Kacey Jeffers Humanizes Youth Culture

Kacey Jeffers Humanizes Youth Culture

The 31-year-old photographer creates humane portraits in his home island of Nevis.

The 31-year-old photographer creates humane portraits in his home island of Nevis.

Photography: Kacey Jeffers

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

Trivia buffs may know Nevis as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. But to its 12,000 residents, the tiny Caribbean isle is far more than a historical, Lin Manuel-adjacent footnote. 31-year-old, Nevis-born photographer Kacey Jeffers captures as much in his debut book, Uniform, a localized portrait of youth culture seen through Jeffers’s uniquely qualified lens. 

Though born and raised in Nevis, Jeffers is something of an expat. Before finding a foothold in the New York and London fashion industries—first as a model and then as a photographer for the likes of Vogue.it and V—Jeffers says that the prospect of a viable, creatively satisfying career in Nevis was slim. “Growing up, I didn’t even know about photography per se,” Jeffers says. “There was a disconnect when it came to creativity: [In school] they don’t [teach you] anything related to the arts, or what is outside of a traditional ‘job’ in their mindset. So I didn’t realize I'd been this creative person all along.”  

It wasn’t until catching an early cycle of America’s Next Top Model that the young Jeffers apprehended the existence of the fashion industry at large. “I was maybe 16 or 17 when I [first saw] Top Model. It was like, Oh wow, interesting! Something piqued [my interest],” Jeffers recalls. “That was my entry point, and a few years later, I was spending a summer in London, modeling and learning photography.”

When his work visa expired in late 2018, Jeffers saw an opportunity to pay it forward. Temporarily diverted back home, he undertook an ambitious yet personal project: individually photographing and profiling a sample of students from each of the island’s 14 schools. Across the board, Jeffers says he intimately recognized the students’ scholastic garb—a leftover custom from the island’s days as a British colony—as well as their mix of optimism and uncertainty. “[I saw] a real fear there, especially among the older [kids], about finishing school and not finding jobs [that] they are really passionate about,” he recalls. 

But Nevis's job-market realities don’t mean its students don't harbor big dreams: the student subjects in Uniform range from aspiring engineers to nascent red-carpet stylists. All they were missing, Jeffers suggests, was a voice. “I asked one student—her name was Alesha—to tell me what she was passionate about," he recalls. "That might’ve been the first time she was asked [that], because you could see something switch. It was just really brilliant to see her light up.” 

Below, see inside Jeffers’s self-published book, Uniform.

On cover: Juliska, 11, Ivor Walters Primary School (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Kijuante, 12, Cecele Browne Integrated Primary School (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Thaine, 12 Maude Crosse Preparatory (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Shanelly, 13, Charlestown Secondary School (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Book layout 1 (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Aqui-La, 11, Elizabeth Pemberton Primary School (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Apryll, 16, Gingerland Secondary School (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Adunijah, 12, Violet O. Jeffers-Nicholls Primary School (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Book layout 2 (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)
Aniya, 10, Joycelyn Liburd Primary School (Courtesy: Kacey Jeffers)

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