February 11, 2021
‘My first picture of Nyome Nicholas-Williams was removed by Instagram. This one was taken as a celebration after it agreed to change its algorithms’
When I noticed the model and activist Nyome Nicholas-Williams on social media early last summer, I felt hugely appreciative of how confident she was in her images. She was celebrating who she was. I base a lot of my work around photographing women and trying to encourage self-acceptance, which is motivated by my own low confidence. I lived through the 90s and 00s heyday of gossip mags and size zero. So when I saw Nyome, who is confident in front of the camera and boldly herself as a plus-size black woman – a marginalised and censored group of people – I reached out because I really wanted to capture her.
She came to visit me in Cambridge in July, when we were recently out of the first lockdown. I shoot only with natural light, in a barn that is open to the elements along one side. I hang my backdrops in there, and the light enters from one direction only, like in studio photos. I prefer it because it creates the most beautiful, diffused light, with depth and a soft feel to it. I would never have thought it possible to create photos like this – you don’t need a big fancy studio! Shooting out of a glorified shed is an ice-breaker, too. I have to move the bikes to one side and we’re looking out into the garden with the dogs running about, which makes everyone relax and that has an impact on the photo.