Nigel Shafran: The Well

In a new book published by Loose Joints, the British photographer turns a critical and humanistic lens onto the fashion industry 

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

“This isn’t a book of best pictures, it’s more of a tight edit than that. It’s a book about the ideas that always end up somewhere in my work, I guess… Windows, shopping, making decisions and consuming…” So goes the opening phrase of Nigel Shafran’s new book The Well, penned by the British photographer himself. 

Recently published by Loose Joints, Nigel’s latest endeavour is a 376-page critique into the fashion industry. A steer away from the usual glitz and glamour, the pages are filled with impromptu photographs from a plethora of past commissions – the type that avoids studios or the cold poses and laser stares. Instead, his imagery offers up a well-rounded insight into his subjects, who are often caught mid-grin, having fun with their mates or dressed in an astronaut suit. Think lavished granny carrying her shopping trolly, a model trying not to be a model as she goofily places a globe on her head, and a black and white shot of some kids posing in baggy clothes, similar to garms we see on TikTok today.

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

Nigel’s career started in his younger years, where he’d trudge around his local village taking pictures of all sorts of people and places. His first gig was as a photographer’s assistant in London, before he moved to New York City in 1984 to assist in studios and on the streets, namely for commercial fashion photographers. After being deported in 1986 for working illegally, he returned to London and started photographing for magazines like The Face and i-D, utilising a set of 10 Pola Pan black and white 35mm slides, plus a viewer. “I was such a pain in the arse,” says Nigel in the book, often spending ages finding the right light for people to view his slides. 

With a background predominantly in commercial fashion photography, The Well is a juxtaposing albeit welcomed foray into the more idiosyncratic parts of his image-making – the weird, simple and spontaneous. The title – The Well – refers to publishing jargon meaning the central spread of work of the issue, the place in which photographers and writers alike strive to have their work featured. It’s the creme de la creme of the magazine and usually where the most topical and high quality features can be found. So where does Nigel’s work sit amongst it all? 

“These weren’t usual fashion shoots that are often done in a day. You’d go out, come back to show me a picture, and then go back out to take another one. Then you’d take another two or three, and we’d get rid of the first two, over and over again,” writes Phil in the book, in reference to Lost in Space, published in The Face, Seven Sisters Road (1989).

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

Nigel’s photography is undeniably anti-fashion, which is interesting coming from a photographer who’s carved a career working predominantly in this corner of the industry. Yet his gentle and humanistic eye is what makes his work so captivating. His subjects pose sometimes humorously in carefully curated garments; they smile, jolt and jive in front of the lens without a care in the world. Let’s not forget the fashions either; the more every-day clothing that you’d see on a passer by during your stroll to the off-license. His work signals much about his subjects’ personality, as it does his own. He’s not pretentious, nor is he one to fit into the norm. He wants you to know this. 

“I grew up around the world of fashion, it’s a bit like family,” says Nigel in reference to Fashion Circus, shot for a Jean Paul Gautier show in Paris, and published in i-D, 1990. “Still I always considered myself an outsider, but I’m probably more of an insider, really.”

The Well by Nigel Shafran is published by Loose Joints.

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints

© Nigel Shafran 2022 courtesy Loose Joints


Triple Stitch Sneaker

Zegna reimagines the iconic shoe for SS22, placing versatility and flexibility at the core of its refreshed design

So long are the days where sneakers are reserved only for athletes. Thanks to modernised updates to the typically sports-centred footwear, comfort, ease and style now go hand-in-hand to its practical counterparts. In the latest announcement from global luxury menswear brand ZegnaZegna, the Triple Stitch Sneaker is proving just that with its versatile approach to aesthetic and design.

Reimagined by artistic director Alessandro Sartori, the Triple Stitch Sneaker returns each season and has consequently solidified itself as an iconic staple within the contemporary menswear capsule wardrobe – especially in the cupboard of Zegna, an enduring influence in the luxury leisurewear industry for 112 years. This new iteration, then, features a revamped silhouette that sees elegance merge with high design and a multitude of wearable colours. A smooth and classic structure means the sneaker can be worn in an array of different settings, from the humdrum of daily life to work, travel and the more leisurely. Coupled with a refreshed take on its materiality, the sneaker sees a rich grained leather paired with canvas and suede, topped off with elastic straps for the wearer to conveniently slip on and off with ease and mobility. 

Comfort is indeed of high importance to the design of the Triple Stitch, which is further elevated by its lightweight rubber sole and flexible construction. By emphasising the need for accessibility and comfort, this shows just how much the needs of the modern wearer has changed. The shoe can quite literally be worn with anything, whether it’s the more formal attire to the more casual – a suited trouser to a sporty jogger, for instance. 

Formerly making its name in the early 1830s, the sports shoe was first created by The Liverpool Rubber Company, founded by John Boyd Dunlop. At the time, the sneaker made headway for its innovative method of bonding canvas to rubber roles, making it the perfect shoe for trips to the beach. Further down the line, the sneaker steered more in the way of athletics and was therefore dominated by sporting pursuits, moulded by a more athletic function and design. And now, the Zegna Tripe Stitch Sneaker comes at a time of universality; it’s a melting pot of style and form, past and present; it’s to be worn with flexibility at the hand (or foot) of the wearer.

Zegna was founded by Ermenegildo Zegna over 110 years ago in the Piedmont mountains of Northern Italy. Now part of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, the company has long been committed to preserving and leveraging its heritage – and the Triple Stitch Sneaker update is pinnacle of that.

Hair of the Future

Zhou Xue Ming explores otherworldly structures and techniques in his crafty hair designs

Land on the Instagram account of Zhou Xue Ming and you’ll be instantaneously enamoured, scrolling and pausing – with curious hesitation – as you start to question the process behind each of his creations. A hair designer by title, Shanghai-based Xue Ming is more of an artist-stroke-wizard as he expels his craft on the artful placement of a do, from the decoratively lavished to the perfectly coiffed. Proving that there’s more to hair than hair itself, Xue Ming has been working in the industry for almost 10 years now. And ever since his first hairdo, he’s since been published on the covers of Nylon China and Modern Weekly Style, and has collaborated with an abundance of makeup artists, from Shuo Yang at Jonathan Makeuplab to Yooyo Keong Ming. 

Xue Ming’s impact is mammoth, not least in the creative application of colour but also in the use of materials. It’s not just hair that’s incorporated into these designs, for there’s also the unexpected addition of metallics, wires, peacock-like feathers, spikes or a material that appears like the cracks in a frosted lake. With a vast “enthusiasm for artificial hair”, he tells me, it’s no surprise that his portfolio succeeds in pushing the boundaries as to what can be worn on the top of a head. Sadly, we’re not going to be getting any answers as to how he makes his pieces – “this is my little secret” – so instead, we invite you to marvel and leave the methodology to the imagination.

One of the most recurring motifs of Xue Ming’s is the periwig, known as a highly styled wig worn on formal occasions, often sported by judges or barristers as part of their professional attire. Explicitly artificial, these wigs usually tend to have unmissable height and weight to them, placed atop a head in a composed and careful manner. The periwig was most popular from the 17th to the early 19th century, typically composed from long hair with curls on the sides. The colours are usually dyed in more realistic hues, whereas Xue Ming’s are quite the opposite. 

In fact, Xue Ming’s take on the periwig is widely juxtaposed with the more traditional concept of the wig. In one design, the hair appears like an explosion of fireworks with its vibrant yellow tones and splaying textures – the type that makes you want to reach out and touch, even though it looks like it could burn you. Others are more multi-toned and soft, displaying a palette of blush pink, sky blue, purple and sunshine yellow; while some – with pointy edges similar to a sea urchin – look completely unwearable. Or so you’d think. Not too long ago, the designer worked with a “young lady called ‘Princess’”, wherein he was “pasting posters with ‘princess’ cartoon images to prepare the periwig”. He ended up covering the entire periwig with these posters; “I was really interested to see the result”.

The work is a wonderful merging of old and new, where traditional headgear has been transformed, warped and lavished in the modern style and technique of Xue Ming. You can easily see some of the silhouettes being worn in the past, most likely the Regency era, while others are drawn from a far-reaching trend found in the future. Perhaps he’s ahead of his time, and world of hair might become little more creative in the years to come.

The Fendi Set

In a celebration of history and heritage, this new book serves as a love letter from Kim Jones to Bloomsbury and Fendi

Chapter 2: Paris

“Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that,” writes Virginia Woolf in Orlando. A love letter penned by the acclaimed author in October 1928, the satirical novel was inspired by the family history of Vita Sackville-West, who’s both a friend and lover of the author. A feminist accord and one that rose to great acclaim, the book details Vita’s transition from man to woman as she goes on to live through centuries, thus meeting many names in English literary history. 

This love letter has inspired the debut Fendi Couture Spring / Summer 2021 collection designed by Kim Jones, the newly appointed artistic director of womenswear and couture. Derived from his adoration for the Bloomsbury, a term used to describe the English artist and literary movement, the pieces within pull references to both the time-travelling words found in Orlando as well as cues from the Bloomsbury Group – a cohort of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists from the first half of the 20th century, which both Virginia and painter/interior designer Vanessa Bell were part of. The collection therefore pays homage to the warping concept of time and gender found in Orlando, which has now been composed into a new publication titled The Fendi Set.

Chapter 1: UK

The book, published by Rizzoli, is an ode to the rich heritage of both Bloomsbury and Fendi, as well as the locations shared between them and the two lovers of Orlando. Consequently, the work involved gives a firm nod to the characteristics of both England and Rome – two significant locations visited in the collection and publication. Documentary and portrait photographer Nikolai von Bismarck has collaborated for the release and, concurrently, has created a series of textural collage-esque imagery that alludes to the archaic style of a Victorian-era photograph album. Paired with diary entries and letters written by members of the Bloomsbury Group – such as the love letter correspondence between Woolf and Sackville-West – it’s a significant pairing that allows its viewers to traverse back in time joyfully and momentarily. 

Working with Polaroid, film and Super-8, Nikolai says of his process: “Whether shooting landscapes, interiors or models, I wanted to maintain an ethereal sense of dreaminess, with figures that are occasionally ghostlike and who seem to drift on the page. Sometimes with muted colours to mirror the palette of Duncan Grant and Clive Bell. Sometimes images were dark and moody, textured, layered, soft blurred and sometimes not like photographs at all – images that were above all romantic and true to the characters of the Bloomsbury Group, dark graceful and free.”

Chapter 2: Paris

Structurally, the book journeys through the hilltops of Southern England and traverses to ancient Rome, before landing finally at the aqueducts of Italy. Two family histories are expelled in unison: the artists of Bloomsbury and the dynasty of Fendi. To reveal this synergy, the book is split intro three sections. The first takes its audience to Sussex and Kent, which are two locations associated with the Bloomsbury Group; they’re also referencing Sackville-West’s ancestral home and the fictional family seat of Orlando. Additionally, Sackville-West later lived with her husband Harold Nicolson in Sissinghurst Castle. The second chapter takes place in Paris as it marks the couture presentation abound with Italian Renaissance references; the third travels to Rome to follow in the steps of Bloomsbury artists who spent time there, including Woolf. 

“I wanted a ghostly atmosphere, a dreamlike quality,” states Kim, discussing the book’s unmissable aura. “Orlando is about time travelling and I wanted the work to transience time, to drift between the present, past and future. Nikolai’s photographic language and his exploration of both analogue and other experimental techniques and textures evokes these shifting narratives.”

Other contributors include Tilda Swinton who’s written the preface, as well as Bloomsbury scholar Dr Mark Hussey who’s penned the introduction; Hussey also worked with the archive of Berg Library in New York to curate Woolf’s diaries and letters.


The Fendi Set with photography by Nikolai von Bismarck and text by Kim Jones, Jerry Stafford and Dr. Mark Hussey is published by Rizzoli priced £97.50

Chapter 2: Paris

Chapter 2: Paris

Chapter 2: Paris

Chapter 3: Italy

Chapter 1: UK

Chapter 1: UK

Chapter 2: Paris

New Heights

Ungho: Coat FENDI. Luard: Shirt PAUL SMITH, Scarf DUNHILL, Trousers PAUL SMITH

Coat & knitted body PRADA, Hat BERLUTI


Luard: Coat DIOR. Ungho: Full look ALEXANDER MCQUEEN




Luard: Shirt and trousers NANUSHKA, Roll-neck BERLUTI, Shoes PRADA. Ungho: Full look CANALI


Full look HERMÈS



Photography Conor Clinch

Styling Mitchell Belk

Models Luard and Ungho at Elite London

Grooming Asahi Sano at Caren using Bumble and Bumble

Casting Ikki Casting

Production Kat Perry

This article is taken from Port issue 29. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here

Heat Signature

















Photography Hugo Mapelli

Styling Lune Kuipers

This article is taken from Port issue 29. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here

Rafael Kouto

The designer and label founder uses upcycling as a sustainable alternative to the current fashion system

What will the future hold for sustainable fashion? With Glasgow’s COP26 prompting goals and recommendations for a more environmentally conscious world, now has never been more crucial to reassess our relationship with the planet – and our clothing. When it comes to the fashion industry, there’s much to be learnt and adopted in order to reduce the impact it has on the environment. This includes net-zero emissions by 2050 latest, to waste elimination and erasing the global supply chains – not to mention increasing education of how to better address the climate emergency through manufacturing and more conscious and sustainable business models.

The anticipation for change is heartfelt across the globe, but now, perhaps it’s time to shine light on the industry folk who are already doing their bit. Like Rafael Kouto, a fashion designer who launched his own avant-garde fashion label with the environment in mind. Conceived with upcycling at its core, the label of the same name aims to tackle textile waste, dead stock and other materials in the creative and production lifecycle. “The goal since the beginning has been about cultivating an uncompromised approach to sustainability as it exclusively uses the technique of pre and post-consumer upcycling to create new clothes and accessories,” he tells me.

Rafael grew up on the Italian side of Switzerland in Ticino to a Togolese father and Swiss mother. He studied fashion design at FHNW-HGK in Basel, followed by an MA in fashion matters from the Sandberg Institut in Amsterdam. From working at Alexander McQueen to Maison Martin Margiela, Carven and Ethical Fashion Initiative, he garnered the necessary experience to excel in his profession. Equally, these past roles enlightened an alternative fashion system and proved that a more sustainable and viable option was possible; this is the moment he decided to focus his practice on upcycling and sustainable strategies, “with a particular focus on open source and craftsmanship,” he says. 

In 2017, Rafael therefore decided to launch is own fashion brand, which has now gone on to win numerous awards such as the Swiss Design Awards in the Fashion & Textile category for both 2018 and 2019 (he was also the finalist in 2020), plus the Gerbert Ambiente Design Preis 2020 and 2021. To date, he’s also been published in the pages of magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Dazed. He also applies his knowledge and know-how to a series of upcycling workshops in collaboration with various institutions, alongside teaching as an associate professor in Fashion Design at the IUAV in Venice. 

Throughout all of Rafael Kouto’s output, garments are construed with utmost credibility to materiality, source and process. Amassing in timeless collections abound with pattern and colour, everything is created in Switzerland through the upcycling of existing dead stock garments or fabrics, “with different traditional couture techniques as crochet, screen printing and knitting,” he says. The result of which is a consciously designed label replete with bespoke clothings for the wearer, bound in a post-modern blend of tie-dye, 70s swirls and traditional African prints. “The collections have a hybrid aesthetic between African and the West, therefore I envision the Afro descendants community embodying those values and all the loves of the aesthetic of course.”

Rafael’s approach to fashion design and manufacturing is commendable. The industry – and our planet – is so awash with garments that they’re bursting at the seams of landfills and our wardrobes. There’s simply too much in the world and, along with more sustainable business practices, our consumer habits need to adapt. “With the brand, we are contributing on a small scale, but I think that the most important part is about proving that a sustainable alternative to the current system is possible and to engage the users through upcycling workshops and other activities into the creative and production process,” explains Rafael.

So what does Rafael aspire for the future? “My hope is that fashion will head into a more sustainable, local, social, ethical and community direction,” he says. “I think that idea of expanding as the biggest fashion houses and bands will be replaced by small scale and niche businesses. In this case, I think the mind set of the industry still needs to change and not be based on a constant need to consume compulsively. But, it’s something that has to change also from the brands’ perspective.”


Founded by Sarah Krause and Sarah Seb, the sustainable fashion brand uses soil regeneration to combat climate change 

Photography by The Earth Issue

The thoughts of fashion becoming fully sustainable has left many feeling hopeless, uninspired or drained by the constant disappointment of the industry. Not only are brands not doing enough in terms of curbing the warming climate, but consumers are left slightly bemused as to the active steps they should be taking – thrifting, buying less, choosing consciously and buying from conscious brands all seem like reasonable guidelines. But what does it really mean for a brand to be sustainable? And is our trust dwindling?

Helping to rebuild confidence is Sarah Krause, a Londoner with an Austrian and Mexican heritage. She set up Solai alongside Sarah Seb, fashion designer and creative director, as a response to the increasing pressures on the planet. Left feeling “disheartened” by the fashion industry, there remained a glimmer of excitement as she noticed the influx of sustainable practices coming into the fore. “I wanted to see clothing on the market that was creative and modern whilst also being ethnically made and genuinely good for the planet,” she shares. “Ultimately though, I wanted to go a step beyond and create clothing that was not just sustainable, but actively climate-beneficial.” 

Photography by The Earth Issue

To address this, Sarah turned her focus towards soil regeneration. Perhaps a term that some may not be familiar with, regenerative farming looks at exhausted soil, and is the solution for creating healthy ecology and, among other things, helps to reverse the effects of climate change. By definition, to regenerate means to regrow or be renewed; so think of the clothing lifecycle in this sense as being continuous and mindful of damage and restoration. “If we could work with regenerative farmers to grow our clothing fibres, we would play a role in reviving degraded lands and creating a carbon sink in the soil,” she says. “This approach to land management has proven to be one of the most effective ways of combating climate change and, to me, there was a clear interesting with the fashion industry. The idea was simple, but incredibly powerful.”

Solai therefore partners with a collective of farmers and artisans in Erode, Tamil Nadu, that of which had “successfully revitalised” acres of once degraded lands through regenerative agriculture and “indigenous wisdom”. The proof is in the output, and Solai’s collections since birth have shown the benefits of tech and conscious sourcing. By 2022, for instance, the brand will make the majority of its clothing carbon negative, derived from regeneratively grown cotton. “The remainder will be made from pre and post-consumer recycled materials, including cotton and wool, so that we can keep existing fabrics out of the waste stream and save ample natural resources in the process,” says Sarah. A recent product in the works, for example, is the “very first photosynthetic top”, which translates to a coating which “captures carbon” and “releases oxygen” while being used. Like something from a dystopian future, perhaps a photosynthetic garment is hard to comprehend, yet Solai are making it a reality.

Photography by The Earth Issue

Besides the somewhat biophillic sounding clothing design, Solai has also recently launched its Revival and Eco Collection, shot and produced by the environmentally conscious agency The Earth Issue, headed up by Elena Cremona and Isabelle Landicho. Captured amongst the Italiante Glasshouse and Tea Garden in the Ramsgate area, the collection presents soft silhouettes, intricate embroidery and mossy undertones – crafted from tencel, linen and sustainably farmed organic cotton, plus naturally dyed colour palettes drawn from annatto seeds. It’s type of clothing that doesn’t adhere to any outdated stereotypes of what sustainable clothing may look like. 

“Although seeing a constant barrage of greenwashing can be demoralising at times, overall I’m hopeful for the future of the fashion industry,” says Sarah of her hopes for the future. “I remember even a few short years ago, so few people were talking about sustainability in fashion and I’d have a hard time trying to get people interested in the topic. But now, I think it’s increasingly on people’s radar and I’ve seen a genuine shift in attitude, with greater commitments to make better, more conscious choices. Crucially, I think fast fashion brands have to majorly scale down their production and put some of their vast marketing budgets into the hands of their labourers. It’ll be interesting to see if people and planet prevail over hefty profit margins!”

Photography by The Earth Issue
Photography by The Earth Issue

A Flower in Bloom

Melda Auditia’s structural, hand-crafted graduate collection seeks to examine the notion of femininity

Growing up in Indonesia, Melda Auditia was surrounded by craft. From pottery and textiles to jewellery and ceramics – plus the rich, natural fibres used to build them – needless to say that this exposure would steer the work of Melda, affecting both the composition and themes addressed in her own creations.

The designer, who’s now living in Tokyo, learnt to appreciate the process of handcrafting from a young age. “That’s what made me fall in love with fashion in the first place,” she tells me. The skill of making a quality garment or object from hand takes mastery, time and patience, which is a welcomed contradiction to the constant hum-drum of city life in Tokyo. “Life in Tokyo is incredibly fast-paced, so it’s super easy to forget that there are so many beautiful little details in my surroundings. But one thing I’ve learnt to do is to carve out the time to slow down and take in the little details, because when I let myself absorb everything, that’s when I get inspired.”

While pursuing a degree in fashion design at Bunka Fashion Collage in Japan, Melda began to employ the use of textiles and fabrics as a way of exuding her love of handcrafted processes. But, equally, it was also perceived as a way of discussing cultural and social issues that were greatly affecting the world. And this is exactly how Bloom was borne; a collection comprising large-scale flower dresses that seek to examine the subject of femininity.

Shrouded in soft pastel tones and textual wefts hanging from the shoulder, the artfully delicate compositions found in Bloom are paired with structural elements, like the panels that hang from arm to hip, cinched in corsets, sashes and, most characteristically, the structural – almost sculptural – addition of flowers and petals. Construed from subtle silhouettes and an “explosion” of colours, Melda’s use of materiality is just as important as the meaning attached to it. From sturdy high pressure laminate (HPL) to soft organdy, she toys with different processes and marries them into her own unique vision: using hand-painting, silkscreen, hand-cut petals to form the blooming flowers to achieve her goals.

Not just a beautiful foray into nature and form, the collection also turns a sharp eye onto the concept of femininity and how this is perceived throughout daily life. “Growing up, I realised that society has all these gender boxes and its own definition of what it means to be a woman or a man,” she says. “Since we were little, we have grown accustomed to suppressing our feminine sides: ‘stop crying like a little girl’. That is what they would say to us women when we show the slightest emotion, or to men when they express themselves outside the box of gender we are all put in. But we often forget that, regardless of our gender, we all have a feminine side inside us.”

The symbol of the flower, then, has great importance in Bloom as well as in the wider context of gender and identity. By merging the natural form with a floral petal, for instance, the collection sings as a reminder that “no matter what gender we identify with, or how we look, there is that feminine side that lies within ourselves and there is no right or wrong way to express it,” says Melda. The flower is widely interpreted as a feminine form, varying between cultures, place and time. “Throughout our lives, flowers have always been the symbol of femininity. Even as a kid, it was one of the first few things we came across that’s immediately associated with femininity – no matter the colour and form.” Rich in context and history, it makes for the ideal symbol to spread her messaging within this collection.

“But,” she continues, “this collection is also about the journey of discovering out feminine sides, embracing them and letting them bloom. I want every piece to embody that journey as well, and the process of growth is very much similar to how flowers come to bloom.” 

So who can we envision wearing these pieces, which are artistic and bold to the typical fashion barer? “There are some pieces that you can definitely wear on a day out, but there are also some pieces where I just went all out and let my creative freedom flow,” she says. “But they’re all very personal pieces, not just to me, but it can also be for whoever is wearing them. There is no one single person that I’ve made these pieces for. I feel like everyone has their own story, so I want these pieces to give whoever wears them the freedom to tell their personal story and experience it too.”


The Nairobi-based multidisciplinary artist creates worlds of inexplicable beauty 

Presence and absence – Joel 2021

There’s something rather exponential about the work of Shitanda, a multidisciplinary artist from Nairobi, Kenya. Open to interpretation and riddled with passion for craft, each image resonates with power, storytelling and a careful consideration of tactility. You’re not quite sure how or where these images are made, or what they’re suggesting in their complex form and visuals. But that’s exactly what Shitanda strives to achieve in his work; an allusive feeling that sings to a distance memory, time and place. 

From grainy textures to experimental shadow play, Shitanda’s painterly pieces are produced with a vintage-like quality. He lenses subjects adorned in fashion and places them amongst a coloured backdrop or setting, each littered with intrigue and an artistic language that’s “unexplainably beautiful”. Here, I chat to Shitanda to find out more about his evocative practice.

Mind and body -Juma 2021

What drew you towards photography over other creative media?

Well I can’t really say I chose photography over other media. It’s been a journey of constantly exploring different channels that allow me to visually translate my thoughts and mental experiences. At first, I was particularly drawn to photography because it allowed me to visually experience and relive moments that I was physically present or absent from. I’ve always been fascinated by the thought that I can’t rewind time, but photographs allow me to do so mentally. It’s thrilling to experience that soft nostalgia.

Overtime, photography gave me the chance to present my world to people and, in turn, I also get to experience the minds of those I photograph. A moment when we’re blind to any constraints that reality creates. It’s absolutely beautiful to watch someone reach out to cross that unseen line that separates their fantasies from reality. The honesty, the rawness, the vulnerability, the freedom to touch your dreams and the shared goal of creating something beautiful by our own terms is simply breathtaking. 

Mind and body – Phoebe 2020

You’ve developed this immensely cinematic and nostalgic quality throughout your work. What’s influenced you to work this way?

The images are a visual representation of what I think my perception of life would look like if it was an object. Unclear, rough, uncertain, textured but sometimes difficult to feel, yet still so unexplainably beautiful. It’s like a silent noise that evokes a sense of nostalgia for a time and place I’m yet to experience.

How do you go about creating one of your photographs – what tools or methods do you use?

I don’t really have a particular way of making my pieces. I allow my mind to wander and settle where it feels most at home. Every image will carry its own emotion. Sometimes I’ll take photographs and think ‘I need to destroy these’, sometimes I’ll keep them for months without doing anything to them. And other times, I’ll take some and think ‘this story is complete’. I see them as paintings or poems, not to be rushed or overly controlled. 

La femme noire – Phoebe 2020

Can you talk me through a favourite piece?

The face of anxiety is an unwritten love letter to the minds that were never meant to be understood. Those that present their own kind of beauty that can’t be explained in words. 

Is there a particular message you’re trying to convey?

The poem Risk by Anaïs Nin: ‘And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.’

What’s next for you?

A design space that’s yet to be named, home to the dreamers and an experience for the minds that wander. 

Presence and absence (la femme noire) – Viaana 2019
Rest and the repossession of self – memories of non existent times, Didi 2021
Rest and the repossession of self (Didi unwinds)
The blank page
The singer and the red rose
Presence and absence – Gombek 2021