Misan Harriman hopes to encourage employers to cast the recruitment net more widely with his Vogue cover portrait of influential Black activists in place of the usual pouting stars.
Footballer Marcus Rashford, who helped force a UK government U-turn on children’s meal vouchers, and Adwoa Aboah, a model and mental health campaigner are featured with the banner “Activism Now, The Faces of Hope” on the front of the fashion bible.
For Harriman, the first Black male photographer to shoot a UK Vogue cover, the picture is “really of this moment”, reflecting a summer of protest for social justice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
It was Harriman’s pictures of London’s Black Lives Matter movements that brought him to the attention of UK Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, himself the first Black person to lead the magazine.
Vogue needed to change in the wake of the protests and the coronavirus pandemic, Enninful told the BBC, and that is what led to Harriman’s cover for the September issue.
“You couldn’t just sell, you know, beautiful clothes and shoes when the world was going through such a crisis,” the editor said.
Leafing through the magazine in his garden, Harriman said he felt cover stars Rashford and Aboah represented both hope and empathy and reflected on his own achievement.
He is the first Black man ever to shoot a Vogue cover after Nadine Ijewere became the first Black photographer to shoot a cover when she did the January 2019 issue.
“If you’re looking for a talent in a non-diverse place then it doesn’t matter because you’ll never see the talent,” he said in an interview.
“So I think you have to cast the net wide. I’m not the only black photographer – there are thousands, hundreds of thousands, of amazing black photographers out there.”
The September issue traditionally sells more copies as fashions shift from summer to winter. Last year it was guest-edited by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and featured influential women on the front.