Based in London since 2010, Gambian-Spanish make-up artist Ammy Drammeh has worked with an impressive roster of artists, designers and publications, including the likes of Solange and FKA twigs, ASAI, Vogue, Love Magazine, and British fashion photographer Tim Walker, capturing the industry’s attention with her original approach to storytelling and inventive use of colour. Drammeh’s outlook on make-up, and fashion as a whole, is perhaps epitomised by her own description of her aesthetic as, “real, more than natural.” Commencing Something Curated’s new series, Canons Of Beauty, highlighting the practices of boundary-pushing young make-up artists, SC spoke with Drammeh to learn more about her work, favourite collaborators, and how she’s handling the present lockdown.
Something Curated: Can you give us some insight into your background; how did you enter the field of make-up?
Ammy Drammeh: I always knew I wanted to be a make-up artist. I grew up in Sabadell, an industrial city not far from Barcelona. I think I was about 13 years old when one of my classmates let me borrow a Kevin Aucoin book her aunty gave her. I had it for about a week and my friends would come around and I would “recreate” the looks. I was doing make-up all the time, on friends, family members, my school teachers. When I turned 16 my teacher told my parents that I should pursue a career as a makeup artist. My parents didn’t really understand, I was a good student and makeup wasn’t something they had considered as a serious career but they went with it.
I moved to London a few years after that, but I did not work as a make-up artist for about 3 years, and then I decided to get started again. I had a full-time job in retail and I didn’t know anyone from the industry. I started doing little photoshoots with random people. That gave me the confidence again. A year later I started assisting, got a part time job and the rest was really a very steady evolution. Definitely my 3 years assisting different artists was what taught me the most, seeing all these completely different approaches to make-up, all beautiful in their way, helped me find my own.
SC: Do you recognise an ethos or conceptual thread that tethers your diverse body of work?
AD: It’s hard to tell. I don’t tent to overthink what I do; it’s driven by how I feel and what each particular project wants to reflect. Over the years I have developed my own particular style and I think it comes from everything I’ve been surrounded by when I grew up and the things I would have like to see back then.
SC: What are you excited to work on next, and how is the pandemic affecting the way you’re operating at present?
AD: I am really excited to get back to it, just being on set with other people. I am very privileged to be able to stay at home during this pandemic. This situation has just emphasised lots of things that need to be changed.
SC: Do you have any favourite collaborators you particularly enjoy working with?
AD: I love working with Campbell Addy and Ibrahim Kamara – they are family. We met years ago, they were both students at Central Saint Martins, we clicked instantly, and we have been collaborating ever since. It’s so great when another creative mind gets you. There is a level of trust and respect that allows you to be your best. It is challenging sometimes to get your point across, that is something that I’ve learnt in the past few years working with different teams and it is so rewarding to see that people who I looked up to and admired for so many years are so open and understand the importance of collaboration. I consider myself extremely lucky; I get to work with fantastic teams, from hair stylists and nail artists to set designers. They inspire me very much.
SC: You have a very sensitive and beautiful approach to using colour – could you expand a little on this?
AD: I take a more cinematic approach to make-up. It’s not about creating something beautiful but more about developing a character and conveying a feeling. Colour is a powerful communication tool and I like to play with that, transforming our idea or meaning into colour.
SC: What do you want to learn more about?
AD: Anthropology and history. I have always enjoyed knowing more about past and present societies.
Feature image: ASAI S/S19. Make-up by Ammy Drammeh. Photography by Hendrik Schneider (via @ammydrammeh)