Photographer Thandiwe Muriu wants her models to both blend in and stand out at the same time. The images in her Camo – short for camouflage – series create an optical illusion where the person in the photograph almost disappears yet it is impossible to ignore her. The young Kenyan’s playful work has the feel of a glossy high-fashion magazine but also has a deeper meaning.
“I love fashion photography, I could do that all day, but I realised it needs to be fashion photography that is a reflection of who I am and my background,” she tells the BBC. “That is how the Camo series came about.” The funky fabrics, elaborate hairstyles and improvised eyewear are an attractive and witty celebration of the 30-year-old’s culture.
But there is also a critique. Inspired by the images she saw in her sister’s Vogue magazine collection, Muriu went into commercial photography, which in Kenya is male-dominated. As the project developed, Muriu became more intentional about her exploration of African beauty. She researches historical and traditional hairstyles. Then with the help of a stylist gives them a “modern, funky twist but they are based on hair that our ancestors actually used to wear”, she says.