Denisha Anderson

South London based photographer, film maker and DJ, Denisha Anderson explores identity, race, gender and culture throughout all of her creative mediums. Denisha’s intimate work pushes narratives not only to empower her subjects but to disrupt the viewers pre-conceptions.

Your photography focuses primarily on the exploration of the human form in paired-back and candid settings, what is it about this style that you find so intriguing? Do you find an inherent vulnerability or fragility of the subject when you strip away the ‘staged’ effect seen with other photographers?

Identity is the umbrella I’d say my work falls under. So with that exploration I want my subject to trust me with creating that space, giving more room for authenticity which I have found to be a very brave act in itself. To be you in your rawest form is admirable but it takes a strong mindset to not be shaken in the display of your personal truth/being.  Being authentic means being vulnerable and with my projects like MAN and Transformation, they require me to be a part of their lives momentarily, entering their most sacred space, their home, their bedroom.  Here is where I learn who they are, not only in conversation but how they choose to decorate, their taste, their warmth as they greet me.

As I seek truth in my work, I think in some sense there’s an underlined thread of how I perceive myself and what image I have projected over the years and has that been my most authentic..? Do people connect with me in a similar fashion..? What does intimacy look and feel like for me?

These are questions I’m currently asking myself alot, as there’s an intimacy I tend to capture with my subjects drawing the viewer in with an immediate connection, which breeds vulnerability and fragility….I hope that answered the question lol!

Was there a moment where you first picked up a camera and thought this would be the medium you’d work best in?

To be honest, it wasn’t hmm what tool shall I choose to dismantle Babylon today with, photography and film found me.  When applying for college I had to choose 4 subjects and they had taken one off the curriculum so my interviewer proceeded to throw an array of subjects at me and I stopped at film studies.  As I learned about each department, Cinematography stood out in a big way with Christopher Doyle being the first DOP to blow my mind and inspire me in more ways than I could imagine when telling stories through the power of images in each frame. That propelled me into the world of film which led me to Bournemouth Arts to study Film Production. This experience allowed me to learn first hand the difference between the bolex camera, Arri Sr316mm, Aaton 16mm, how film worked as a whole understanding light and then BOOM, I graduated and it all went digital..however the foundations of my craft are embedded in analogue and the resurgence of shooting 35mm and 120mm still is still so exciting and refreshing! 

“Beenie man signifies the soundtrack to my childhood, he represents my youth and togetherness my family.”

How are you able to represent and project your own creative vision and culture when DJ-ing?

Prior to the pandemic I would say I like to stretch the listening pallet of my audience by a varied song selection and guests on the show, the guests I’ve had vary between Manga and Murkage Dave, Hak Baker, Lianne La Havas and Oscar Jerome. This has helped develop a creative relationship resulting in capturing portraits of my guests to create single covers and even music videos.  Now the pandemic has slowed my networking down a little. I’m playing with conceptual shows, for example an all female playlist for international women’s day and powerful rhetoric through my song selection of the global artists I listen to. This gives an insight to how I am seeing the world with an accompanying soundtrack of artists that may share a similar sentiment or opposed tbh, but I’m honestly just tryna keep it groovy with the occasional light bulb moment lol.

Is there any country or culture you’d especially love to visit from a photographic point of view, that you find particularly fascinating?

Thats a hard question. I want to go everywhere all the time but I’d say off top of my head maybe return to Mexico as I could see myself living there and I’ve been wanting to return to Brazil since I first landed at the tender age of 17yr, the experience I had in Bahia will always have a special place in my heart.  I went for music to learn traditional rhythms of samba and left with not only new friends and new grooves but a deep love for caprihina and a berimbau, so safe to say I was immersed and I need to get back there for more magic. Finally back to my roots, Jamaica I haven’t been since I was a young child and the memories there are still as vibrant. Seeing family and exploring that little island is a dream I’m working on making reality as soon as I can catch a flight safely!

How have you found the last year in terms of your creative output? Have you found it frustrating, or has it been an opportunity to step back and reassess methods of work?

This last year has been special to say the least, 2020 didn’t play any games with testing us at all levels whether it was physical or mental health, not to mention financial security being trashed for many. However I have to say I have been very grateful for how it turned out for me. During this period I became very insular, which meant looking at myself in its entirety, which was propelled by an art commission where the brief asked for self portraits. In this series, I am at my rawest so vulnerability and intimacy are prevalent. It gave me space to really sit with myself and work on what I need to change going forward. Another massive change was leaving my part time teaching job, to create full time and honestly I have no regrets.  Some of my pals may say I should’ve done it sooner, but the right things happen at the right time and that’s now for me.  In the last year, I have 4 different works published with 3 being in print and 2 being magazines in the USA, followed by music video “South” by WU-LU which I directed.

“it takes a strong mindset to not be shaken in the display of your personal truth/being”

If you could collaborate with any creatives working currently, who would be top of your list?

Yikes there are far too many to choose from, so if you don’t mind i’m going to throw a few options to ya 😉

First is Keiyaa, a new and incredible singer, songwriter and producer based in New York and she has dropped a body of work that is so beautiful and powerful to capture a portrait and create video for her would be amazing. Her creativity and vulnerability is so powerful, it’s hard not to respect and admire her for it.

Second for sounds I group up on to capture portraits of Beenie Man one of my FAVOURITE dancehall artists EVER, would be an absolute dream.  Beenie man signifies the soundtrack to my childhood, he represents my youth and togetherness my family.

Finally It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention someone from the UK all of these people are true artists with an expanding vision which I believe we could really compliment each other to make magic is PA Salieu, Obongjayer and Lex Amor. All three are very different, very talented and ahead of most.

As part of our ‘Creative Atlas Conundrums’ – what creative tool would you bring if you were stuck on a desert island for a year?

Hmm, well I want to be alive after that year is up so probably a knife as It’s the essential survival tool, but I do need fire… Can I have some matches too?