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ITAL SUKEBAN ERIKA BOWES

Rye Wax in Peckham’s Bussey Building basement and Chickpea, Spinach and Coconut Curry––Ital living for a vital conversation about the development of Erika’s photography.

Half of the heart and mind behind Sukeban, an online platform that supports creative people of colour, Erika Bowes, has garnered attention as a photographer with a recent series of stylised and intimate shots of other women of colour. Perhaps most notable and popular, is her recent editorial In The Market for TANK Magazine.

The founder sat down for lunch and a conversation about the direction of her photography. Wearing the Fears Hooded Sweat designed by her friend, business partner and collaborator, Yuki Haze in conjunction with Ezah Ikuy. It’s always refreshing to see people putting money where their mouth is in order to support their friends and family in pursuing their callings.

"I've decided I don't want to work in fashion and I don't want to do fashion photography," a shock coming from Erika, someone that values garments and the well-dressed so highly. Telling me of a young creator she had recently come across, Japanese photographer and native, Koji Onaka demonstrates the possibilities of a career in photography, and as a result inspires Erika; "I don't really want to be doing photography for a company, I want to do it because it's self-discovery."

"Shoots that are too fashion-y, or too planned, I don't enjoy," she admits. This seemed surprising as a lot of her career thus far orbits Fashion and its industry. Having just returned from a trip to Southeast Asia's Burma with her family, where she was shooting solely for the love of the art and their culture, her logic makes sense, "even if I don't make money from photography, whatever, I just wanna do it." Her decisiveness to pursue a passion despite any difficulties she may face is admirable; shooting exclusively on film is an expensive habit too, perhaps it’s her forthcoming attitude in business that’s attracted high-profile clients to her services as a photographer.

Returning to London and immediately sending her photos off to be developed, it was easy to tell Erika has a genuine love for the practise of photography.

"A journey through life, a documentary," she tells me of her wishes to explore the world through photographs. I ask if there’s anything else she’s hopeful about, or developing toward, “I do want to do more stories, I am very much a visual person, but some things you can’t explain just through photographs.” Considering the strong following Erika’s amassed online, whether from her own photography, or self-styles throughout the years, storytelling seems like the natural progression for the magazine founder to take; with a platform like Sukeban in her roster, a platform that allows artists to explore their artistry and form narratives from their process, it seems Erika’s beginning in storytelling is truly cyclic, and an organic transition.

“Written pieces are beautiful,” Erika mentions as Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9 Camera’s being prepared, “I’m starting to appreciate them a lot more now that I’m reading more and listening to more podcasts. The spoken word is important.” The written and spoken word are essential to strengthening visual communication, especially as our access to fast-media and shallow content expands further––an important observation for Erika to round up on, an intention to carry forward as she explores further the range of her skill set and photography.

Words and photography by Jamel Duane Alatise