11 February 2021
11 February 2021 - Written by PhMuseum
On the occasion of Black History Month, we asked Black Women Photographers' founder Polly Irungu to introduce us to the work of artists from their platform you should discover and support.
Black Women Photographers is an online platform dedicated to promoting and encouraging inclusive hiring practices within the photography industry. Launched in July 2020 to activate a COVID-19 relief fund (#BWPReliefFund) that raised over $14,000 to financially support Black women and non-binary photographers during the pandemic, BWP has now grown into a global community and digital database that offers an honest dialogue on the subject and helpful tool of research. To learn more about their work and celebrate Black History Month, we asked multimedia journalist, digital editor, self-taught photographer and founder of Black Women Photographers Polly Irungu highlighted for PHmuseum the work of 10 black female photographers we should be aware of this year.
I. Kennedi Carter (USA) - The year 2020 was many things, but it was also the year that Black art and Black photographers shined through. It is why many are saying that we are currently living in a Black renaissance. One of those photographers contributing to this moment in history is Kennedi Carter. When Durham, North Carolina native Kennedi Carter is not making Vogue cover history, she is documenting all aspects of Black life and experience with the aim to reinvent notions of creativity and confidence in the realm of Blackness. Carter also works to highlight overlooked parts such as skin, texture, trauma, peace, love and community.
II. Ayesha Kazim (SOUTH AFRICA) - Cape Town, South Africa-based photographer Ayesha Kazim’s work is a collection of beautiful intimate portraits that show each subject in a raw and tender way. After living in fourteen countries throughout her childhood, her unique background has given her the ability to connect with all of her subjects in such an organic manner. Her inspiration stems from all of the diverse cultures and experiences that she was exposed to in her upbringing. As she states, she likes to draw inspiration from moments of rest, introspection, and childlike wonder which materializes itself in the photographing of subjects that exude resilience, power, and a humbling sense of confidence.
III. De Lovie (UGANDA) - Non-binary self-taught photographer, De Lovie is based in Kampala, Uganda. They use photography as a tool to bring awareness to social issues affecting their community. With their projects, they hope to disrupt stereotypes and change perceptions. Their work explores several themes mainly creating narratives around sexuality, beauty, and gender identity.
IV. Nicole Morrison (USA) - San Francisco-based food, lifestyle, still life, and product photographer Nicole Morrison’s use of bold colorful imagery will leave you in awe. What I love most about Nicole, is her passion for helping brands that take positive action towards climate change. This is why she decided to pursue work with brands that align with her mission. As she states “I want to help those brands stand out and create an awareness and demand for products and services that are kind to the planet.”
V. Roxanne Munson (USA/MEXICO) - For the last five years, Roxanne Munson has been documenting everyday life in Mexico City. After she became a mother, she felt the need to document her children, investigating the line between photography and motherhood. After the murder of George Floyd in June 2020 she started to document the Black Lives Matter movement.
VI. Mercedes Oliver (USA) - It has been a while since I stumbled upon a Black woman sports photographer this is why I was delighted to come across Mercedes Oliver’s work this past year. Cleveland, Ohio-born, Birmingham, Alabama-based Mercedes combines her passion for athletics with her love of documenting sports events.
VII. Nicky Quamina-Woo (USA) - Black and Native Hawaiian documentary photographer Nicky Quamina-Woo frequently works in Southeast Asia and the continent of Africa. When she is not on a travel assignment, she can be found in New York City. Her work explores the transmogrified effects of trauma within communities often precipitated by the legacy of colonization. Her body of work is a masterclass in storytelling and serves as a reminder to us all why it is important to have representation behind the lens. The stories she is documenting were often told through a White gaze, but not anymore.
VIII. Shingi Rice (UK/ZIMBABWE) - British Zimbabwean self-taught photographer Shingi Rice, also known as bluespit, is a fashion and portrait photographer based in London. Shingi began her photography journey in Spain after experiencing a lack of cultural representation. It is there where she decided to focus her time and energy to create that representation she did not see through her imagery. Her work consists of powerful portraits of women of colour, size and age inclusivity, and people with disabilities.
IX. Esther Sweeney (Kenya) - Kenyan photographer Esther Sweeney’s work explores the richness of her country, and surrounding states in the African continent. As she underlines, her main aim is to photograph the “culture and spirit of Africa and its people” and she achieves it with her bold use of colour. Being the recipient of the British Council's East African Mobility Grant, Esther is currently working on a project Culture in Art which seeks to explore the influence that culture has on artists and contemporary art in Africa.
X. Akilah Townsend (USA) - Akilah Townsend is a Chicago-based photographer who specialises in portraiture, reportage and fine art photography. While looking at her assignments for a wide range of clients, her photos seem like stills from scenes of your favourite films.
Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist, digital editor, self-taught photographer and founder of Black Women Photographers. As a photographer, Polly’s work has been published in numerous publications, including BBC News, NPR, Refinery29, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, CNN, HuffPost, OkayPlayer, OkayAfrica, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Black Women Photographers aims to disrupt the notion that it is difficult to discover and commission Black creatives. Dedicated to providing a resource for the industry’s gatekeepers. BWP with your help has grown into a global community and digital database of 500+ photographers since its first launch in July of 2020 by Polly Irungu, coming from a COVID-19 relief fund (#BWPReliefFund) that raised over $14,000 to provide financial support to Black women and non-binary photographers during the pandemic. In an effort to promote and encourage inclusive hiring practices, the database highlights any and all Black women who elect to be submitted. Through honest dialogue via social conversations and workshops, the platform seeks to ensure that more Black women are empowered to make the industry as colourful as it ought to be. Black Women Photographers is a home for Black women to receive proper recognition, and most importantly, get hired.
This article is part of the work PHmuseum has started in the last few years to support and promote underrepresented photographers as well as reignite the debate on gender and racial equality in our industry. Our dedicated initiatives include an annual Grant and several collaborations such as our online exhibition in partnership with MFON or the most recent one in collaboration with IWMF, a work that has included also the Prize in collaboration with African Artists’ Foundation.
We're always working to improve our knowledge of projects from under-represented photographers in the industry. If you are a photographer or artist please do create a free PHmuseum account and upload your projects. You can also get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org