Kacey Jeffers desires folks to really feel like they’re seen in his images
Self-taught photographer Kacey Jeffers initially never saw getting creative as a viable option when she was growing up in Nevis, a small island in the Caribbean Sea. "Nevisian culture drives very traditional career paths," he told CR. “When I was around 16, I got interested in modeling and it opened up a whole new world for me. Years later, in my early twenties, when I was modeling in London, I realized that I very much preferred to be behind the camera. And the rest is history. "
Jeffers started taking photos in 2012 and bought his first camera with his modeling income. To learn the ropes, he went on YouTube and watched everything to understand the basics of the medium. "I'm not into the technical stuff. I feel like I learned more about photography by looking at fashion pictures from the 80s and 90s," he says. "Pictures from that period are so amazing. The compositions! The stories! The light! The models! The locations! "
Above: Mother tries the pot. Above: Juliska, uniform. All pictures: Kacey Jeffers
Jeffers fuses elements of these images with portrait and reportage photography and sees his style and approach rooted in classic photography, but with a twist. “It's emotional, moody, colorful and real. My inspirations range from art to music, ”he says. "Historically, I was informed by the likes of Peter Lindbergh, Cindy Sherman and Gordon Parks. Now I draw references from my own life. I often ask myself," What in the world do I want to see? "
Jeffers draws from his experience as a model and believes it gives him an understanding of what his subjects need to be more comfortable and to build trust. He also has the language to explain to his subjects what he needs from them in terms of movements or poses. "I'm not just throwing orders like" Put your hands on your hips! "Off. I can actually show them or take them apart in a meaningful way."
UncontrolledBe a man
Previous projects have mostly been done in the form of portraits, including an elaborate series for Vogue Italia. “I like to tell stories in which I can see myself and that allow others to feel seen,” he says. "I feel like my work is now exploring issues related to identity, culture, representation and visibility."
One of his most recent series, Uniform, was a much larger project, and Jeffers traveled back to Nevis to photograph children from the island's local schools. The photo book was published by Jeffers himself last year. "I had the idea in October 2018 and could only tackle it in summer 2019. It should be a book from the start," he explains. “I met with the headmasters and told them about the project. I asked her to introduce students who weren't always in the spotlight. It was exciting going to schools and not knowing where the places would be or who the students were. "
Jeffers enjoyed the feeling of going into a shoot a little blind, guided only by his inner sense of what he wanted from the project.
“Over the course of two weeks towards the end of the 2019 school year, I went around the island to 14 schools and photographed children between the ages of ten and 18. I spent about an hour at each school taking pictures and interviewing each student, ”he says. “I worked with two designers on the design of the book and had the books printed in China. The whole process was really a learning experience. "
Alesha, uniformThaine, uniform
While the past year was mostly spent promoting uniform, Jeffers feels that there are more photo books on the horizon and open to all sorts of other projects. “I'm currently in Nevis and there are times when a British production company is filming on the island. They set up an acting academy and I decided to do it, ”says Jeffers. "I see myself as a creative who tells stories and sometimes photography isn't enough to do that. So I'm always ready to explore new ways in which I can honor my creativity." I'm definitely trying to figure out my next right steps, and that in and of itself is a project these days. "
Ultimately, Jeffers hopes through his photography that people will feel seen and that a sense of belonging will develop. "I want people to feel like they are connected to something that is greater than their immediate experience or circumstances," he says. "I want to create work that maintains the human connection."