When and why did you launch the online community and database Black Women Photographers? Black Women Photographers was launched on July 7, 2020, and the community was birthed from the desire to connect the dots for an industry with a lot of excuses for exclusivity. The database was created to serve the Black women who have been working hard at honing their craft, and who deserve to be recognized, hired and praised for their art. Some images simply cannot be conceived without the eye of a Black woman. Perspective and gaze are innate.
What feedback have you received about Black Women Photographers so far? The feedback has been loud. It feels like everyone was waiting to exhale. To feel seen. I’ve seen a great response to the database on social media. The website traffic in the first three days had more than 6,000 views, and I’ve received thoughtful notes after speaking about the database on podcasts and in interviews.
American media is facing its own racial reckoning. What does this look like from your perspective? Everything has its time. This was the best time. The structure and culture within media companies are being evaluated with a finely toothed comb, which is a painful process in any industry, but necessary. Many companies and people have made pledges, and Black Women Photographers seeks to hold this pocket of the industry accountable. Be it performative allyship or genuine willingness to promote diversity, equity and inclusion—it’s happening. It’s best that companies take the demands from within seriously because this reckoning is not a moment. It is unraveling centuries of systemic oppression in all corners of business, not excluding creatives. In fact, Black creatives face pushback at every step of their journeys. It’s time for the gatekeepers to take heed and act. Black Women Photographers is happy to provide a resource for that change.
How did you discover your passion for photography? It all started in Oregon. I’m originally from Nairobi, Kenya, and my family settled in Topeka, Kansas, when I was four years old. After my freshman year in high school, we relocated to Eugene, Oregon. During this relocation, I fell into a deep depression. Photography, and my faith, was my saving grace.
What insights have you taken away from working at New York Public Radio (WNYC)? I’ve learned that we have work to do. I looked at our most recent newsroom hiring practices and we did not hire a single Black photographer until a few weeks ago when I sent an editor Diversify Photo’s #HireBlackPhotographers database.
How do you balance your time spent on journalism and photography? I can’t talk about one without the other. Even with my job as a digital editor at WNYC’s show The Takeaway, I am constantly thinking about which photos I am selecting. How many images have I used that have been created by a man? A woman? A Black woman? I can’t turn either side off. I often find myself saying “Hey, Photo Twitter” or “Hey, fellow journalists” when I want specific eyes on what I am calling attention to. I am able to distinguish myself and the different work that I do in both fields, but there is no off switch.
What tips do you have for pitching story ideas? Be human, be thorough and have an angle, not just a topic.
What do you think of the photojournalism industry at the moment, and where do you see it headed? The industry owes so much to Black, Indigenous and POC communities and organizations. Imagine if Women Photograph did not exist. Who would be holding this industry accountable for hiring women and nonbinary photographers? Why did this industry allow Vogue and Vanity Fair to go this long without hiring a Black photographer to photograph a cover? How long will it take to see a Black woman photographer get hired to photograph a cover? All of those questions need to be answered before I can even think of where I see the industry headed. But I am cautiously optimistic.
What are the most interesting stories you’ve seen, read or listened to recently? Lately, I’ve been inspired by all of actress and screenwriter Michaela Coel’s interviews and features.
Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph? Where to start? There are many notable Black figures I would love to photograph as a way to give them their flowers. To name a few, Ava DuVernay, Bernice King, Janelle Monáe, Maya Moore, Joy Reid, Kelly Rowland, Gabrielle Union and Oprah Winfrey. Ava, if you see this, I would be honored to photograph you!