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Your Space Or Mine

Denisha Anderson

Denisha Anderson’s work comes from a fascination with humanity. Using documentary, portraiture and fashion styles, Anderson explores identity, race and gender, aiming to “create images that reveal the beauty in our shared human experience and to make the familiar unfamiliar.”

Anderson’s work for the project takes two of her musician friends and puts them in a street setting, in the centre of the communities where they grew up. Challenging both the viewer and her subjects, her striking images reveal much about music from South London, the street influences which define her subject’s style as well as the community that shaped them all as artists.

Anderson drew on a wealth of experience for the project which included debuting a long-term project ‘MAN’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2018, contributing work to ‘The Self Portrait’ – an exhibition curated by Ronan Mackenzie and working alongside acclaimed filmmakers Spike Lee, Daniel Mulloy and Joost Vandebrug.

 “I aim to empower my subject, whilst disrupting the pre-conceptions viewers may feel towards them,” Anderson says of her work. Here, she reveals more about the artists in her photos, their creation and why she is excited to see the pictures on the streets where they were taken.


Words by Liz Aubrey

Tell us about the artists in your photos…

“I wanted to take pictures of people whose careers have been growing alongside mine – artists who I have a lot of mutual respect for. I’ve been watching them build their careers from day one – and they’ve watched my career grow too. I think it’s important to come up together as a unit. Support and encouragement within your own community and within your own space is really important. I actually first met Wu-Lu at primary school, 25-years-ago and we’re still going strong! We’ve grown up together, we’ve experimented together creatively, building lots of memories and this project is definitely another one to add to the list.

“I came to Oscar Jerome’s music via friendship too when he was in the band Sumo Chief; he and Wu-Lu eventually made a song together and I got him to perform at a music and arts event I used to run in Peckham. It’s been a privilege following their musical trajectory as well as having them in my friendship circle.”

Nazmul Hoque

What’s special about their work as musicians?

“I think they’re both special in different ways. With Wu-Lu, you can’t put the work that he creates under one umbrella. I love that he’s not boxed in and he’s not afraid to express himself in whatever he’s feeling within a particular moment. I really connect with that as an artist myself.

“Oscar [is] inspired by the present and the past. He’s a bit of an old-school guy; there’s a lot of Miles Davis and Jeff Buckley in there. He has an ability to use their influences but make it a lot more contemporary and he creates sounds that can please any ear, of any age. There are political undertones within their music too. Whether it be it on social media or through their music, both of them are not afraid to speak up about social injustice. That is really important to me and something I really respect and love about them both.”

How did this shoot compare to your previous work?

“Every shoot is a space for experimenting and learning – bringing whatever I’ve learned from the previous into the next. In this shoot there were a lot of things I’d never done before. I’ve never worked with a stylist so closely, for example. Shooting on film is my go-to and very natural for me – however, in this instance, I used a lot more push processing to get something a little bit grittier, or a little bit creamier. I also experimented with flash on the shots and I like the way it’s come out. I’m very new to the flash game, man!”

How did you decide where to shoot?

“Wu-Lu and I decided to shoot in the areas we grew up in and essentially where we still spend most of our time: Brixton. We are South London until we die! With Oscar, I took a trip into the unknown and hit up some totally new spots. We might have ventured into some places that we may have not been allowed in…popped over a few fences – but you do it for the love of art, right!”

Why was it important for you to shoot where you grew up?

“When you see pictures of estates and the people who live there, often those who capture are voyeurs. Usually, those people have never even been close to an estate. Sometimes, they’re taken to gawp at the areas, sometimes it’s to fetishise the struggle. That is not what I’m on – at all. I want people to look at these areas, and not feel like these people are struggling, or that’s it’s destitute and nothing else. Life exists in these buildings: there are families, communities, artists. These communities are usually minority groups and I’m a part of them. For the higher people who would like to forget about these areas, I just wanted to put a little light on them in a subliminal way, just to be like, ‘You know what, it’s not all that bad? We’re here and we’re making art – look at us.”

 How important is it for you that your work is seen in a street environment?

“I think it’s really important. Something like this has never happened to me before and representation is so important. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a Black British woman to look up to in any aspect of creativity. The women I looked up to when I was a kid were usually based in America. A goal for me is to be the person I never saw growing up for other young people. Having my name in the bottom right corner of these billboards is huge; if someone Googles me whether it’s for five hours or five minutes, I’m really grateful for that. I hope my work can be an inspiration for others.”

What photographers did you look up to when you were young?

“Donald McCullin and Dave La Chapelle; they were both very different. With Don, there was a lot of power. He’s capturing a moment in time that makes you freeze, makes you think, makes you feel. With LaChapelle, he immediately comes out bursting with colour and lots of wildness. He can get subjects to soften up too, allowing us to see them in whole new light. He got one of the most inspirational and beautiful men I’ve ever seen in my life, Tupac, sit in a bath full of bubbles. It was wild. When you think about the hyper-masculinity within that genre, I’m not sure many would have, or ever will capture what he did again.”

What elements have to come together for a shoot to be a success?

“I think there’s a lot of different elements. There’s definitely the moment itself, but also the energy the artist brings on the day and what you, as the photographer, can get out of them. I always try to push my artist to do something out of their comfort zone.  In that moment, that’s where the magic happens. Shooting with Wu-Lu and Oscar was super fun. They definitely did some mad things for me. I’m grateful for all their rebellion and at the same time; trusting me to do whatever I asked of them.”

 Are you looking forward to seeing both Wu-Lu an Oscar perform now the return of live music is on the way?

“I’m gasping for a live gig and can’t wait to see them! I just want to boogie with people! It’s just about community and coming together, isn’t it? Music is the soundtrack to your life, so any time you listen to a song again that you heard years ago, it brings you back to that memory of a good time.”


Read more about the project here: Celebrating the music industry and the photographers who turn its artists into icons

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