Sade Mia’s work documents the hours filled with perfect nothingness as a teenager
The recent graduate’s portfolio is a reflective look at teenage years, largely through a focus on her cousin, doubly forming a documentation of south Asian identity.
- Lucy Bourton
- 13 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Like many a creative currently in their early to mid 20s, photographer Sade Mia became interested in her medium via Tumblr, and then Instagram. “It was nothing serious at first,” she tells It’s Nice That, “I was just experimenting with different camera settings and taking photos of my friends to post.” Still, the idea of pursuing the medium further was a distant idea, considering how, at the time, it was drawing and painting that piqued her interest. “It’s funny because I would have never thought I would go into photography,” adds Sade, having just graduated with a BA in photography from Middlesex University.
The turning point was a module in GSCE art where the young creative was encouraged to give the medium a go, finding that the discipline linked to her obsession with film, “and choosing photography allowed me to venture into a similar process, and replicate my favourite film stills and lighting, which fuelled my love for photography.” Settling in comfortably, Sade began to explore different outlets of photographic techniques, now mainly using film, or hand-printing her photographs.
For the former, Sade’s approach sees her shooting a series and then waiting a few days before developing the film, “so when it comes to seeing the negatives I am surprised with what I have.” This process is purposeful, leading to seeing her own work in a different light “As I don’t remember every exact frame I have shot.” Hand printing also replicates this unique process and is one the photographer describes as “rewarding and special” to her. “Although at some points it can be frustrating, the end result is definitely worth it. I love the look and colours you get from handprints, you can control how you want your photo to look, but it also gives you better teaching on understanding colour and contrast.”
But aside from how she photographs, it’s Sade’s eye and understanding of her subject that really shines within this photographer’s work. Photographing teenagers has “become an occurring concept for me as I am intrigued by the idea of adolescence and documenting different teens, and their breakaway from childhood.” Adopting a documentary-style approach when developing this kind of work, Sade describes her methodology in this respect as authentic, “as I shoot them just the way they are,” she explains. “They show the day and life of teenagers, through my photography style.”
An example of these two influences and focuses is Sade’s series Heston Kids, which started while she was in her second year at university. The brief encouraged the photographer’s year group to “explore any subject to our desire”, which led her to begin a project on a group of south Asian girls, “but slowly became about my cousin, Kyra.” Documenting her cousin’s everyday life, throughout the series the viewer follows Kyra in a range of scenarios, as she walks home after school or just hangs out with friends. No matter where she is, however, Sade’s eye on Kyra is clear, often catching her glance magically in group shots. In turn, the series became “a documentation of her growing up in London as a south Asian girl who doesn’t conform to societal norms of what it means to be a ‘south Asian girl’,” Sade tells us. “I wanted to document this as I thought it was important as we aren’t very well represented in photography and media in general.”
In its everyday simplicity, Heston Kids evokes that perfect nothingness which always seems to fill up the hours when you’re a teenager, describing how “they wouldn’t really do much but hang out, smoke, and skate, which I found interesting. It made me think about how I can photograph these situations more compellingly.” For example, one of Sade’s favourite shots from the series is of school shoes. Meeting Kyra and her friends after school in Hounslow, the group “were playing with different lighters in this small alleyway trying to burn stuff, while talking about what was going on in their friendship group,” the photographer describes. “They managed to get one of the lighters working, and set alight this packet of crisps which you can see in the photo, where one of the girls is trying to put it out by stepping on it.”
Having just graduated, Sade is now currently working on a new project, Only Good Days. An exploration of her home in southeast London, “documenting the people and places that I associate growing up with, through a limited scope showing an authentic perspective.” As with her other work to date, viewers should expect a continuation of “creating this feeling of nostalgia” that, although personal to Sade, will see her eye create a wider series of work, relatable for a whole host of other factors too.
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.