Raised on the Caribbean island of Nevis, home to a population of 11,108 people, photographer Kacey Jeffers’ debut monograph, UNIFORM, documents students from 14 different Nevisian schools, comprising a total of 26 striking and sensitively captured portraits. “I see myself as a story-teller,” Jeffers says. Following a move to New York to pursue a career in photography, Jeffers was required to return home to Nevis for a time. He explains to Something Curated, “My visa was up in September 2018, so I had to leave the US.”
“Initially the uncertainty of it all was daunting. Would I be able to continue creating? Did I even want to continue photography? What was my bigger picture? What was my purpose? I went on a deep journey of self-discovery and so much of that was stripping away notions of who I should be as a human being, and by extension, as a photographer. This process allowed me to see deeper and to give myself permission to be free. I asked myself, “What can I create right now that only I can create?”,” the photographer tells.
Expanding on the thinking behind UNIFORM, Jeffers continues, “The idea of a uniform was personal and cultural but I felt that it ticked different boxes; it is a timeless concept that fuses different elements of photography such as fashion, portraiture and documentary. I was aware that I was shooting Nevisian youth and wanted each person to feel like their own individual, have their own personality and for their presence to be palpable.”
“Growing up I had never seen any images of people I knew or people who looked like me. So I wanted this project to fill that void but also to be one that could connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, on the level of humanness. To further give the youth a voice, I interviewed each of them and each image is accompanied by a blurb of their thoughts. UNIFORM is a celebration of visibility, representation and individuality as told through the wearing of school uniforms. I feel I was a vessel for this project and that gives me immense satisfaction and fills me with gratitude.”
Offering insight into his upbringing and how he became interested in photography, Jeffers says: “I was born and raised in Nevis. Photography wasn’t something I thought about as a viable career path. I never even considered myself to be creative or artistic. Our island heavily encourages more formal careers. My interest in this world was piqued first through modelling. I spent countless hours online on Tumblr and theFashionSpot looking at images and reading about the fashion industry – I believe this was instrumental in shaping the way I saw, by the time I transitioned to photography.”
Jeffers proceeds, “My first engagement with photography was out of necessity: I had a point and shoot camera and would take images of myself that I used in my portfolio. In 2011 I was signed to an agency in London. At the same time a friend of mine who is a photographer was in London and I assisted him. That was when it shifted for me, from wanting to model to wanting to be behind the lens. In 2015 I left Nevis and moved to New York where I am now based.”
Feature image: Aniya, 10, Joycelyn Liburd Primary School / Images courtesy Kacey Jeffers