When Arielle Bobb-Willis, a New Yorker, moved to South Carolina in 2008, she suddenly found herself deep in an existential depression that lasted for five, Sartre-filled years. All that changed, though, after her history teacher saw how much she perked up in photography class and gave her her first film camera, which rendered the bedroom she'd only known as gray in an orange-y yellow, and slowly but surely started to change her perspective. Now 23 and back in New York, Bobb-Willis specializes in portraits of contorted figures in brightly colored garments, which are quite intentionally a metaphor for the "super super uncomfortable positions" she's been in: "The most important thing that I want people to take from my work is that good things come from bad times."
You may know him from the runways of shows like Eckhaus Latta, but Michael Bailey-Gates has been posting his photos online long before he signed to Ford Models, since he was just 13. Now 24, Bailey-Gates has lately stood out for his flair for daring and transformative self-portraits, which often prominently feature his remote control timer. (He's in fact been taking photos of himself since he was a kid, though it's likely those after-school snapshots didn't involve posing pantsless underwater or dangling from a rope held up by Jane Moseley.)
D’Angelo Lovell Williams is currently finishing up his MFA in photography at Syracuse University, but the 25-year-old is already responsible for what the critic Roberta Smith called "one of the year's best gallery debuts" last year. His series of self-portraits, like the photo of Williams with a gun in his mouth that first caught the eye of the New York gallery Higher Pictures, exhibit an unabashed, confrontational intimacy while raising issues of desire, particularly when it comes to black figures, as well as the stigmas Williams has personally experienced as a black, gay man. "When I made Face Down, Ass Up," the artist, who's from Mississippi, said of the image above, "it was about me wanting to reinterpret what happened to me, painless and natural, but in a beautiful way. The larger picture is that there is so much that needs to be de-stigmatized."
It was actually her decision to study medicine that pushed Nadine Ijewere, a 25-year-old from London, toward photography, which she found to be a welcome break from "the hardcore science and maths" for her A Levels. A degree in fashion photography later, Ijewere now shoots for magazines like Vogue and labels like Stella McCartney—all with a casting-driven, diversity-championing style that carries over to the portrait series she's shot in places like her grandmother's hometown in Nigeria, which in turn have led to showings in galleries like Red Hook Labs. (Last year, she was named among their picks of the best emerging African photographers.)
Before Camila Falquez, who was raised in Barcelona and is now based in Brooklyn, struck out on her own, the 28-year-old officially began her photography career by assisting Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist of street-style fame. Since then, she's devoted herself to her own practice full-time, which has so far ranged from shooting nude editorials for Vogue Italia and portraits for Afropunk to traveling to Senegal to spend "the most memorable five minutes" of her life photographing wrestlers at sunset.
Daria Kobayashi Ritch was unintentionally thrown into the spotlight last year when Solange invited her to her home in L.A. for a one-on-one portrait session that ended up blowing up after the Evening Standard ran an altered version of the photos without consulting either of them—including erasing the braids that both she and Solange felt were the pictures' essential feature. For Ritch, such a move felt personal: The 26-year-old photographer has made of point of connecting to her subjects so that she can portray them authentically. These days, Ritch has kept up that level of intimacy even when shooting the likes of Jared Leto and Willow Smith.
The same year that he earned his MFA in photography at Yale, John Edmonds, now 28, was featured in shows curated by Mickalene Thomas and Hilton Als—both of whom, like Edmonds, have a knack for expressing humanity and particularly black identity through their art. The Brooklyn-based photographer has a particular interest in classical notions of beauty, as seen in series like Immaculate, of boys at the edge of adulthood in his hometown of D.C.; Hoods, faceless portraits taken from behind; Do-Rags, featuring men wearing them "like crowns"; and Tribe, an examination of the type of beautification that can happen through image-making, which he just started this year.
Kat Bayard and Mat Sliwa, both 25 and based in New York, began their partnership a few years ago when Kat, who started out taking photos as a kid on a 35mm Barbie camera, had her parents worrying she'd break all of their dishes doing one of her dinnerware still life shoots and turned to Mat for help. From there, the duo, who recently signed to Pier 59's agency, has teamed up to photograph everyone from buzzy models like Casil McArthur and Ali Michael to French club kids who hang out in underground Tokyo for magazines like C☆NDY, V, and King Kong.
Kito Muñoz started out shooting in the 1700s-era Andulasian courtyard in his Spanish hometown of Cádiz, which is in part how at just 19, he shot one of last year's most talked about fashion campaigns. It turns out the designer of Palomo Spain is also from Andalusia, and Muñoz has photographed his work since day one—long before the label was buzzy enough to end up in the hands of Beyoncé, and before he and Alejandro Palomo made a splash by putting the focus of the label's fall 2017 ads mostly on the models' bare butts. Now all of 20 years old and based in Madrid, Muñoz is already a full-time photographer—and capable of making even commissions from Grindr look artful.
Tom Johnson used to “bunk off school to come to London and shoot,” but these days, he’s based in the city—and 10 years into making photography his entire focus. That’s not to say the 26-year-old, who’s currently on set in Jerusalem, doesn’t like some variety in his shooting locations: His mix of documentary and fashion photography—including portraits of models he sourced from Craigslist—has so far taken him everywhere from Twinsberg, Ohio, where he captured a gathering of 2,000 identical twins, to a sweaty boxing club in Bethnal Green, where he recently shot runway jewelry for Burberry.