Misan Harriman, founder of What We Seee makes history by shooting the cover of the September issue of British Vogue. The issue is themed around activism and the voices of hope. In describing the issue, as editor-in-chief Edward Enninful puts it in his editor’s letter,
“an ode to the extraordinary voices, old and young, who in this difficult year have devoted their energies to fighting for a fairer society.”
Enninful chose Misan to photograph the cover after seeing his black-and-white images of the Black Lives Matter protests in London, at the beginning of June
“Misan’s pictures were so striking and powerful and really resonated with myself and our readers,” says Enninful. “I soon realised that his work was era-defining – and that he was the voice that was missing in the magazine.”
Misan becomes the first Black man to photograph a cover of British Vogue in the magazine’s 104-year history;
“To be even in the company of my idols – Norman Parkinson, Irving Penn – is, for a photography anorak like me, an honour. But it’s also time for me to pay my respects to the giants whose shoulders I am standing on: Black photographers such as Simon Frederick… and Gordon Parks.”
In describing his contributions, Misan calls is a ‘symphony of activism’. To use a massive, influential platform to shine a light on voices and stories that need to be heard;
“What you are doing matters; we see you, we hear you, and we want many people to understand”
He brings to life an honest reflection of a multicultural society. And shows how good we are when we have diversity in this country.
Activism is transformed from bottled feelings of protest, to inspiring messages of hope.
Enninful describes the inspiration for the focus on activism:
“One of the more joyful phenomena of the past years has been seeing how, in the face of what can seem like ever-escalating injustice, activism has re-emerged from the margins and taken hold of the mainstream. I have loved seeing younger generations fire up older generations again, seeing “social justice” go from a term that elicited a yawn and an eye-roll to embedding itself in our daily lives, and giving rise to people using the platforms of a new era to essentially say, “Enough is enough.”
To be in London early this summer was to witness those voices erupting from the screens of our smartphones and pouring out on to the streets.”