On discovering Sabb Adams’ photographs, the first thing that hits you is the vivid colour which radiates from his portfolio. Recovering from this initial thrill, you will notice the skill with which he sensitively captures moments of intimacy between friends, fathers and children. “A big part of my work is meeting people in the moment, introducing me to their world and vice versa”, he tells It’s Nice That. Born and bred in Nottingham, Sabb’s projects have taken him to as far-flung places as Cuba, Morocco and Jamaica. Everywhere he goes, he works on a principle of mutual understanding between him and his subjects, “the work is an extension of me”, he says.
Another key ingredient in what makes Sabb’s images so captivating is his commitment to maintaining “that student viewpoint” as he works. Observing every new situation with fresh eyes and preserving a wonder and respect for his medium imbues his work with a sense of freshness and immediacy. Sabb remembers watching his dad use a 35mm film camera as a child. It was what inspired him to pick up a camera himself. The limitations of using 35mm in comparison to digital photography has become an important aspect of his process: “Each roll you load into a camera acts as a filter between you and reality, a form of escapism if you like... you’re calculatedly thinking about the next 36 frames you’ll shoot, and that is quite calming for the mind.”
There is a poetic linkage between the fact that it was Sabb’s father who inspired him to pick up a camera and the photographer’s ongoing series Father in the Hood. The project is distinctly personal for Sabb and connects with his experience of being the eldest of four siblings and watching them grow up. The series is composed of portraits of Black fathers and their children from all the places Sabb has visited on his travels. Focussing particularly on men who are new to fatherhood, Sabb sensitively captures moments which illustrate the “shift in priorities for new dads” and the tender “fondness” which passes between father and child. In this way Sabb’s series defies "the racist stereotype of Black men being ‘absent’ or Black children as fatherless,” he explains. “I’ll confidently say the journey to fatherhood is a sincere goal and aim for many Black men in our society today. This series will be an advocate for that.”
Looking back to other projects he’s proud of, Sabb points us to his series Havana, for which he spent two weeks in Cuba documenting the people and places he encountered. “A random day out in London with friends led us to a Cuban cafe,” he recalls. “This sparked the idea and eventually birthed a photo book from a life changing solo trip”. He also mentions his first documentary film How We Roll, a film about lowriders which has been in the pipeline since 2017. He started filming in 2021 with his collaborator Karol Jurga. “It’s self-funded and created through genuine relationships with unique people... It's taken on a life of its own and became what we all want by itself.”
Sabb Adams: Father in the hood (Copyright © Sabb Adams 2018)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.