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The Space Issue: Power of portraiture - Abdourahman Njie

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Swedish-born photographer, Njie is an unorthodox social artist. Having been brought up in Sweden, Gambia, as well as Essex and France, his style - similar to his environment- evolves constantly. As a social artists Njie wishes to use his work to make a change in his community, wherever that may be. His photography illustrates intimacy between subject and self, and invites us to look deeper into individuals and expressions.

I first started taking portraits solely out of curiosity; seeing as I was never taught photography at school or higher education I had to experiment for myself. When I first got my camera I played it safe by taking pictures of my environment and surroundings in landscape.

Around the age of 11 to 12 I used to travel with my older sisters to Brick Lane Market in London. Brick Lane has a rich culture of street art, which at the time I was obsessed with. My eldest sister, who was also a photographer at the time, was working for Carhartt and made me a custom-made t-shirt with an image by the acclaimed street photographer, Martha Cooper printed on the torso. I was so excited! I researched at my local library about Martha Cooper’s work and it spoke to me in volumes and communicated a whole new world to me.

Personally, I think you don’t need a ton of space to create a spur-of-the-moment ‘home studio’ and capture some high-quality portraits as I have a very unorthodox technique when it comes to taking photos. 70% of the photos I’ve taken have been spontaneous with a strong level of intimacy between my subjects and I. 

As of November 2017, I started to experiment with studio photography, working from home with DIY backdrops, breaking down the common excuse that you just ‘don’t have enough room’ to shoot studio portraits at home. You do… you just have to get creative.

My style of capturing visuals is very unconventional. The first short film I made, called KORA, was a montage of footage I captured at random times and while I was procrastinating and intoxicated, I started reviewing the footage and the narrative for the film fell into place weirdly enough, however I have now gotten rid of my old ways and only direct films or music videos with a structured narrative.

I would say I fall into the category of a social artist; social artists are people who use creative skills to work with people or organisations in their community to affect change. I’m still taking time to develop my style, test the waters and eventually evolve into a traditional artist who uses their creative skills to express their take on the world.

My aim overall is to create work that communicates the raw, strong, proud, arrogant, fragile energy of my subjects to the viewer, as if you were standing right there as the photo was been taken. I want to create dialogue for the viewer to judge the moral position of my photos and what message is it sending at the current climate of time.

Article taken from Yellowzine Issue 02: Buy here

Photographer: Abdourahman Njie

Words by Abdourahman Njie + Aisha Ayoade


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