HUCK × VANS
LONDON'S MANY FACES: CAPTURING BEAUTY ON THE STREETS OF HACKNEY

For fashion photographer Shingi Rice, her camera helps level the playing field. In a world where people are told they have to look a certain way, she’s championing individuality, rebellion and self-love.

TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY: Shingi Rice

As a kid growing up in Spain, there was always a camera lying around my house. When I was about 12, there was a school trip where I needed to take one with me. So I picked it up and that started the interest – but it wasn’t really serious then. As the years went by, new cameras started coming out, MySpace and Tumblr became a thing. Being surrounded by so much imagery made me want to create my own visuals, too.

I didn’t really think I was going to do it as a career. I thought you couldn’t do photography for a living. My parents were like that, too: ‘You can’t do that, it’s not realistic.’ It wasn’t until I had heart surgery five years ago that I decided to focus on what I really wanted to do. It was a ‘do or die’ situation: ‘I lived through this, so I have to do it.’ I haven’t looked back since.

As a fashion photographer, I work with models of colour. I feel they are underrepresented in both the media and in the fashion industry. When I find people who go against how they’re ‘supposed’ to look and accept their own beauty – their hair, their skin – I see that as an act of rebellion, because they’re choosing not to follow the rules that society is giving them. When I select models, 99.9 per cent of the time, I’m looking to challenge society’s idea of what beauty is.

With this kind of rebellion, it’s about representation: to show everyone that they are accepted in society. If you push out the same kind of image all of the time, people are going to think that they have to look that way. That’s how I felt when I was younger. Part of the reason I do what I do is so that other people don’t feel that they’re not accepted.

My gran is from Zimbabwe. Ridley Road market, in London, reminds me of there. The little shops they have, with people selling cooked food, fresh fruit and veg, the butchers, the fishmongers, it reminds me of being back in Zimbabwe. You’ve got places like Peckham, too, which they call Little Lagos. I love that – holding onto small businesses, making it a melting pot of cultures. These communities are independent. It makes sense to shoot there.

I don’t listen to authority. I hate having to follow the rules. Obviously, with the fashion industry, there are certain guidelines which I don’t follow. Don’t get me wrong, things are improving. Slowly, but it is changing.

Documentary photography, conflict photography – these things are no joke. They capture an issue. I try and do that through fashion. For me, even with fashion photography, if we can’t tell a story with the images, then there’s no real point. Editorial shoots are fun, but there should always be a message behind it. Otherwise, there’s no real point.

Photography: © Shingi Rice

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