‘If you conquer London, you can conquer anything. It is nice to get away, but I honestly think London is the best place to be,’ he says. Even north of the river? He laughs in mild agreement.
As the only male growing up with three sisters and a fashion-conscious mother, Kakembo is an interesting mix of masculinity, femininity and tradition. A freelance photographer, Kakembo is fine-tuned to what is going on around him. He talks vividly about his favourite parts of the city, whipping out his phone, and showing me pictures of places I’d have never thought of visiting.
So what does he think is London’s best-kept secret?
‘It has to be the Thames Path,’ he says before noticing my confused expression, and adding, ‘You don’t know what that is, do you?’ Shaking his head in disbelief he describes how beautiful, peaceful and picturesque the National Trail is along the Thames. ‘If you ever feel like you need to properly see London, go there. You’ll be surprised.’
Brick Lane is another favourite haunt. ‘Everyone is there; you feel the multiculturalism,’ he says. It’s this sense of diversity that largely inspires his work. The 22-year-old captures everything from the catwalks at London Fashion Week to children playing barefoot in India and South America.
‘It’s good to travel,’ he says. ‘You see how the world sees you; you learn how others perceive beauty.’ The female aesthetic varies enormously across the globe; in India many women are obsessed with skin complexion, buying lightening creams to achieve a more westernised look, whereas in Africa women celebrate curves. ‘The bigger you are in Africa, the better.’
You seem quite infatuated by women, I point out.
‘I was raised around female company!’ he shoots back. ‘I’m fascinated by women, and [female issues]’ Kakembo admits that glamour and fashion are a huge appeal to him. Although he’s quick to add that he loves football (you only have to check his Twitter for evidence of this).
Does he think fashion needs to be more inclusive? ‘Fashion is a fantasy,’ he says but concedes that the industry can be narrow-minded. ‘The most decorated woman is a size zero,’ he says, adding that in photography a whole host of variables can be manipulated to influence women. ‘Styling, angles, lighting. They’re all used.’
But is such manipulation dangerous? He pauses, before suggesting that if Kate Middleton was a size 16 more women would have something to aspire to, however photographers are simply striving to create the most beautiful pictures.
Image by Paul Hartnett