Photographer Iain McKell is known for documenting the unique spark of a subculture. Over his career he's shot the New York Guardian Angels, London's '80s New Romantics and West Country New Age travellers.
Now, with his new collection, New Girl Order, he turns his lens on a group of young female artists living in Tottenham, north London.
New Girl Order is an ode to the girls' individuality, creativity and "sparkly personalities". The series builds a portrait of a "sisterhood" exploring themselves and their personalities. It is a narrative that McKell is accustomed to, having begun his career documenting his own teenage journey to self-discovery in 1970s Weymouth (Private Reality: The Diary of a Teenage Boy).
McKell has described each project as another chapter in this journey. "My work is, in a way, social documentary, but it is always from a personal point of view and with a personal connection," he explains. "I became interested in the romantic notion of photography as a series of self-exploratory portraits that take me to places both physically and metaphorically. Whether it is from the fetish scene or a gangster’s lingerie party, it’s about sharing that experience. I’m not a couch potato, I wanted to go out there and have my own adventures."
For New Girl Order, McKell shot on-and-off over two years, visiting the girls' warehouses, capturing the comings and goings, parties, free festivals, pop-up events and art performances in which the girls were involved.
One of McKell's many subjects is Ayesha Tan Jones, a witch, artist and musician who performs as YaYa Bones. Spanning sculpture, music, filmmaking and community work, Jones' work celebrates and supports women, non-binary people and people of colour, creating safe spaces for protest, meditation and magic.
Through these images we meet the girls and their artwork in their studios, sprawled on the sofa at a party and clutching cans of Red Stripe, and skinny-dipping in London's River Lea.
They wear Buffalo boots with '70s-style leopard print flares and ethnic jewellery, and their hair is a palette of rainbow brights. The resulting visual diary is a celebration of freedom and self-expression, and a reminder to embrace the most creative parts of who we are.