As a Black creative, one of the most important aspects of my work is to highlight inequalities faced by minority and oppressed groups and to encourage open and honest conversations. The inspiration behind this type of work came from the first Black Lives Matter march. I remember there only being around 90-100 people; everyone was black. We walked past one pub and were booed by everyone.
This was such a contrast to the BLM marches in 2020 which saw more and more people from all races and walks of life come together for such an important cause. It was here that I captured the British actor John Boyega in action. The emotion in the crowds was palpable. You could see it on his face as he risked his career to make a speech because he recognised the movement was important and his status meant he could be heard by people the rest of us could not reach. I look at the photograph I took, and it all comes flooding back. I think that one of the most rewarding aspects of photography is being able to capture someone's face and understand what that person is going through simply via their eyes. It's so powerful.
I didn't always know I was going to be a photographer. I was born in Congo and whilst my early memories of growing up in Congo are limited, I can remember the culture as expressive, colourful, vivacious, and creative with a shared love for music. I moved to the UK at 12. It wasn't easy leaving everything behind and moving to another country where I didn't speak the language. We arrived in winter, and it was the first time I had experienced weather that cold.
My early days in school were difficult. Although some of my classmates were helpful it was hard to fit in. Within the Black community, everyone would listen to the same music, dress the same way, and hang out at the same places. I still remember asking my mum if she would buy me some of the clothes that everyone was wearing but she'd always tell me it was too expensive. It was at the point I realised that no matter how much I wanted to fit in, I had to accept the limitations that my family had. Despite the difficulties, I eventually made good friends through football, and I finally felt accepted.
Another passion of mine was drawing. I still have loads of drawings from school and college. My early drawings were Japanese futuristic style characters which eventually transformed into more graphical drawings. It was drawing that inspired me to pursue a degree in graphic design and illustration at UEL.
One of my favourite aspects of UEL were the lecturers. Each one was so different and opened my eyes to so many perspectives and ideas. Throughout the course, I found myself really interested in photography and I had access to the equipment store and just got involved. The rest is history. Now, as a Graphic Design graduate I am pursuing a career in this area.
In October, I've been invited to lead a photography workshop at a youth club which is something that I'm really looking forward to. I'll be able to not only share my love for photography but also to emphasise to younger generations the power that creative work can play in bringing awareness to inequality and starting conversations about it.
Hugues, BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate