As a motif in one of Nairobi-based photographer Thandiwe Muriu’s works titled Camo, models clad in the same textile pattern that forms the backdrop appear to emerge from their vivid surroundings, creating an interplay between the individual and the visual context that supports them. “In Kenya and Africa as a whole, we have a rich textiles culture,” Muriu explains. “Our textiles are as colorful as the people who live here, and each has its own story. There are fabrics that are quiet and others that are bold and aggressive. Some are timid, and others are playful. In my images, these textiles act as the backdrop that I can celebrate my culture on—a bright, welcoming canvas [on which] I can highlight what I love about my fellow Kenyan people.” Introduced to photography when she was fourteen by her father, Muriu honed her skills by creating home photoshoots with her sisters inspired by Vogue magazine. “Over time, I developed an interest in wanting to create pictures like the ones I saw on the covers—these magical, flawless images,” she recalls. “I convinced both my sisters to model for me, and I used to use bedsheets as the background to create all these elaborate shoots using foil paper as a reflector. I wonder if my mother ever figured out where all her foil paper went.” She now shoots commercial advertising work while drawing inspiration from her surroundings, telling stories through her sets as well as her lens. “I hope to pave the way for a new generation of African photographers in the art world,” she says, “as well as create accessible photography education for other aspiring photographers from the continent.”
This Hanover, Germany–based photographer crafts a detailed minimalistic style in her fashion and editorial portraiture.