Who is Misan Harriman? The first black male photographer to shoot British 'Vogue' cover in its 104-year history

Harriman said he was 'honoured' to shoot the cover during 'the biggest civil rights movement in modern history'

The British 'Vogue' September 2020 cover features 20 activists from around the world, and was photographed by Misan Harriman. Courtesy Vogue
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For its September issue, British Vogue has presented a series of covers featuring notable activists from around the world under the cover line, "Activism now".

The main cover features British model Adwoa Aboah with footballer Marcus Rashford that then folds out to reveal photos of 18 more people championing social reform.

The photos were taken by Nigeria-born Misan Harriman. He is the first black photographer to shoot a British Vogue September cover in the magazine's 104-year history, and the first black male ever to shoot a cover. Nadine Ijewere was the first black photographer, she shot the January 2019 cover.

"To be the first Black male photographer in British Vogue's 104-year history to shoot a cover and the first Black person to ever shoot a September issue cover ... is an honour," Harriman wrote on Instagram.

He paid tribute to Edward Enninful, the British Vogue editor who became the first black person to helm the magazine when he took over from Alexandra Shulman in 2017.

Of Enninful, Harriman wrote: "His ability to force change whilst empowering others is a lesson to us all. He knows that there are many talented people from a diverse background who have never had a fair chance, finally the door is ajar."

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  Misan Harriman attends AllBright's inaugural BrightList Awards 2020 at all-female members club The AllBright Mayfair on March 9, 2020 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for AllBright)
Photographer Misan Harriman. Getty Images

Harriman took up photography in 2016 following a career in finance. He has photographed the likes of Stormzy, Rihanna, Janet Jackson and Olivia Colman in the past. In 2019, he took Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi's official engagement photos.

However, it's arguably the photos he captured of London's Black Lives Matter protests in June that got him the most attention.

"Misan’s pictures were so striking and powerful and really resonated with myself and our readers," says Enninful of his work. "I soon realised that his work was era-defining – and that he was the voice that was missing in the magazine."

Of the opportunity to shoot the September cover, Harriman told Vogue:  "This is the biggest civil rights movement in modern history. It's not exactly couture. I am a cog in a wheel that is going to produce something that could change someone's perspective on how they see the world.

"This is a chance to enter the homes of thousands of people and ensure that they have hope and understanding in their hearts at this moment. And that is not something that happens every day."

The activists on the 'Vogue' cover 

As well as Aboah and Rashford, the fold-out cover features a group of notable changemakers, many of whom are in the public eye, others who are not. Inside the magazine, a total of 40 campaigners are spotlighted.

They include the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors; Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race author Reni Eddo-Lodge; Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, a young man who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in London in 1993; and Justice4Grenfell campaigner Yvette Williams.

Household names such as BBC Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo; actors Riz Ahmed and Jesse Williams; models Munroe Bergdorf and Joan Smalls; and Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, also feature.

The full British 'Vogue' cover by Misan Harriman: 

The British 'Vogue' September 2020 cover features 20 activists from around the world, and was photographed by Misan Harriman. Courtesy Vogue
The British 'Vogue' September 2020 cover features 20 activists from around the world, and was photographed by Misan Harriman. Courtesy Vogue

The magazine is available to buy and download from Friday, August 7.