“There has been a black renaissance in artistic production.” So says Antwaun Sargent, the critic, curator and author of The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, a new book that showcases the work of emerging and established black photographers who are pushing the fashion industry towards an inclusive future. Alongside 15 artist portfolios, the tome includes cross-generational conversations about the common themes in their images, as well as an essay that exposes the institutional barriers they’ve had to contend with. “A common response I still hear is that people want to hire more people of colour, but can’t seem to find them,” Sargent tells Vogue. “I hope this book can be a resource to the industry.” Systemic change is already afoot, with many of Sargent’s chosen photographers expanding the scope of their work. “Campbell Addy started a modelling agency, Jamal Nxedlana started a publishing platform, Renell Medrano had an exhibition and Tyler Mitchell put out his own book,” adds the author. Last year, Mitchell also became the first black photographer to shoot the cover of American Vogue. A portrait of Beyoncé from the editorial was later acquired by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, cementing it as a historical artefact. Righting historical wrongs is one of Sargent’s goals. “Part of the impetus behind many of them becoming photographers is the lack of available images of black subjects,” he explains. “Stephen Tayo said that he couldn’t find any photographs of himself as a baby. If you think about the sense of history that is lost, it’s overwhelming. He said the reason he started taking photographs, particularly of kids, is because he wanted to make sure those people have images of themselves as children. It’s about restoring that sense of identity, for themselves but also for their community.” Sargent wants readers to look beyond the book, too. Its release will be accompanied by an exhibition of the same name, due to open in New York on 24 October. “It’s an exploration of these artists with additional images, printed matter, video and some photographers who are not in the book, but are a part of this community,” he adds. “The idea is for the exhibition to travel to Europe and Africa. This book is about a global movement and we wanted the exhibition to be seen in the places that these artists are creating.” He hopes the book and the exhibition will inspire future generations of black creatives to produce work, which in turn could fill countless more volumes. To celebrate the book’s launch, four featured photographers talk to Vogue about their practices, the challenges they still face and why representation is needed behind the lens, as well as in front of it. Tyler Mitchell (@tylersphotos) The 24-year-old American photographer and filmmaker is based in New York. In 2018, he became the first black photographer to shoot the cover of American Vogue and was listed on Forbes’ 2019 ‘30 under 30’. Why did you want to be part of The New Black Vanguard? Antwaun is trying to have a historical conversation that’s bigger than all of us. So much of what led to this book is what our predecessors have done before us, whether that’s Carrie Mae Weems, Kerry James Marshall, Arthur Jafa or Spike Lee. It’s about looking backwards and looking forwards to catalogue all this great work. I hope it’s the first book of many more, and that it stands as a historical benchmark. How did it feel when the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery acquired one of your Beyoncé portraits from American Vogue? We’re seeing a radical shift in photography, and it was definitely a marker of that. In some ways, I stand as an example when it comes to breaking down certain doors, but that doesn’t mean the work is done. When the museum approached me after the shoot, I felt overwhelmed, very happy and cognisant of the importance of the moment. What are the driving forces behind your work? One is the idea of leisure time and the pathway to luxury as a black American. The ability to engage with the mundane and to have leisure time, as a black human being, is luxurious and radical to envision. I made a film called Idyllic Space, which is very much about that. It has hypnotic scenes of young black men in suburbia, jump roping and hula hooping. The tradition I want to leave behind is to make all of that second nature. What’s the most difficult thing about working in the fashion industry right now? There’s a lot of pressure and responsibility when you’re young and have the spotlight on you. I know my artistic interests — the black commercial image, expanding the narratives of possibility for black folks, authoring our own stories — and I want to make the best work possible to communicate that. Namsa Leuba (@namsaleuba) The 37-year-old Swiss-Guinean photographer has had her work published in New York Magazine and Libération. In 2012, she was awarded the PhotoGlobal Prize at the Photography Festival in Hyères. What is the first camera you owned? I was 10 when I knew I wanted to be a photographer. I don’t think anyone bought me a camera. I worked hard to buy myself an analogue 35mm Sony. What is your greatest source of inspiration? My double heritage — I was born in Switzerland to a Guinean mother and a Swiss father. I also look at ideas around origin and diversity, and think about meetings and exchanges I’ve had. What have been the highlights of your career to date? My first work, which was a commission given to me by New York Magazine. Another highlight has been getting to create two limited-edition Lady Dior bags as part of the Lady Dior Art Project. What’s the key to creating a powerful fashion image? You need to believe in what you’re doing. For me, images need to be graphic and conceptual. I admire the work of photographers such as Tim Walker, Paolo Roversi and Stefan Burger. Campbell Addy (@campbelladdy) The 26-year-old London-born photographer released his first book, Unlocking Seoul, in 2017. He has also launched a magazine, Niijournal, and a casting company, Nii Agency, to spotlight emerging talent. When did you know you wanted to be a photographer? I’d always wanted to do something within visual media, be it [as] a filmmaker, a painter or a designer. The first camera I received was the Olympus OM-10. My A-Level photography teacher gave it to me to try out film photography. When I earned some money, I went out and bought my own, but it was only during my time at Central Saint Martins that I started taking photography seriously. How did you get your start in the industry? I interned for stylists and assisted photographers. I got a real insight into the industry and realised that in order to be seen and heard, I needed to bring my own ideas to life. So, I created Niijournal, a print publication that explores issues of empowerment and representation, and Nii Agency, a new modelling and casting agency. What are the biggest challenges you still face? Simply navigating spaces as a queer black man is a challenge, as is my own self-doubt, at times. Have you seen fashion photography change in recent years? Social media has affected the pace at which we create work. I remember watching a documentary where Grace Coddington recalls a three-week shoot with Norman Parkinson. I can only imagine what having three weeks to work on a project will do. The images can be nurtured. Going forward, I hope the industry thinks about the saying: ‘slow fashion to save minds.’ It was created by my friend, the artist Georgina Johnson. I hope we can all slow down and focus on quality over quantity. Nadine Ijewere (@nadineijewere) The 27-year-old London-born, Jamaican-Nigerian photographer’s work has appeared in Allure and W. In 2018, she shot a cover of British Vogue, making her the first black woman to do so. How did you first become interested in photography? I took photography as an A-Level subject at sixth form. It was completely analogue and I enjoyed being in a darkroom, processing my own film and really thinking about the shot because your frames were limited. My first camera was a 35mm Zenit that I got at a car boot sale. What do you want viewers to take away from your work? In my work, there’s always this underlying theme of celebrating different kinds of beauty and seeing the world in a different way. With fashion photography, I’d always felt like I couldn’t relate to it because there wasn’t anyone in it that looked like me. So, for viewers now seeing my work, I want them to see that there’s more than one way of looking at beauty standards. Why is inclusivity behind the lens as important as representation in front of it? We all come from different backgrounds — it’s important to be able to share our ideas, journeys and perceptions with each other. We also need more women in the industry, especially women from different ethnic backgrounds. Photography is still so male dominated. What do you hope will be the long-term impact of this project? I hope The New Black Vanguard inspires more artists, filmmakers and photographers to create work and change the industry. It’s starting to become more inclusive, but I hope it stays that way and becomes the norm. The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion by Antwaun Sargent is published by Aperture on October 15, 2019. The exhibition of the same name is at Aperture Gallery in New York from October 24, 2019 to January 18, 2020.