. For us it was very evident that this large scale of uncompleted property developments littered around the city of Accra held a vast amount of opportunities for activations and conversation among the growing creative community and city at large. 

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku

What’s your ethos as a studio, what types of projects do you usually like to work on? 

It’s not like we have a stiff value set at the studio, but more a set of current observations from society in general and the spaces we navigate in, that we choose to act and react to. Our practice exists in this fluid space between juxtapositions, because we never allow ourselves to be stagnant; Limbo is constantly evolving, morphing and growing. Essentially, we are simply here to question and investigate the reality of the world we see, and how we can be more intentional about our role within in it as spatial practitioners. 

We are quite selective about the projects we engage in. At the core of any of our projects is a story. We honestly see Limbo as a way of communicating stories through architecture. The fascinating thing about telling stories using architecture is the opportunity to materialise an idea in a simultaneously expressive and material way. That impact on society is immaculate. 

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku

You operate within unfinished buildings in Ghana and beyond, which is super interesting. Can you tell me more about this? 

So the Limbo sites are interesting for us in an African context because it poses the opportunity to bridge two societal issues within the urban landscape: extensive voided structures and lack of public space. Essentially we are experimenting with the idea of using these sites as soft activations for people to question the neighbourhoods and cities, asking “how are we being intentional in the way we design and create spaces for people?” 

How important is sustainability to your practice, and what does this mean in terms of how you approach a brief and the design process? 

Sustainability is important. We try to think of our approach to a project as regenerative. Our logic from the very beginning has always been to work with what already exists – to maximise the re-usage of what we already have, simply re-adapting what already is into a new meaning. 

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku 

Can you talk me through a recent project of yours?

We just wrapped up an amazing exhibition titled WET by Ghanaian-American artist Araba Ankuma. As an artist working internationally, Ankuma’s stories focus on the importance of perception and the need to shift it in order to illuminate the invisible narratives that bind us as human beings. Composing narrative through photography and collage, Ankuma acts as a tour guide, transporting viewers from existing perspectives to new perceptual ground. Our studio is always about collaborations and working together. The whole logic is that we all need each other, and that we all need a space. This is what we offer as Limbo. Everyone has something to gain by working together. 

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku

WET exhibition in collaboration with artist with Araba Ankuma. Photography by Komla S. Darku

Do you think the design industry is currently doing enough in terms of sustainability and the environment? Are you hopeful about the future? 

I mean, how can we define that? The world is such a big place with so many different spaces each within their own context. It’s obviously a part of the current discourse within the industry, which is positive, but the question of how intentional the movement is remains. The interesting thing about the environment and sustainability within architecture and design is the fact that it’s hard to see how anyone can ignore addressing those issues. People are starting to feel some of the consequences of the world changing, so the simple need for change will only increase. In that sense I’m hopeful. 

What’s next for you, any upcoming plans or projects that you can share?

Right now we are doing a few things with the Brooklyn Museum that will come out this summer. So stay tuned! 

Photography by Anthony Combder Badu

Photography by Anthony Combder Badu

Photography by Anthony Combder Badu


Common Place

In his ongoing series, Scott Rossi highlights the importance of public space for building community

Lily, Reef, Kane, and Luci, Central Park, New York, USA 2022

Capturing the world around you is one thing, yet doing so in a way that’s not only mesmerising and memorable but also rich in context and history is another. Scott Rossi, a Canadian photographer based in New York, does this utterly well in his photography work. With an ability to lens the moments of daily life around him, Scott draws from the quieter parts – those that are smaller and often missed to the untrained eye – to build stories about the people of the world. In this regard, subcultures and public spaces are the two key pillars to his practice, which have naturally informed his latest series, Common Place. A project that commenced during the pandemic while out and about on his daily walks, Scott set out to photograph the local community in Central Park and their relationship to the natural world. Below, Scott tells me more about the series and the importance of public space – a relationship that will continue in the future.

Untitled, Central Park, New York, USA, 2021

What’s your journey into photography like?

I grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver, B.C. When I was five years old, my father arrived home one evening with a go-kart. I spent the next 13 years racing go-karts around the world, from British Columbia to the streets of Monte Carlo. 

Photography was not always on the cards for me. After my dreams of becoming a professional race-car driver were over, I studied Psychology at university. I only began taking photographs in my final year by chance. In that elective photography course, my professor introduced me to the work of Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz, which derailed my plans. I couldn’t shake photography away. It gave me a new purpose. I spent the next two years primarily photographing my surroundings without much intent or reasoning behind my actions. I simply wanted to capture beautiful, fleeting moments. 

In 2018, I started making long-form projects. In them, I discovered the power of visual storytelling. I began to value not just the results, but the process of engaging with my subjects, establishing an intent to the work that previously lacked. In the first two projects I worked on, Burned Out (2018-19) and Jazz House (2018-20), I documented coming-of-age stories. Whereas Common Place (2021), which I began shortly after moving to New York City, explores the history of Central Park and the relationship between New Yorkers and the public space in the context of a global pandemic. 

Quinceañera, Central Park, New York, 2021.

What inspired you to start working on Common Place, what stories are you hoping to share?

In Vancouver I was surrounded by nature. After I arrived in New York City, in the height of the pandemic in 2020, I began to miss nature and felt lost and uninspired, so I started going on long walks through Central Park. I began photographing during those walks with a point-and-shoot camera. I was studying at ICP at the time, and I thought this point-and-shoot idea would be a good side project to my thesis, which was still undecided. Eventually, I realised the side project was worthy of the main thesis idea. I bought a new pair of shoes, switched to a medium format camera, and began photographing Central Park every day. I hoped to share the stories of the people I met there through photographs. 

The work highlights the importance of public spaces, especially in a city like New York, for the overall wellbeing of its people. This city and Central Park, have a complicated but also rich history. Today, despite its history, I think the Park is seen as a sanctuary and a place to be yourself and I hope that comes through in my photos.  

South of Sheep Meadow, Central Park, New York, 2021.

Who are your subjects? Did you spend much time getting to know them?

I meet all my subjects while wandering around the park and typically photograph them as they were. It is that level of comfort and intimacy that piques my interest in the first place. Most of my subjects happened to be New Yorkers, with a few exceptions. 

How long I spent with them really depended on the person. With some people we would spend hours talking, while others gave me only five minutes. Regardless of how long, I was always transparent about what I was doing.

Aaron and Eralissa, Central Park, New York, 2021.

Can you share any personal favourites from the series?

Aaron holding his baby daughter Eralissa has always been a favorite. There is subtext in this image, but for me, the cutest part is thim holding his daughter on his dog tag necklace. Once I noticed that, my heart melted. 

Then of course, Dave. He is a Latin professor and track and field coach at an Upper East Side high school. I think it’s his oversized tie and baggy suit that made it all come together so well, along with the fact that he is marking student’s papers while they run laps around the reservoir. 

A third favourite of mine is the trees with afternoon light passing through. This is exactly how I feel about Central Park. It has been my home away from home. I feel a warmth when I am there and am constantly “invited” down new pathways. This picture, with the pathway leading us into it, invites the viewer. 

Spring Bloom, Central Park, New York, 2021.

How do you hope your audience will respond to this project?

I hope people feel something when they look at the images. Whether they feel love, hope, or sadness, it doesn’t really matter. I just hope people feel something. As with all photography, for me, an emotional response is the most important.

Untitled, Central Park, New York, USA, 2021

Dave, Central Park, New York, USA, 2021

Geese, Central Park, New York, 2021.

Untitled, Central Park, New York, USA, 2021

Minceirs by Joseph-Philippe Bevillard

Revealing an honest and raw side to the Irish Traveller community, the photographer shares the details behind his powerful series

Charlotte, Tipperary, Ireland 2019

A fire burns behind two girls as they pose for the camera, cosied up in matching puffer jackets  with an unmissable fur trim. The sky is grey, bleak almost, and you can see the signs of industrialisation poking out in the background. Another image portrays a young bride sitting with her great grandfather, just moments after the event. Her hair is big, her dress is as white as starlight. A further picture sees a young boy in boxing gloves, gesturally strong as he dons a look of pyjama bottoms and wellies.

These are some of the scenes depicted in Joseph-Philippe Bevillard’s Minceirs, a powerful series that lenses the lives of the Traveller community in Ireland. Born in Boston, USA before moving to Ireland in 2000, he started work on the project after hosting a workshop that focused on Travellers – Russell Joslin from Skeleton Key Press in Oslo, Norway, then contacted him about the work and they spent nine months sifting through 750 images, selecting the 90 best. “We wanted to show the readers the hidden world of the Travellers in Ireland,” he tells me, who are a community continuously ostracised by society and people across the globe. He went on to meet 200 families in total and, proving the falsity of many claims and assumptions about the community, learned that they are “very humble” people who mostly wanted to keep living traditionally in an increasingly modernised world. “I wanted to capture their way of life before it disappeared; Irish government are trying to force them to live with settled people and lose their identity and lifestyle.”

The resulting imagery is chaotic just as much as it endearing, like a window has been edged open to reveal a lifestyle in all its raw and undulated honesty. Joseph-Philippe shows the human side of the community, which is a skill that’s been refined since he lost his hearing at the age of three. It was around then that he first started drawing and painting, and thus began what would become a lifetime filled with art and storytelling. Below, I chat to Joseph-Philippe to hear more the project.

Paddy, Galway, Ireland 2019

What can we learn about this community, and how did you want to portray them within your imagery?

I hope my images give a glimpse into the lifestyle of the travelling community; I show their hardships, culture and how important family is to them. I try to portray it honestly, where some Travellers live in extreme poverty, while others have made a better lifestyle and love to celebrate life and all occasions. 

What was the process like while photographing this project?

I am very lucky to live in an area where it’s not far from many Traveller campsites, where some are my favourite places and are easily a day trip by car. Sometimes, if it’s over a two hours’ drive, I’m heading to a late-night event like a wedding, or when I have a workshop or a private tour, I would be on the road for one or two weeks. So that is when I would stay in a hotel or B&B.

After Church Wedding, Wexford, Ireland 2019

What was the relationship like with your subjects, did you spend much time getting to know them?

It was difficult at first since being deaf in both ears; communicating with them was awkward but once I started taking pictures and showing them the photographs, they trusted me and brought me to meet other members and clans. Photographs are so important to them. Their photographs from the past are often damaged or missing from moving place-to-place and living in damp and cramped caravans. They said I am always welcome and greeted me with tea and food, and even offered me a bed to sleep. Most importantly, they know I don’t work for the media or the government as they feared they will portray them as bad people.

What’s your main goal with Minceirs, are you hoping to change the negative stereotypes associated with Irish Travellers?

I wanted to show that the Travellers are not bad people. Since they are made up of one percent of the Irish population, they are often demonised by society, and Travellers are often helpless and voiceless. Like any society in the world, when one person commits a crime, they are painted with one brush. For the past 12 years, I have visited their campsites unexpectedly and I have not witnessed any illegal activities. Boys and men were always working with the horses, the women clean their homes, looking after the babies and the children were always playing outside.

Kathleen and Bridget, Dublin, Ireland 2020

What’s next for you, any upcoming projects?

I am continuing to document the Travellers for the rest of my life. Currently and for the upcoming future, I am working on several themes related to the travelling communities. For the past year I have been focusing heavily on the fashion side of the travelling communities, as I find them very elaborate and colourful. Some of the girls have hair almost reaching their feet and start wearing makeup, high-heeled shoes and pierced earrings as young as three to mimic their mothers and older siblings. 

My other themes are focusing on specific families or a campsite. I wanted to capture the transition of the children’s future and what became of them once they leave school at around 15 years of age. Most boys end up working with their father, looking after the animals and working with scrap metal and wood. The girls help their mother, looking after the younger siblings, the disabled and the elderly. Most are married from the age of 16 to 18 and tend to have many children. They are a very tight knitted community and are always looking after each other. This is because it is difficult for a Traveller to gain employment due to discrimination. 

Gold Rings, Galway, Ireland 2019
Murt and his Great Granddaughter Betty on Her First Holy Communion, Wexford, Ireland 2021
William and His Lurcher, Limerick, Ireland 2018
Running Child, Dublin, Ireland 2020
Donoghue Brothers, Galway, Ireland 2019
Connors Men, Dublin, Ireland 2019

Joseph-Philippe’s Minceirs is available from Setanta Books

Jake Michaels: C. 1950

The LA-based photographer talks us through his captivating series documenting the Mennonites of Belize

In the late 1950s, when the first Mennonites arrived in the Caribbean country of Belize, they did so with one main intention: to live without influence from the outside world. They moved to be undisturbed, continuing customs in farming and agriculture – growing crops like potatoes, corn, tomatoes, watermelons, papaya and more. Some have also said that, in recent years, the German Mennonites in Belize produce over 85% of poultry and dairy products in the country. They are also known for their skills in carpentry, traditional clothing and language; a vast majority speak Plautdietsch, while some speak Pennsylvania German, English and Belzean Spanish.

Jake Michaels, a photographer based in Los Angeles, first came to learn of the Mennonites of Belize as he was working on a series for The New York Times, looking at the culture of dress worldwide. “I had a few images of Mennonites from northern Mexico saved in my reference folder,” he tells me. This sparked a few conversations with other photographers around the topic, and before long he was introduced to the community. In 2018, C. 1950 was borne – a documentary project that turns an honest and respectful lens onto its people and age-old traditions amidst an increasingly modernising world. Here, I chat to Jake learn more about the series, now published by Setanta Books.

What did you learn about the Mennonites of Belize; did you know much about this community beforehand? 

I had some knowledge beforehand of the Mennonite culture as I did not want to arrive and assume anything about them. I focused on the Mennonites because I found their traditional dress and culture captivating in the juxtaposition of a jungle setting.  

What was the process like while photographing this project, where did you visit and stay? 

Although my time was brief, it was very impactful on my work and my process going forward. I slept in a hotel about an hour away from the villages because that was the closest lodging to the community. I found that removing myself from the surroundings allowed my mind to reflect on the day and make better images the next. 

After gaining access to the community’s families, was it hard to gain trust, or were they open to being photographed?

I had conversations with each family and the pastor from the villages. I feel the people’s engagement was just as meaningful as the photos themselves. Everyone I encountered was very hospitable and open to the project.

Did you spend much time getting to know your subjects, or were you more of an observer?

Every family was a different experience. Some I played games with, looked over books with, or just shared a meal. Photographing a community like this, it is essential to share as much as they give.  

Can you share any stories from working on the project?

One of the most impactful parts of the project was my ability to be present and not looking towards the next shot, engaging in the present instead. With the pace of my normal day-to-day, it was essential for the work to be present.

One of the experiences that stood out in my mind, was when one of the families I had a Saturday night meal with gave me their horse and buggy to try out. Without any guidance or hesitation, they said, ‘here you go’, and handed me the reigns. The horse knew what to do, so that took the pressure away. The experience of driving the horse through the dirt road gave me a brief glimpse of their point of view, and gave me a better sense of the visual landscape. 

What’s your main goal with c.1950?

My main goal was to create a body of work that reflected what I had seen in the project, and document the Mennonite people and their culture as we all become more of a global society. 

Photography courtesy of Jake Michaels

Can you see me now?

Brunel Johnson’s four-part series provides a necessary platform for Black and minority ethnic groups

Many of Brunel Johnson’s ideas tend to formulate in the shower – it’s where he devises some of his best work. In the past, there’s been Dream, a project documenting the Pembury Estate in Hackney, photographing and videoing young women playing estate football. There’s also the countless sports, commercial, lifestyle and documentary photography projects, that each depict his notably candid style of image-making and, more importantly, his view of the world. It’s my Hair is another fine example, an ongoing project that aims to show the time, effort and skill that goes into maintaining Afro hair. 

Whether it’s a still or moving image, Brunel’s shower-formed concoctions are deeply powerful just as much as they are empathetic. And Brunel’s most recent endeavour is a fine paragon of his goals as a self-taught, documentary photographer-turned-filmmaker. Titled Can you see me now?, the project is a four-part series produced and directed by Brunel himself, that aims to provide a space for Black and minority ethnic groups to tell their stories. For him, creativity is an apt tool for telling these narratives and to ultimately steer change. So by working with a solid team – including Milo Van Giap as the DOP, plus charities Rise.365 and Re:Sole and United Borders – Brunel has cast an array of real-life people with lived experiences to share, heightened by his artful use of mixed-media and 1:1 format. The result of which is a compilation of four films, Young Black Man, The Beauty Of The Hijab, Black Girl Magic and CHiNK. Below, I chat to Brunel to hear more about his impactful series.


First, tell me about your ethos as a photographer.

I strive to capture the mundane moments of daily life in an authentic and raw way. If I’m working on a project, I’ll always try to draw out the moments that tell the story I want the audience to see best. My goal as a photographer is to change the narrative that surrounds Black and minority ethic communities. I want to change how we’re shown in the media and how our stories are told. So I strive to bring out the stories that I believe the world needs to hear and see without tainting it from a biased gaze. 

When did the idea arise for Can you see me now? Why tell this story?

It actually came about while I was in the shower (a lot of my ideas happen there). Being a Black creative in this industry can be frustrating, as not only do you have to deal with basic day-to-day struggles of life, you also have to deal with the stereotypes, your work being deemed irrelevant, being labelled unprofessional for stating your mind and making a stand for what you believe in, being randomly stopped and searched because of a vague police description as you walk out your front door. 

All these things and many more make you realise that you’re in a constant upward struggle to achieve a basic human right – to just live. And this can really take a toll on you mentally. Simply screaming, complaining and protesting gets you easily labelled and tossed aside. So how do you tell your pain, struggles and experiences while making those who wouldn’t normally listen, listen? It has to be done creatively. In my opinion, anyway. I believe these stories are important and need to be told, especially with how the world is right now. The mic isn’t being given to those who are truly affected and that needs to change. How will people understand what is happening in these communities if it’s always the white gaze of the media telling us what they think we feel? 

What are your reasons for incorporating mixed-media, and what does this add to the narrative?

While planning this project, I wanted the message to be delivered in a way that hits the viewer from multiple angles. I’ve seen this format done many times before, but I wanted to do it differently. Sometimes the visuals are dope but the poem is a bit meh, other times it’s the visuals that are meh but the poem is dope; I wanted to create something that was both visually and audibly dope yet still digestible. 

As a documentary photographer, I know the face and eyes tell a story and are probably the most captivating part of the human body. I saw the face as a blank canvas that I could use to tell the story with words, and would visually have the viewer spending more time staring at the photo. I didn’t want the viewer to come up with their own interruptions. The monochrome palette and 1:1 format were important for me. I acknowledged that, for some reason, whenever we talk about race, despite its complexities, it always somehow boils down to Black and White, so why not have visuals like that too. The 1:1 format was to create a box, symbolising the stereotypical box many of us have had to live our lives in, but now we were taking control of this box and using it to our benefit, to tell our stories. I made the subjects stare directly into the lens to prevent the viewer from looking elsewhere. The subject is in front of them and there’s no escape; it’s time to listen, read and see what they have to say. 

How did you land on the subject matter, and what do these topics mean to you? 

I decided that I wanted each piece to be direct and unapologetic of how these communities really feel. For the young Black man part of the series, I drew upon my personal experiences and had a friend who is a poet write it out as a spoken word. With the other parts of the series, I spent time speaking to people from those communities to educate me on their experiences, their feelings and what they’d like to say if given the platform to. 

I really enjoyed this process because, for example, with Black Girl Magic I was going down the lines of Maya Angelou and the strong Black woman narrative. However, after speaking with Black women, many said that the era of the strong Black woman had passed and that they wanted the world to know that they experience other feelings too; that they cried, laughed, felt anxious, scared, fatigue and more. So making this a reality was incredible. It was the same situation with CHiNK and The Beauty of The Hijab. One thing I made sure of was that each poem was written by someone from their respective community. This is why I decided to call the series Can You See Me Now? I do what I do so I can learn more about humanity. Each topic for me is an opportunity to learn, to find common ground and build bridges. 

What’s the main message with this powerful series, what can the audience learn? 

Can you see me now? Am I visible now? Can you feel and understand my pain, struggles and experiences? It’s to be visible. I hope the audience can relate to the series and feel a sense of relief that maybe how they’ve felt is finally being put across, and those who haven’t experienced the things said in the series become more understanding and accepting to the fact that they do exist and are happening. 

Film credits:

Producer, Script Writer, Director: @bruneljohnson
DP: @milovangiap
Sound & photographer: @bruneljohnson
AC: @notsergioh
Lighting: @flapjacksss & @milovangiap
Makeup: @ioanasimon_mua @madalina_petreanu
Editor: @jfroudy
Sound Engineer: @flynnwallen
Retouch: @alberto__maro @isahakeemphotography
Runner: @soyd1416

Models: @lenaelghamry @sadiqa.e @_shazfit @alex_fergz @da_bf9 @mrbonsu @proscoviauk @doggsza @jaychelle.1 @youngshahid @belliebooze @_purnimaraicreates @w.cui Gladys & Sandro.

Poems by: Yumna Hussen, @ashleybelalchin @thejasminesims @belliebooze

Brunel Johnson is represented by Studio PI, an award-winning agency with a diverse roster of talent from the most under-represented sections of society






The Endless Sleepover

Allegra Oxborough’s 10-episode web-series affixes a gaze onto the challenges of parenthood over the pandemic

So much as modern societal expectations are concerned, reaching your mid-30s usually means it’s time to start having children. Allegra Oxborough, an artist and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, is currently at this benchmark, where most of her friends are becoming parents. “I know that some people continue to make art after they have children,” she tells me, “but there are so many more time constraints and financial responsibilities – I’ve always been scared of what that would mean for me as a woman, creative freelancer and artist.”

Having grown up predominantly in the mid-west, Allegra has now been rooted in New York City for the last eight years, building on an artistic practice that navigates through research, documentary and narrative. She’s created numerous shorts, experimental films and music videos, all of which are crafted in docu-narrative style – a marriage of documentary and fiction, coupled with a respectful dive into the world of someone else through means of a lens and storyboard. So when Allegra arrived at the age of 30-something, she started to question her options as an artist, woman and person veering onto later-adulthood; someone who might soon be a mother, or might not. 

Let’s just say that many of life’s questions were beginning to brew. “I figured I’d need to get health insurance or an office job, and that I would have to somehow cultivate extreme confidence in my practice and in myself if I wanted to keep making art, or else feel very selfish. I also feared that I might just stop caring about making art if I had a kid. At the same time, I don’t want to regret not becoming a parent.”

These inquisitions formed the basis of her latest release, a 10-episode series titled The Endless Sleepover that affixes a necessary gaze onto the struggles and challenges of parenthood. After previously writing the story of a long-distance breakup (aptly titled Distance), with a real-life long-distanced couple cast as the characters, the idea for a second project was sparked after the couple announced they were expecting their first child. “I started to write something we could make together,” she recalls. “I wanted to know how they, and other people, made decisions around art and kids, and interviewed many other artists and parents.” With a solid plan in mind, she was ready to shoot. However, like many events and projects, the series was put on hold due to the pandemic, but Allegra was able to recalibrate and remotely produce a self-shot web-series instead. And that’s where The Endless Sleepover was borne – a purposefully lo-fi and story-centred series addressing themes such as unaffordable IVF, Black maternal mortality and abortion.

Once the production was in swing, Allegra reached out to (mostly) cinematographers and filmmakers, making sure they were comfortable with setting up their own shot and footage. This was aided by the fact that several of the collaborators are close friends of hers, while others had been introduced in her creative communities. All in all, she interviewed around 20 potential collaborators before landing on the final 10. “Each episode is the result of an extremely close collaboration, coming out of several interviews, and lots of re-working ideas to accommodate needs,” she explains. “I am beyond grateful for the level of vulnerability and honesty each collaborator shared.”

Allegra also knew that the collaborator’s footage would vary, which only generated yet another challenge. To combat this, she decided to opt for a grainy, low-fi aesthetic – the type that sings with nostalgia – to give a heavy-handed treatment and thus a sense of coherency to the contributions. This, plus the fact that Allegra is “very influenced by radical children’s programming from the 70s and 80s” gives the immensely personal stories in The Endless Sleepover a touch of beauty and flavour, packed nicely into a time capsule of parenthood over what’s been a ubiquitously difficult time.

There are many powerful and winding stories to be heard in The Endless Sleepover because, over the course of making it, her contributors had undergone a few changes themselves – be it break-ups, moving house and cites, having children or becoming pregnant, leading communities in activism or prepping for exhibitions. One of Allegra’s particular highlights is within Episode 6, where she’d just wrapped the pre-production for most of the episodes and she’d gotten in touch with Chiara, whom she’d met in an online storytelling workshop offered through the collective Herban Cura last autumn. “I knew she was involved in film, and I reached out to see if she had any interest in the project. Though we hadn’t ever spoken one-on-one before that, it was quickly obvious how deeply and personally she related to the exploration of artisthood and parenthood. She was brave and unguarded, and trusted me with her story; I think it turned out beautifully.”

It’s unclear as to whether or not Allegra would have been able to share such intimate stories if it weren’t for her outlook on creativity. She respects the process, and wholeheartedly wants to voice the lives and narratives of her collaborators – like the feeling of shame or conflict that comes with making art, for example, or not having enough time, taking up too much space or feeling worthless. These are all emotions that Allegra has felt personally, and The Endless Sleepover is a synergetic offshoot of this as it twists and highlights the often hazy, narrow, white and heteronormative depiction of parenthood. “I think it takes a lot of effort to persist,” she adds. “Often the persistence requires creative non-conformity, piecing together an alternative life model – a path that doesn’t lead to a 401k salary, health benefits, and a dual-income nuclear family home.”

“Adding kids into this alternative model – in a country where there is no universal childcare or healthcare, or paid family leave mandates – this just amplifies the precariousness. And deciding to not have kids also feels incredibly fraught. Having kids, at any and all costs, is expected and celebrated. But those who do not have kids are asked to explain themselves.”

“If people watch the Endless Sleepover and find themselves relating to the stories they hear I hope it will make them feel less alone, and more likely to speak about their own experience. Maybe it will start conversations that lead to people feeling more supported, connected and confident.”

The full web-series can be viewed here, and the final episode will go live on 4 July 2021.

Francis Kéré’s Minimal Shapes

 As the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion opens to the public, Port takes a look at the man behind this year’s commission and his journey from the villages of Burkina Faso to the gardens of Hyde Park

“Fundamental to my architecture is a sense of openness,” Diébédo Francis Kéré has said. This year, the award-winning architect from Gando, Burkina Faso becomes the first African architect of the annual Serpentine Pavilion, unveiled every summer in Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park. 

Inspired by a tree used as a common meeting point in his hometown, Kéré has designed an airy pavilion with an expansive roof that mimics a tree’s canopy; open while offering shelter against both rain and summer heat. Kéré has described his design as a community structure and a simple shelter that he hopes will create a sense of freedom and friendliness among visitors.

52-year-old Kéré was born in the small West African town of Gando, where constructing buildings was a community activity. He found himself unable to concentrate in school as he was drawn to thoughts on how he could transform structures to allow for more space, air, and light. “I was fascinated by how the raw clay from the earth could transform and become something that shapes space.” 

Kéré has consistently been aware of the presence of light in his buildings as fundamental in “showing the presence of energy.” By carefully studying the presence of light, the buildings he designs respond to weather conditions, protecting against sunlight or creating surfaces that light can enter through and reflect. “This is how architecture becomes dynamic like nature,” he explains.

He was the first child in his village allowed to attend school despite other residents deeming Western education unnecessary. After school he was awarded an apprenticeship in Germany, afterwards training at the Technical University of Berlin. While studying, he formed the Kéré Foundation to fund the building of Gando Primary School which earned him the Aga Khan award in 2001, and, since establishing his own practice in 2005, he has gone on to receive many other prestigious architecture awards. 

Kéré repeatedly returns to his roots for inspiration and has undertaken a number of projects in Gando, developing a primary school, the school library and a secondary school. Fascinated by natural materials, there is a significant relationship to nature running through Kéré’s architecture. His projects also put a strong emphasis on energy and the climate he is designing for, whether in Africa or Europe. “It is important to introduce structures that embrace natural ventilation and daylight not only for under-developed areas but also for places like London.”

The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion designed by Kéré Architecture is open until 8 October