Kennedi Carter reflects on 2020

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Fine-art photographer Kennedi Carter who, this year, became the youngest cover photographer in British Vogue’s history, reflects on the year just gone; what she has learnt and what she will leave behind

Kennedi Carter is just 21-years-old. And yet she has already achieved so much. A Durham, North Carolina native, Carter’s powerful images centre upon the people, places, and issues close to her and explore both “the aesthetics and sociopolitical aspects of Blackness, as well as the overlooked beauties of Black experience: skin, texture, trauma, peace, love and community”. Her work spans multiple photographic genres, with elements of fine art, documentary, and fashion. And this makes for a distinct aesthetic, which captures the beauty and power of her subjects in candid, intimate moments. “I use my art to … give people something they can consume, which feels beautiful and makes them feel beautiful,” said Carter, in an interview for our One’s to Watch issue, for which she was nominated earlier this year.

Carter has featured in a succession of gallery exhibitions, including, most recently, three solo shows. She has also photographed editorial commissions for several titles including GQ, The Fader, Essence, The New York Times, TIME, Refinery 29. And, most recently, British Vogue, where she became the youngest cover photographer in the title’s history (Irving Penn was 26 and David Bailey was 23), capturing Beyonce for the December issue of the magazine. 

Carter’s interest in photography was almost accidental: she took a photo class in high school and ended up enthralled. Currently, alongside working on personal projects and assignments, she is studying for a degree in African American studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

Below, Carter reflects on the year 2020. 

I spend many of my working days in North Carolina, which is my home, so I did not have to venture too far to reach my assignments. 

I typically go to the beach to unwind, but I wanted to go somewhere that felt easier to self-isolate, so I took some trips to the mountains with my close family and my partner.

My favourite magazine cover of 2020 was Zendaya’s Essence cover, shot by AB + DM. 

The book, album, and television show, which got me through 2020 are All About Love by Bell Hooks, Over It by Summer Walker, and Lovecraft Country.  

A photograph that encapsulates 2020 is Kovi Konowiecki’s Waiting. We’re all just still.

I will leave behind that feeling of being rushed to create work in 2020, and I will bring in the new mindset that I am going to take however long it is I want to create new work. My stillness does not mean I am not productive.

Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.