Pin It
Gabriel Moses, Regina (2023)
Photography Gabriel Moses

Inside rising photographer Gabriel Moses’ debut exhibition

As his first exhibition Regina opens at 180 The Strand, Moses speaks with Dazed about the ways in which memory – both individual and collective – inspired the show

At 17 years old, Gabriel Moses spent his days making short films about his friends on the football pitch. He would direct and shoot them in line with his creative vision, and then upload them to YouTube where they would get no more than a hundred views. “That didn’t matter to me,” Moses tells Dazed. “There was a sense of accomplishment in creating something that was in your head for the world to see.”

Now, just three years later, Moses – who has quickly established himself as one of London’s most prolific photographers and filmmakers – is gearing up for his first solo exhibition, Regina at 180 The Strand. The show will include between 50 to 60 photographs from his work across fashion, music and sport, and will premiere two short films, including Ijó which follows a group of young ballet dancers at the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos, Nigeria, and Regina, which features performances from a number of Moses’ friends. Alongside being the youngest photographer to ever shoot the cover of Dazed, the show is just the latest in a long list of the photographer’s accomplishments.

“My career has always been full of moments where someone offers me an opportunity, even this exhibition, at a time that makes a lot of sense,” he explains. “It’s funny how it takes people who believe in your stuff before it makes sense to everyone else.”

There is no doubt that Moses’ rise within the creative industries has been meteoric, but fashion photography wasn’t always on the cards. Growing up, Moses describes being surrounded by his sister’s reference images that she assembled as part of her fashion studies. “At the time I didn’t think it was interesting,” he recalls. It was only when he picked up his first camera in his late teens that he started to develop an interest in fashion – and a keen eye for what he believed makes a beautiful image.

His idea of beauty has since resonated with many of his contemporaries. Moses, who is self-taught, has in a short time developed a distinct style characterised by deep tones and rich textures. His images are truthful, authentic, complex, and narrative-driven, composed of characters inspired by memory and fantasy in equal measure. The overall aim, he says, is to create honest art that transcends time; and art that celebrates the women that have shaped who he is today. 

Ahead of his exhibition opening, Moses speaks with Dazed about faith, community and the power of collective memory.

What inspired the title of the exhibition, Regina? 

Gabriel Moses: ‘Regina’ is actually the name of my studio, but it also means ‘queen’ in Latin. This show is a salute to the women in my life; my sister, my nieces, my grandma. I’ve always had a huge respect for the women in my life and the role they’ve played in everything about me: the way I speak to people, the respect I have for others.

And then [the show] also references Regina, the signature that the Queen would use to sign off her letters. I always found it quite interesting actually, like it’s the same thing when you go to Crown Court: a case is always Regina versus [the individual]. The word has so many connotations to different people.

The show is made up of around 50 photographs from your career across fashion, music, and sport. What are the necessary ingredients to creating an image you’re proud of? 

Gabriel Moses: I’ve had my studio since July. Before that, I worked a lot from my bedroom and never really archived or organised my photography. I would just keep churning out work over the past two or three years without reflecting on what I had done. We become a bit like machines in that sense, always focused on what’s next without looking back. It wasn’t until I collected everything I’d done and put it onto one document that I realised how much I had actually done: like, at what point did I do all this?

Looking back, I realised that I had been creating work that represented me and how I see the world. I do it subconsciously. I’m very stubborn about what I see as beautiful; I don’t care what others have done in the past. It’s all in the same world… all my editorial, celebrity, and music work connect visually.

“I want my work to have a sense of timelessness – in that it could have just as easily been shot in 2023 as it could have been shot in a completely different time period” – Gabriel Moses

You reference black-and-white ancestral photography as having shaped your aesthetic. In what ways has it informed the tone, composition and subject matter of Regina?

Gabriel Moses: I love Malick Sidibé’s work, both visually and in terms of the subjects he photographed. Back in the day in Mali, people would pass through [his] studio to have their photos taken. You see so many different characters [in his work], from children to soldiers to people celebrating their birthdays. He found beauty in everyday people and in the community. It’s the same way I approach my casting as in how can I create characters within this world?

I also [look to] family photos, like pictures of my grandma. When I look at her photos, I see confidence in the way she dressed and used tones. I also love the texture of the images in the same way that when we look at old family photos it’s like, what is it that we like about them? Is it the tones? Or is it the fact that it’s an aged photo, so it looks a certain way or has a particular texture? I want to create that feeling today. That’s why a lot of my work is heavily textured. I want my work to have a sense of timelessness – in that it could have just as easily been shot in 2023 as it could have been shot in a completely different time period.

And in what way do themes related to memory – both collective and individual – recur throughout the show?

Gabriel Moses: My taste comes from my memories – I didn’t study any of this in school. I struggle to watch films; I’ve got a proper short attention span. It’s the same with photography. It’s only recently I’ve begun studying other photographers and fashion imagery from the past. A lot of my interests come from memories of being around my sister growing up when she was studying fashion. She had reference images lying around her bedroom, but at the time I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was shit.

But then, the second I picked up a camera, it was like I knew what a nice image was. I love beautiful things, and my mum definitely understood that in me. She’d arrange flowers in the house and run arts and crafts workshops at Sunday school. She was all about pushing creativity. At 17, I was very confident in my taste and in my ability to trust what I see as beautiful. 

You are premiering two new short films that you have both written and directed as part of the exhibition. What was the creative process behind the film? 

Gabriel Moses: I remember coming across Leap of Dance Academy, a ballet school in western Lagos, and I was blown away. I had always wanted to create a film about a discipline with children because I find them so interesting. I’ve always loved how children love everyone, you know? They don’t care what work you do. As adults, we become more rigid and focus on superficial things like work, but children don’t care about those things.

“At 17, I was very confident in my taste and in my ability to trust what I see as beautiful” – Gabriel Moses 

How about the film Regina? How do the themes in the film build on your existing body of work?

Gabriel Moses: Regina is fun. I never learned the technical ways to make films or take photos, so I literally just went off my instinct, and what I see as cool and beautiful. Regina is a reflection of my imagination in a film; like a series of moments that I’ve found interesting and that I wanted to bring out to the world. It’s what I see when I close my eyes. The film features amazing performances from various people, including some of my friends. It’s a bit of a mess; there are many clips from Regina available online that together form one long film.

It sounds a bit like how you described the first few films you made that you dropped on Youtube. 

Gabriel Moses: Yeah, exactly. The way I work is that I have an idea, I make it happen, and then I drop it on the internet. I don’t follow the traditional route of getting it published or anything like that. If five people see it, or if 500 people see it, that’s my audience, you know? I don't overthink the process, I’m just like, let’s do it.

I don’t put any pressure on myself because I feel like I have nothing to lose. Every day that I wake up is a blessing, and every day that I am able to do what I do for a living is already a win for me.

Gabriel Moses’ Regina is running at 180 The Strand from April 5 until April 30, 2023.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for purposes of clarity and length.

Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.