When we put together last year’s class of young photographers to follow, we saw emerging talents who were giving a facelift to the tradition of self-portraiture, and creating new visual language to depict culture’s changing understanding of identity. And for the most part, this year’s group is picking up right where they left off, with even bigger ambitions and emboldened energy—in 2019, even rigid industries like modeling are being disrupted and reshaped. From the first black photographer to shoot the cover of Rolling Stone to the 24-year-old self-portraitist who’s already reinvented himself more than 100 times, get to know some of 2019’s most promising newcomers, here.
Age: 26. Instagram: @noma.o Location: Born and raised in Nigeria; based in Lagos.
Nigeria has always been at the center of Noma Osula’s work, which he defines as “a union of African photography, classical and contemporary.” But while his use of vibrant colors and contrast are part of what makes his fashion photography and commercial work so appealing to the likes of the designer Jonathan Anderson (who spotlighted Osula’s photos in a J.W. Anderson exhibition celebrating up-and-coming talent in London last year), they’re also in defiance of what Osula sees as “this projection of Africa as a completely dark and primitive continent.”
Age: 24. Instagram: @mechrissmith. Location: Based in “the coastal city of Port Elizabeth in South Africa—in my bedroom, to be specific.”
It’s hard to believe that it took until 2016 for Chris Smith to feel confident enough in his work (which he’d always kept to his bedroom) to share it with the public—or, more specifically, with Instagram, where he now has 19,000 followers. And all them are there to marvel at Smith’s self-portraiture, which is the only type of content on his feed and which has evolved from something with a low price of entry into his chosen medium—and a full-time pursuit. “I like the ‘dress-up’ approach to image-making,” he says. “I’m not interested in ‘real-life.'” Looks like it’ll be another banner year for the self-portrait.
From the project, Si Dios Quiere. Photo courtesy of Adeline Lulo.|||
Age: 26. Instagram: @adelinelulo. Location: Raised and based in the Bronx.
Adeline Lulo was born and raised in the Bronx, where she’s still based, but it’s the Dominican Republic, where she spent her summers as a child, that’s had the biggest impact on her and her work. Those trips came to an end once she came of legal age to work in the U.S., but she made it back to the D.R. midway through earning her degree in photography at Parsons, which is when she began documenting her people and giving them a voice in her series “Si Dios Quiere,” or “God Willing.” And Lulo continues to do that back in the States, in both the Bronx and Washington Heights. The neighborhood on the northern end of Manhattan, after all, boasts the largest community of Dominicans in New York, some of whom became her subjects when Nike recently tapped her to shoot a photo essay (two photos of which can be seen above) for the Air Force 1 “De Lo Mios,” which Lulo translates to “of mine,” or “of my people.”
Age: 23. Instagram: @micaiahcarter Location: Raised in the Mojave Desert; based in Brooklyn.
Micaiah Carter also has Nike to thank, for putting the photographer together with his latest collaborator: Kendrick Lamar, to create a campaign for the drop of Lamar’s hyped Cortez Kenny IV sneaker. Though it was all Carter’s own work that got him up to that point, including cover shoots with The Weeknd and Ciara, for the likes of Time and King Kong. Not bad for someone who started out creating “weird fashion shoots with my friends” in the Mojave and posting them on Tumblr.
Age: “30-ish.” Instagram: @danascruggs. Location: Raised on the South Side of Chicago—”I used to get my hair done with Michelle Obama sitting one seat over”; based in Brooklyn.
Just like Tyler Mitchell, who last year became the first black photographer to shoot the cover of American Vogue, it’s all but guaranteed that Dana Scruggs will be known as the first black photographer to shoot the cover of Rolling Stone, for at least the next few months. But Scruggs is, of course, much more than simply her portrait of Travis Scott: “I was hired because Catriona [Ni Aolain, the magazine’s director of creative content] loved my work,” which has included photographing Adonis Bosso for her own magazine SCRUGGS, which she launched in 2016, and shooting campaigns for Chromat. “I just happened to be black,” she continues. “And I just happened to be the first.”
Age: 29. Instagram: @davidbrandongeeting. Location: Raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; based in Brooklyn.
Through a combination of hard lighting and an inventive eye, David Brandon Geeting can make even a box of Kashi cereal (see above) look glamorous. In other words, he’s come a long way from being initially “written off” as an “ephemeral internet photographer”—a transition that he also credits to publishing his first of several books in 2015, which soon ended up on the shelves of museum shops like those at the Tate Modern and MoMA PS1. These days, Geeting has not only carved out a new niche for himself, but one that’s distinctly his own—what he calls “fantasy photographs,” encompassing his still lifes, portraits, and fashion photography, including for clients like Comme des Garcons.
Age: 28. Instagram: @taniafrancoklein. Location: Raised in Mexico City; based between Mexico City and Long Beach, California.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking Tania Franco Klein’s photographs for film stills; even she thinks of them as more than simply photos. “I create tableaux, which consists of constructing sets, altering existing locations, and staging scenes,” Klein says of her work, which still bears evidence of its roots in architecture school, which is where Klein first began sneaking off to the darkroom. Eventually, she bought her own lights and began studying—first on her own, and then at the University of the Arts London, where she earned her master’s in photography, and started to focus on color, light, and narrative. That’s true across her range of work, from self-portraits to Dior commissions to—on one memorable occasion—snapshots from “spending the day in a motel room with sex robots,” which she did at New York magazine’s behest. “That’s definitely been one of my most unique and memorable photographic experiences.”
Age: 22. Instagram: @xavierscottmarshall. Location: Raised in Pittsburgh and the “most boring part” of California; based in Brooklyn.
After picking up the habit of sneaking around his house with his mom’s 35mm cameras as a kid, Xavier Scott Marshall received the best education a fashion photographer could ask for: interning with and assisting Steven Klein. Now that the 22-year-old has opened his own studio, there’s plenty to suggest that Marshall, like Klein, already has a knack for capturing the cool kids. (Take his Polaroid of Dilone, Dev Hynes, and Ian Isaiah, for example.) But Marshall hopes you’ll find something deeper in his pictures, too: “My taste is heavily influenced by my experiences as a first-generation Trinidadian-American, and I aim to reflect that,” he adds.
Age: 30. Instagram: @sashafoto. Location: Born in Moscow and raised in Florida; based in New York.
Sasha Arutyunova left Moscow, where she was born when it was still part of the Soviet Union—and when items like a pair of Levi’s were still hard to come by—when she was six years old, but she’s made quite a few return visits since, thanks in part to the gift of a camera that her grandfather (seen above) gave her when she was 14. For nearly a decade now, she’s dedicated those trips to documenting her family members there, as well as shooting street style for The New York Times. Not that her practice is limited to Russia; Arutyunova has also found “drama in the everyday”—and typically behind the scenes—everywhere from a horse racing complex in Saratoga (which, after putting in a few 18-hour days, she’s come to describe as a “surreal microcosm of inequality”) to backstage at fashion shows with Vaquera.