Sun-drenched photos that will make you long for summertime
The established and emerging photographers featured in Something Special Studios' annual photo book share their visual diary of the season.
Photography Nathalie Basoski
Summer is a season for the senses. Be it the feeling of the warm sun on your skin, the sweet taste of a popsicle from an ice cream truck or the loud music playing out the car speakers. Pleasure is prioritized above all else, and families and friends come together to celebrate the season as a community. Summer 2021, specifically, marked a careful return to all-night parties and long cookouts following last year’s isolation and protest, which New York and LA-based creative agency Something Special Studios immortalized in their third edition of Summer of Something Special. For the annual photo book, established and emerging photographers from around the world contributed images that illustrate their idea of summer, creating their own visual diary of the season as they see it. In addition to being an opportunity for photographers to explore new themes in their work, all proceeds support Ghetto Film School, a non-profit that educates the next generation of filmmakers.
For the upcoming release of Summer of Something Special, we spoke to five of the featured photographers — Kennedi Carter, Christopher Currence, Jasmine Clarke, Kersti Jan Werdal and Ibrahem Hasan — about the images they contributed, their photographic practice and how this past summer offered a reprieve from the trauma of the past 18 months.
“The great raptress Saweetie said it best: ‘Something for the girls to have fun to, something for the summertime,’” Kennedi Carter wrote over email when I asked what feelings this season evoked for her. Taken in her home state of North Carolina, her photographs of family and friends capture a sense of everyday pleasure and relaxation amongst Black communities in the American South. Her photographs showcase the ease and joy of Southern summers, from bucolic landscapes dotted with cars and horses to a portrait of a young girl escaping the heat in a kiddie pool. For Kennedi, these images symbolize a renewed sense of inspiration. She says that she spent her early years as a photographer thinking she had to leave North Carolina to make “the most dynamic work”. She continued: “All I had to really do was tap into my environment and the people around me that inspire me most. This series is an ode to them.”
Brooklyn-based photographer Christopher Currence saw Summer of Something Special as a way to showcase the native New Yorkers of his borough, many of whom risk displacement due to skyrocketing rent and gentrification. His photographs are a mixture of landscapes and portraits, capturing everything from security guards and a stray pup to motorbike races and custom cars. The series is an extension of Christopher’s photographic practice in which he aims to show “how portrait and landscape photography can enrich the culture of a community.” He says, “Photo documentation allows me to create a space where people from my community can be appreciated and celebrated. Unfortunately, when underrepresented communities go undocumented, it’s as if they never existed. I am pushing against that with my camera.” Christopher’s street scenes also signify the city’s rebirth after the winter months, as people head outside with their neighbors to enjoy the season: “Everyone exudes a new confidence after having been cooped up in the house during the winter. There is a new vibrance about life not just in nature, but also from people.”
For Summer of Something Special, Brooklyn-based photographer Jasmine Clarke leaned into the small pleasures of summertime. The series pictures Jasmine’s daily life, capturing family and friends in leisurely and intimate moments amongst the outdoors. She also includes a group of still-lifes that distill the recreational essence of summer in a series of objects: dominoes, flowering plants and cut fruit. Jasmine’s images are candy-colored and sun-dappled, which was an intentional move for the photographer. “I felt really drawn to bright colors and notions of play,” she says. “There’s a saccharine quality to summer. It’s a sticky time, [and] I wanted that to come through in the photographs.” The intimate moments she lensed — such as a friend lounging in bed or a close-up of a person’s head, covered in sand from laying down on the beach — mark a return to pleasure and connectivity, which was nearly impossible in 2020. Jasmine says that, “After the past year, it felt exciting to be able to safely spend time with loved ones; the images reflect some of that much-wanted levity.”
Kersti Jan Werdal
Kersti Jan Werdal’s images follow two sisters at the precipice of adulthood. After working with a girl named Atla on the accompanying short film for Fleet Foxes’ 2020 LP Shore, Kersti wanted to reunite with the teen for a series of portraits. Upon her arrival to Alta’s family home in Washington State, the scope of the project expanded to include Alta’s sister Mairin and then-boyfriend. The portraits are reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, rendered in cool, hazy tones and full of adolescent ennui. With the inclusion of handwritten letters from the sisters about their upbringing and uneasy future, the series became more of a “collaborative” effort between the three. The conflicting excitement and fear in the photographs syncs with Kersti’s complex feelings about the season: “Summer to me is freedom, a time to play and also a time to do nothing. It can be hot and oppressive, but one can always find moments of relief involving some type of water source. I also feel summer is full of anxiety — thrilling anxiety at the start, only to be replaced with anxiety of it coming to a close.”
Ibrahem Hasan distilled the kinetic, liberatory feeling of summer into photographs he took of the Mangueira Samba School at Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome following their victory at 2019’s Carnival. Ibrahem embedded with the dancers during their final performance, disguising himself as one to evade security. From his vantage point inside the performance, he was granted an intimate look into Carnival festivities and culture. His photographs — a majority of which are intimate portraits of the participants and performers — showcase the quieter moments in between the Carnival spectacle, such as two dancers making eye contact or a Brazilian elder looking proudly at the camera. Ibrahem also notes that the Mangueira dancers channelled Brazilian resistance following the 2018 assassination of city councillor Marielle Franco by performing “a samba song that talked about the unsung Brazilian heroes, many of them indigenous, Black or women, such as Franco.” As for his own summers growing up on Chicago’s Southside, Ibrahem recalls a time when “summertime was full of BBQs, excessive humidity, blues, dripping sweat, traffic, Maxwell Street, the L train, bumping tribe, eight homies in a two door, hooping or skating all day, people on edge, murder rate on the rise, colors, sunrise at the Belmont rocks, warehouse parties, clothing-optional kinda vibes.” Both his photographs and summer memories represent a type of political power that can be found in celebration — a joyous defiance that comes alive in the summer.