Shirley Amartey – When the Music Changes, so Does the Dance

all images courtesy Shirley Amartey

When I started to think about presenting fashion content on Paper Journal, the idea of having issued based, curated bodies of work was something essential. Looking at historic issues of some of my favourite publications from the early 2000s like i-D and The Face these themed issues seemed to encapsulate a specific attitude from each of those moments in time, something that has become increasingly important in the way that we consume fashion.

As a student, the book Soul i-D (Taschen, 2008), had a big impact on me; it featured a collection of personal stories and images from the magazines contributors and reflected an alternative view on fashion and the people in it. The idea of combining fashion, photography and story telling was relatively rare at that point and I was interested in the way each contributor spoke about their life experiences, family and loved ones.

During the last few years I have re-visited my own family’s relationship with photography and fashion, working on a project using photographs of my mother that I took as a child.

My parents were always keen on taking photographs and up until they separated, in 1985 our photo albums followed the normal patterns of every 1st – 2nd generation ethnic family in the UK. When my dad took his belongings, the albums containing all of the pictures our family had taken up until that point went with him. My mum was devastated about this and became single minded about creating a new set of photographs to replace the pictures and memories she felt she’d lost.

In the beginning, my mum, brother and I would all get dressed up and take series after series of photographs, but with my brother on the verge of leaving home and me being more comfortable behind the camera, I became increasingly interested in advising on hair and make up, as well as giving direction and taking the pictures.

This archive, titled ‘When the Music Changes, so Does the Dance, spans a period of 7 years from when I was 9 to 16 years old. All of the photos were taken in our living room. There are very few hallmarks of traditional family photos such as holidays and school plays; rather this album was designed to be the ultimate, constructed reality of the new era in my family’s history, which very quickly became an intimate portrayal of my mother in the wake of her divorce.

With all of these ideas in mind the Family issue was created for Paper Journal. The contributors featured in this issue have looked at the theme of ‘Family’ within a broad context.

Over the coming weeks we are very excited to share an interview with curator, collector and founder of KesselsKramer agency Erik Kessels, as he speaks to Meshach Roberts about family photographs and the changing nature of how we take pictures of our loved ones and ourselves. Photographer and author of What we Wore, Nina Manandhar, shoots a series of modern family portraits of siblings in Hackney, styled using a collection of the best of London’s young designers. We also have photographer Verity Welstead, a recent Masters graduate of London College of Communication, shooting an intimate main fashion story, casting members of her family and their extended group of friends.