On the first Saturday of June Old Bradfieldian Misan Harriman was being led by his camera. Anxious about leaving his house in the thick of a global pandemic, the circumstances compelled him to join something bigger than his anxiety. He picked up a camera and caught a train to Waterloo and through Parliament Square to the US Embassy, joining the thousands of people voicing their disgust following the abhorrent killing of George Floyd over 4,000 miles away.

What he captured through his lens was life-changing and would lead to him making history.

“I needed to join the protests, to go out there as a black man who felt helpless,” explains Misan six months later via a Zoom chat. Wearing a ‘Choose Love’ hoodie he recalls what his wife told him as the events unfolded. “She told me to look to my camera and that’s what I did. The numbers [on the streets] were impressive but the genuine sense of camaraderie amongst people from all walks of life was infectious and overwhelming and I’m so thankful for what I saw.”


What he saw was England U21 hockey player, Darcy Bourne, with her hand painted ‘Why is ending racism a debate?’ sign amidst the Black Lives Matter protests. The photo went viral, shared by a number of influential figures including Martin Luther King III, Dina Asher- Smith and Lewis Hamilton, becoming one of the most shared Civil Rights pictures in history.

“As a photographer you know when there’s something special. I saw the sign and the intensity in her eyes so I politely asked if she could stand on the street facing me. As I pressed the shutter somebody behind her punched their fist into the air in solidarity which was just the icing on the cake. The question itself is why it’s so powerful. Why is ending racism still a debate is a question that sounds so simple but, frankly speaking, many people are ashamed that it still needs to be asked.”

One of the influential figures sharing the image is the man Misan credits with changing his life. Edward Enninful, editor of British Vogue, saw Misan’s protest images, describing them as ‘era-defining’, and provided the self-taught photographer the opportunity to make history as the first black man to shoot a cover of the century-old magazine.

“At that point I didn’t even know I was the first anything. I had to focus on continuing to breathe out of the shock. I had been waiting for this kind of opportunity my whole life so I had to get to it to avoid disappointing this man who put so much trust in me and that’s exactly what I did.”

The September issue, based around voices of hope, saw Misan photograph an army of activists, including cover stars Adwoa Aboah, founder of the Gurls Talk project which gives women a safe space to discuss feminist issues, and Marcus Rashford, the Premier League footballer, who is an ambassador for the charity FareShare and who has challenged the Government to provide free school meals for disadvantaged children during the pandemic. For Misan it was all about portraying empathy.

“You hope the world feels what you felt when you’re in that moment, photographing these extraordinary people who treat others the way they would treat a family member. If I captured just 1% of who I feel they are, I think people are going to love it, and the rest, as they say, is history.”




Misan’s journey is far from conventional. Born into a wealthy Nigerian family, he and his brothers were all privately educated at different schools, something he does not shy away from. What made Bradfield the right fit for him?

“A big part of why I have fond memories is the people. There was less of a sense of entitlement with Bradfield pupils, the school didn’t promote that kind of behaviour. I also loved the Music and Arts and the Greek Theatre,” he says, struggling to stifle amusement as he remembers playing one of Big Jule’s Minders in Guys and Dolls. “There’s also a poetry to the grounds that few schools still have and I love the fact Richard Adams went there; Watership Down is right up there with my favourites.”


That ability to seek out cultural history and to understand its significance is where Misan’s path to being one of today’s most sought-after photographers began. He wasn’t behind the camera at Bradfield but was a passionate observer of pop culture.

“I was the guy that would say ‘Oh My God, have you seen Back to the Future or The Last of The Mohicans? Have you listened to this song? Do you know this producer? Have you seen these pictures: the Hollywood lot photographs of Audrey Hepburn, Eve Arnold’s observation of Marilyn Monroe? I was known to ‘bang on’ about these things but I never created.”


It’s obvious Misan is a creative soul but he left Bradfield conforming to societal constructs that urged him to pursue a mainstream career. Banking was booming in the City during the 90s and the former Army House boy found himself as a high-level Headhunter. “I loved dealing with human beings and I loved the theatre of it as well. Calling up a Senior Associate at a law firm and changing their life by quadrupling their salary. I had a great time in the City but the reality was that it was clearly not why I had been put on this Earth.”

Finding himself constantly drawn by creativity, Misan had what he refers to as his midlife crisis. He left London for greener pastures and took time out to reflect; something he recommends to all.

“Bathe in solitude when you have the chance because you will find out who you must be. I realised that the little boy who would always run to the Housemaster’s car to go to video club, the boy who was obsessed with film posters, who watched Stand by Me and felt like he had an out of body experience, that is who I am as an adult.”

This led to the advent of his media business What We Seee.




Misan took his passion for culture and expanded it. With internet connected devices now in billions of pockets he has gone from telling his Bradfield friends about the best photographs, television shows, films and musicians to telling everyone. His curated recommendations are just a few taps away, wherever you are in the world. He calls it his “empathy machine”.

“All I do is lead people down this road where they will feel something. When you’re in a cinema or a live venue, when you’re possibly more alive than you ever felt, that is something I want to bottle and remind people that it should be with you at all times. WWS is a place that, if you don’t know where to find it, just go there.”

WWS is a force for good but it’s not all smiles and happiness. As Misan points out there is content that will make you cry. Encountering such a spectrum of emotions is precisely the point.

“Art is the only thing that mankind has created that is indefensible. It seeps into our bones, it’s a weapon that I want to harness to unlock empathy. That’s the culture of the kind of businesses I want to be involved in, one which enables everyone to switch on their emotional engines, take care of their mental health and be aware of the past, present, and hopefully future, of the best of the human condition.”




After such an eventful 2020, which was capped off with a must-read interview with Lewis Hamilton for GQ’s Game Changer of the Year, what else is on the horizon for the hyper busy and multitalented Misan? He has been branching out into education and amongst other projects he has worked with Lavinya Stennett, founder of social enterprise The Black Curriculum which helps schools deliver black history through their education provision and it is here where Misan feels the next generation have the best chance of having their empathy unlocked.

“Schools like Bradfield have the resources and time with young minds to provide them with an honest and nuanced version of events so they can decide for themselves who they want to be. Schools have a responsibility to ensure future generations have the right moral compass, have a real sense of purpose, know that they matter and that what they do matters and have an endless abyss of empathy that they can draw upon as they face the challenges of life beyond school.”