Taken from the new print issue of THE FACE. Get your copy here.
Cassandra Joseph, 25, and Sulay Kelly, 24, were out on a limb this time last year.
Specialising in art direction and photography, respectively, the pandemic saw London-based Joseph lose her job creating content for a wellness brand, while Kelly waited out lockdowns with his family in France.
“I was panicking, but also loving it because I was getting to work on my own projects and stuff that I’d put off for ages,” says Joseph, looking back at her period of Covid unemployment. “One of the projects that I haven’t posted anywhere yet was about the concept of longing for a whine, because we missed Carnival last year. It was an ode to Carnival, photographing what we would wear and basically [saying] we want it back!”
With her newfound free time, she also decided to enrol on a content production course, which gave her the chance to flex her creative muscles by trying her hand at filmmaking.
“That really spurred me on to go after a job in my field again. Through that opportunity, they recommended that I apply for THE FACE x Moncler’s Future Academy.”
What is the Future Academy, you ask? Launched last year, it’s an initiative that helps young creatives get their foot in the door in the arts and media industries that are often inaccessible to those without existing connections. There’s no need for A*s in English Lit or CVs littered with previous internships. All we’re looking for is talent.
Joseph and Sulay became two of the 52 up-and-coming creatives chosen for the programme, which gave them access to masterclasses and mentoring from the industries’ best. And from that inaugural cohort, the pair were also selected to work at THE FACE’s London HQ to create a shoot about performance, featuring Lagos musician Prettyboy D‑O, that can be found in our Autumn 2021 issue.
For Kelly, the Future Academy was the “only thing that would bring me back to London” in early 2021. He’d initially moved to the capital to pursue freelance photography in February 2020, you see, two weeks before lockdown number one hit.
“So, yeah, I freelanced for about two weeks [before everything shut down],” he laughs. But he decided to ride out the pandemic in London until the end of the year, after which he moved back to be with his family in France – until the Future Academy came calling.
“I’m always so wired and tapped into work, but lockdown was a time to also unwind. I played FIFA a lot, I relaxed. It was weird,” Kelly says of his time in and out of lockdowns. But while the downtime was refreshing, his future was up in the air, particularly once he’d tapped out on London life. “If I hadn’t got the Future Academy place it would have been like ‘Do I stay in France? Am I gonna wait out this pandemic? What am I going to do?’”
But that uncertainty is now a thing of the past. After completing their six-month project for the Future Academy, both Joseph and Sulay landed full-time gigs at THE FACE, putting everything they’ve learned to good use while working on commercial projects and partnerships. “Joining the team at a full time capacity after Future Academy really topped off an already great experience,” says Kelly. “I’m looking forward to continuing to create great work with everyone.”
Naturally, their ambitions don’t stop there.
“I’m looking to photograph footballers,” says Kelly. “It’s an interesting time for them with everything that’s happened during Covid, from Marcus Rashford to the Euros. Footballers in general are taking up a bigger space in society and people are looking at them as more than just footballers now.”
For Joseph, working on the Future Academy project has inspired her to explore more image-led storytelling.
“My time at THE FACE has brought out more of my editorial side, because I think the kind of images that accompany editorial pieces are way more interesting when you know the actual story behind them,” she says. “So I want to do more storytelling [through images] and filmmaking.”
And the big, whisper-it dreams? Sulay Kelly has his sights set on Kanye West and Paul Pogba collabs, while Cassandra Joseph’s “dream project” is documenting Dominica’s remaining Carib community. Manifest it.