Alice Mann on making photographs that the people she shoots want to see

15 August 2019
Reading Time
2 minutes


“I’ve always been fascinated by the role of images in shaping our understanding of the world,” said photographer Alice Mann as she took to the stage at last month’s Nicer Tuesdays event. In a talk which focussed on her much-loved body of work, Drummies, the South African photographer invited us into her reflective and “people-oriented” approach to image-making which uses photographs to break down the stereotypes they are so often used to reinforce.

A project which began in early 2017, Drummies documents the all-female majorette troupes of Alice’s home city, Cape Town. Reflecting on what a formative process this ongoing series has been for her, Alice took us back to the feelings of dissatisfaction she felt after her first shoot: “I just felt like I hadn’t quite done the girls justice,” she said. “But sometimes it happens that you just feel like you haven’t quite got it and that’s disappointing, but sometimes you have to let things sit and come back to them.” So she let things sit, allowing herself the time and space she needed to reflect.

Returning to the series later that year, and after spending more time getting to know the girls, Alice was able to locate what had been missing from her first set of images. “I was very struck by the way these very young women were so self-assured and confident, and the way that, when I met them and worked with them, they really asserted that,” she told us. “I was also inspired by seeing the way that involvement in this sport was visibly emboldening and uplifting these girls.” The realisation that her first images hadn’t fully portrayed that confidence and dignity marked a turning point, not only in the Drummies project, but in Alice’s practice as a whole. Embracing a more collaborative approach, she started to re-centre her photography around its subjects, working together with the people she portrayed to make images they wanted to see.

Building long-term relationships with the people she shoots is central to this approach. Nurturing these bonds over long periods of time allows her “to go back, show people the images, have them respond to those and then incorporate something different when we make the next set of portraits.” Now, Alice told us, to ensure she’s done her job properly, at the end of each project she makes sure of two things: “that everyone gets a photograph of themselves and that the people in that photograph feel it’s the image of themselves that they want to see.”

As she closed the talk, Alice reflected on her responsibility as an image maker to portray her subjects with honesty and empathy. “I think it’s important to create images that challenge the dominant stereotypes that we see,” she said. “I wanted to show these young women as strong and dignified, powerful and confident, which I think, if you met them for two seconds, it’d be obvious that that’s what they really are.”



Dropbox Paper is a collaborative workspace that eliminates distractions that get in the way of creativity. Because you can work with all types of content – from video, to sound to code – in Paper, you and your collaborators can easily edit and discuss all aspects of your project in one centralised place.


The Conran Shop

The Conran Shop is the home of considered, curated design. Founded by Sir Terence Conran in 1974, The Conran Shop is forever evolving, with good design always at its core. Offering a unique and personal blend of design classics and future icons, its innovative collections have inspired, surprised and delighted visitors for generations.


Camden Town Brewery

Camden Town Brewery was founded back in 2010 under the railway arches in Camden, with the aim of making really great lager. In 2017 they opened their second bigger brewery up in Enfield, North London.


Camden Town Brewery

Camden Town Brewery was founded back in 2010 under the railway arches in Camden, with the aim of making really great lager. In 2017 they opened their second bigger brewery up in Enfield, North London.

Share Article

About the Author

It's Nice That

This article was written by the It’s Nice That team. To find our editors and writers, please head over to our Contact page.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.