I first met West London born photographer and author Nina in Clapton sometime last year when she shared a house with my boyfriend. In a house full of creatives I always enjoyed exchanging stories with everyone and catching up on daily life. Nina always put a smile of my face when we talked – it’s not everyday someone remembers terms such as “North Weezy” or “buff tings”. Terms that would take me back, even if brief, to my secondary school days, when garage was in, adding the latest colourway to my Nike BW collection and it was all about the under 18’s night in Oceana. Nostalgia.
Nina would talk to me about the stages of her upcoming book “What We Wore”. A hard copy documenting just that – personal stories exhibiting personal styles and the relevance of this period in each person’s life. It was always inspiring to see how hard she worked on making this book and seeing it finally being published in 2014.
Nina’s natural eye for documenting so many aesthetics in youth culture and British life has seen her accomplish so many things. She co-founded The Cut and ISYS ARCHIVE, her work has been exhibited at Tate Modern and has collaborated with heavyweights Nike and Adidas. I caught up with Nina at her East London studio to talk documenting sub-cultures, exposing style and London life.
What is your earliest memories of documenting subcultures and who inspired you to do so?
Ive always been inspired by Ted Polhemus and I remember seeing the Street style book when I was a teen, although I was too young to go to the exhibition. It was an honour to have him write the Foreword.
I also remember loving the Japanese FRUITS books long before ‘Streetstyle’ was popular, I went to Tokyo when I was 19 and was amazed by all the looks.
You’ve said before that you are inspired by human style, how would you describe yours?
I think we express a lot about ourselves and our histories through our style.
Mine is a bit of a jumble. It’s a mix of things I buy in car boot sales and labels and high street. Stuff that I stole from my gran, stuff that reminds me of being a little Ragga wannabe when I was 10.
With so many platforms pushing out original content in Britain today, are there any we should take note of?
LAW is one of my favourites at the moment, I like the way they have a strong sense of theme and concept, as well as it being about a getting a network of people together, which is what the best magazines have always been about.
In your book What We Wore – you mentioned the importance of keeping visual records to preserve life experiences – how would you encourage the youth of today to do this?
I don’t think people ‘should’ do this necessarily but I wonder what will happen as they don’t or as they have a multitude of digital images which record their existences.
People are constantly keeping visual records digitally, but I wonder if they might disappear or get lost in the internet ether as time goes on, or how people will decide which images are kept?
How is youth culture in London different compared to the rest of the world?
As young people now communicate across boundaries, and connect to style and music influences from around the world you could say youth cultures are becoming more homogeneous. But being a “Londoner’ is still important and I do think London culture is distinct, I’ve spent years both documenting and working in community settings with young Londoners, what I would say its theres a gutsy, dynamic attitude that endures.
Which pockets of London do you like shooting in the most and why?
Places Ive never been before, usually wherever I’m living as its a tool for me to get to my area and the people in it in a way that people don’t anymore. Its more about the people than the places I guess.
Following the success of “Money on my Oyster” and “What we wore” what are you working on now?
I’m expanding and developing the What We Wore concept, watch this space! And shooting more which is nice.
We saw your recent feature with adidas x Law Magazine, how did that come about?
I was asked as a regular contributor to the mag, I also did a shoot for their last Issue with Boys and Bunnies, which was fun.
What has photography taught you about yourself?
That I’m forever curious. That I like people (most of the time) and photography is great tool for human exchange (when used correctly.)
GET IN TOUCH WITH NINA:
Interview by Mary-Jane Gotidoc
Portrait by Jordan Green