Myah Jeffers documents “the regality, the beauty and the inner world of people of the diaspora”

Photographer Myah Jeffers sees portraits everywhere. An interminable observer of the world around her, it was during her studies at university in Birmingham that Myah became obsessed with “documenting and illuminating the experiences and the distinct worlds of people,” with a particular interest in “how race, culture and identity inform peoples’ lived experiences and how they present themselves to the world.” With this in mind, when Myah stands behind her camera, she tells us, “I aim to document the truth.”

Myah grew up in Barbados and moved to the UK when she was 16. Having lived in Leicester, Leeds and Birmingham, she’s now a practising photographer and filmmaker in London working across portraiture and documentary and is also a dramaturg. Her work has been featured in a host of publications, including The Guardian, The Sunday Times Magazine and in collaborations with a plethora of institutions like Tate and Somerset House. Myah was also shortlisted for the BJP’s Portrait of Britain award in 2019 with an image of Babirye Bukilwa, an experience she describes as affirming “because it felt like an honouring of the way I see people. So, to then see that portrait exhibited at Euston Station for a good few years really made me understand the importance of documenting and sharing beautiful moments of existence.”

For Myah though, it’s not simply the outcome of a shoot that matters. The process through which she takes a portrait is vital, both as a means to build relationships but also as a way to impact the depth of the portrait itself. “It always feels like a privilege and an honour to be able to spend time with people and to engage in the intimate process of photographing them,” she says. “I think it instantly creates a shared understanding between you.” Myah’s process was made all the more considered when she bought a medium format camera as it “lends itself to the delicate nature of those moments,” due to being a slower, more intricate method of taking pictures.

When it comes to the kinds of projects Myah tends to work on, everything centres on the idea of documenting “the regality, the beauty and the inner world of people of the diaspora,” she explains. She seeks out subjects – both individuals or groups – who are doing amazing work that feels “like social commentary in the way it platforms or brings to light specific societal issues or causes.” For example, last year, Myah worked on a commission with Empathy Museum called From Where I’m Standing, in which she was asked to photograph ten front line health workers at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. “It was so eye opening and humbling to travel the country and meet with these people who have had such a positive impact on their respective working communities during lockdown,” she tells us. The work was exhibited on the streets of Brixton last December and in Peckham this month.

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