Cropped and zoomed, Krystal Neuvill’s intimate style of portraiture is built on emotion

The Hackney-based photographer captures the unique beauty of her subjects, using their individual stories and personalities as the inspiration.

Date
27 April 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

What makes a great portrait? Is it the camera, the model, the way the lighting is angled, the postures or compositions? Traditionally speaking, it depends on the ability to offer likeness to the subject; a portrait is a record of a person’s appearance, and has been historically crafted from paintings, sculptures and drawings. So these days, along with the immediacy of the camera, there’s lots that can be done (and said) with an image. Krystal Neuvil, a Hackney-based photographer raised with Jamaican and Grenadian roots, show us all how it’s really done: with emotion.

Stripping back to basics, Krystal’s portraiture is a typically cropped and zoomed. Within the frame, her subjects – usually non-models – are centre stage and exposed for who they really are, and a certain level of trust, kinship and intimacy is built between the two of them. “My influences are people who I feel have special and unique qualities about them,” she tells It’s Nice That. “These people are really my inspiration – I see this person and I have a vision of how I’d like to capture them and their personality.”

Krystal grew up observing and divulging in the pages of fashion magazines, typically Elle or Vogue. And while reading these magazines, she always recognised the lack of representation of Black women within the glossy pages. “I wanted to see Black women portrayed in non-stereotypical ways, so I took things into my hands in order to show us in a new, softer light, which is evident throughout my work.” This inspired her to pursue a career in styling, but soon her adoration for the medium of photography beamed through and she continued her studies in this realm at university. It was here that she was introduced to a collective called Bloom with whom she started building work with; a group of Black women in photography, creative, producing and taking on projects for brands like Nike and Converse. Ever since, Krystal has been working full-time as a photographer, crafting her signature style of delicate tones, silky lighting and undeniably telling portraiture.

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Copyright © Krystal Neuvill, 2021

Although her aesthetic is undeniably a focus point, really, it’s all about the people. She photographs anyone that she thinks is beautiful, and this is particularly the case for those who don’t fit the traditional brackets – and “outdated standards” – of such. “I enjoy meeting people with unique features: freckles, beauty marks or other skin conditions,” she adds. “I’ve also found that there’s a real authenticity and humbleness in people that aren’t professional models. When I’m interacting with them, I feel there is an honest appreciation on both sides. They are expressing gratitude that I’m interested in telling their story, and I’m grateful for the time they give me.”

Most imperative is the fact that Krystal wants to show them as they are, rather than adhering to an alternative narrative which can be altered through clothing, styling, the set or even the postures or expressions of the person. It’s a point of view that works twofold, meaning the model will walk away feeling happy with the experience, especially as Krystal has a knack for showing others with a “softness” – a side they might not have been aware of beforehand.

This becomes evident throughout every single photograph of Krystal’s, but here she talks us through one piece of work in particular: the Motherhood Series. A project she holds dearly, she decided to start work on the imagery after watching a documentary about the statistics of Black women who die in childbirth. It stated how Black women in the UK are four times as more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth, which is both shocking and hard news to hear. Krystal isn’t a mother herself, but has always been fond of the idea of working with children if she hadn’t have found photography. “This really hit a nerve with me,” she says, “especially when thinking about the future when hopefully I become a mother. I wanted to be able to speak about and visually show motherhood through the eyes of Black women.”

One of the first pictures she took was of Margot and Ava, a photo depicting the mother gazing at the lens while holding her young child – placed infant of a peachy backdrop draped behind them. It was a casual occurrence and, like all of her meetings, she let her subjects talk about their experiences before shooting. Another is Elizabeth and Mavia, the former being her cousin and thus marking the image as a special one. “I was in awe of seeing that she had brought new life into the world which I think is incredible. I really wanted to share her story as a younger mother, but with the focus on her as someone who has created life.”

Krystal’s work is the type that draws you in so deeply, and you can find yourself looking for hours at the intimate environments that she creates with her subjects. Most important, though, is how she strives for representation: “I want other people to feel like they can see themselves in what I do,” she concludes. “I want to show all aspects of women’s personality without being aggressively in your face about it. I like for my images to speak for themselves and through the people that I’m photographing. I’m not hugely vocal about these issues, but I address this through my work – and I hope that my photographs speak for themselves in that way."

GalleryCopyright © Krystal Neuvill, 2021

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Copyright © Krystal Neuvill, 20211

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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