In his latest project, On The Common, Derrick explores and documents the Black British experience, creating a series of portraits from a community of friends who come together every Sunday evening to play football.
He says, “Sunday evenings are reserved for football. For the past 15 years, I’ve been playing football with pretty much the same people, in Woolwich Common, where I grew up. Before the era of smartphones, we knocked on people’s doors to see if they were in to gather enough numbers to play a game, staying out at the cage until dark. Now, the event is organised via WhatsApp where our group spans more than 60 people. Both then and now, Sunday evenings are the most anticipated. Our love for the game brings us together as a community; it offers us an escape from our everyday lives. These sessions and gatherings are almost therapeutic.”
We then asked Derrick some questions about his photography, his passion for community and his experiences working with Leica. Read on to hear more…
How are you using photography as a medium to document social change?
In my personal work, I try to create images that explore the beauty and complexities of the Black diaspora. Telling stories is at the centre stage of my work, so naturally, photography gives me the opportunity to showcase and experiment with the beautiful multiplicity of different communities, identities, sexualities, and generations across Black cultures. I cast a lot of dark skin subjects and by doing that we are hopefully changing, taking control, and affecting the narrative and perspective of how Black people are often depicted in the mainstream media. I see photography as part of my purpose to bring these stories to the forefront. Essentially, I want my nieces and nephews to see beautiful imagery of Black women and men and be inspired, to love themselves, be full of pride, and embrace their identity and skin tones.
Your photography often focuses on the concept of community. Do you think this is more important now than ever before?
In insight, we are constantly looking for a belonging. Social media has somehow helped bring people together, the meaning of finding a space and a group of people that share similar love, passion and way of living is powerful. As a child of immigrants, I’m always fascinated by the communities of the diaspora. The journey of traveling and settling in a new place isn’t always straightforward. The complexities of creating new identities, fitting in and looking for a belonging, fascinate me. These are stories that are always on my mind when looking for projects to explore. The world is forever changing, and so I feel like we have some sort of duty to archive, document, and showcase the beautiful communities that have always been around. They play a very integral part in the economy, and it’s important to celebrate that.
Tell us a bit more about Reform The Funk…
I’ve always been a lover of culture; sometimes certain communities might seem small but have a big impact on society and general popular culture. Whilst assisting and working in the industry, I felt that mainstream media was not always documenting and telling cultural stories in the most honest, rich, and impactful way. So, in 2016, I created Reform The Funk as a platform to represent, digitally archive, and explore cultural narratives in their truest respect. The aim was to create organic stories that eliminate gaze and appropriation. The core vision is to present in-depth content, stories, and experiences which serve as a reference point for ideas and inspiration.
Do you prefer to shoot in black-and-white or colour?
I like both. Sometimes, when shooting portraits in black and white, it takes away distractions and allows us to focus on the subject and their personality. Plus, black and white has this rich and intimate feel.
Colour is also beautiful. It can be dreamy, experimental, and inspiring. I’m always changing between the two depending on the story.
I LOVE the Leica Q2 series. They’re my favourite cameras to shoot portraits on. So compact, they feel great in your hands. Plus, having big files at 47 megapixels allows you to re-crop the image in post-production. When working with subjects that aren’t models or actors, bigger camera bodies can be quite intrusive, and it can sometimes make the subject feel too self-aware or even self-conscious. It can make them think they have to pose, just because there’s a big professional-looking camera in their face. The Q2 allows you to capture the genuine moment and personality of that person. It’s my dream camera.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans are to continue developing personal projects that explore Blackness as a subject matter and explore stories on the diaspora, whether that’s fashion editorials, documentaries or short films.
Follow Derrick Kakembo on Instagram here.
To read more about Reform The Funk click here.