Interview with Campbell Addy
If you work in fashion you must be aware of the power of images – and the immense responsibilities that come with it. Fashion images shape identities, desire, ideas of beauty and, for a long time, these concepts were played in a field that was narrow, othering and exclusive.
The British-Ghanaian artist Campbell Addy has been one of the forces that subverted this perspective, creating incredible fashion images that sprung from a place of belonging, of empowerment and celebration. His monograph “Feeling Seen” thus, could be almost read as a visual manifesto for the new direction fashion image-making is finally embracing. With a foreword by Edward Enninful and an interview with Addy by Ekow Eshun, the photobook published by Prestel is an ode to beauty and self-acceptance ” because every person, every object, needs to be handled with care.” Here is our Q&A with the artist.
How much your upbringing shapes your way of seeing and the way you take pictures?
I grew up in a very diverse town [South London ed.] and culture so it undoubtedly affected the way I cast and experience people. Also growing up as a Queer person, I often took a back seat for fear of being found out, so I believe that voyeuristic point of view during my early years allows for me to be more tender and discerning when creating pictures.
Is the title Feeling Seen a statement of intent of your art practice? What does it mean to you?
The title comes from a place of wanting to be seen. Since I was a child I felt like an outsider looking in, yet I felt as if I couldn’t find my tribe. It was only when I started creating the world I see, and began inviting others to witness it, that I felt truly seen. It’s more a statement of my life than just my art practice. To feel seen is the highest form of Love to me. To see another person is to accept them.
When did you feel seen for the first time?
I was 15/16 walking through a valley of trees when I came out to my close friends. They didn’t react because they loved me and all that comes with it.
What is one fashion image that’s really struck you?
It’s not really a fashion image, but to me it’s the most fashionable image of all. Irving Penn, Large Female Nude – specifically the image featured in the book Extreme Beauty in Vogue. I received the book on my 18th birthday and I remember being fixated on the image. I often return to that book and image.
What do you think about the power of images, their impact in our daily life?
Images document time, be it in a documentary manner or as a response to real life, photographs are history and it’s important that the images reflect the times in a way that’s honest and unashamed. A truly powerful image can change a person’s life, as did the works of William Klein and Irving Penn for me.
What emerging photographers do you admire? What about photography masters – do you have any?
I love Cameron Ugbodu’s mind and work, he’s like a little brother to me. Master? There are so many. Off the top of my head, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, James Barnor, Serge Lutens & Nick Knight.
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