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 History Month (BHM) is a yearly initiative that originated in the United States, conceived for recognizing people and events linked to the history and the heritage of the African diaspora. With the objective to honor and promote black creatives, for this year’s BHM we talked with Polly Irungu founder of Black Women Photographers. Her platform is fighting for a more fair photographic scene by encouraging inclusive hiring practices with their social tag #HireBlackWomenPhotographers. From political journalism to fine art, from self-representation to documentary, these 8 photographers remind us of the importance of telling a story from multiple perspectives.
Rochelle Brock – Rochelle Brock is a New York-based size-inclusive fashion, editorial, and beauty photographer currently represented by Adolescent Content. Her work celebrates the diversity of all body shapes and she often advocates for the fashion and beauty industry to be just as inclusive. Her work and style are bold, colorful, and refreshing. She told the Creative Review last year that her work is influenced by the things she wanted to create but never thought that she could because she didn’t see women who looked like her as artists. Brock’s work is a reminder that representation behind and in front of the camera matters.
Michele Bygodt – Born in Libreville, Gabon, Michèle Bygodt’s interest in photography began as a teenager when her father’s work led her to live in five different countries, in both Africa and Europe. Living in a multicultural environment, and later on, moving from one country to another ignited her interest in travel photography, cultural diversity, differences, and similarities. She graduated with a BA in graphic design and sciences in Paris before deciding to move to Vancouver in 2016 to pursue photography. Bygodt’s focus is on giving voice to what is unlooked or invisible. Some of her work is a part of the Sankofa exhibition, currently showing at the Museum of Anthropology (UBC) until March 27th. She is also working on a series called Gnoul (Body) which questions the term “Black body” of which five photographs will be on display at the Telephone Gallery (Macaulay & Co Fine art).
Vanessa Charlotte – Award-winning photojournalist and documentary photographer, filmmaker, lecturer, and curator based in St. Louis, Missouri. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of race, politics, culture, and sexual/gender expression to explore the collective human experience. The purpose of her work is to produce visual representations free of an oppressive gaze. Charlot seeks to humanize Black bodies through her photography, restoring the dignity and vitality of those often shot as subjects divorced from context, motives, and histories. Her work invites us all to question our relationship to what we think about when we see Black bodies as static images and in motion.
Myesha Evon Gardner – Represented by Büro, Myesha Evon Gardner is a New York-based photographer and art director originally from Cleveland, Ohio. Cultural and social examinations by the way of personal experience guide her lens, which aims to expand a historically narrow societal presentation of underrepresented people and cultures. She directly challenges the limitations of such narratives through ongoing explorations depicting themes of legacy, love, and labour, offering an intimate view of the pride, joy, and self-determination of her family members and the larger community.
Sianeh A Kpukuyou † Accra, Ghana-based photographer Sianeh A Kpukuyou, also known as ASKphotos, is a champion for diversity and inclusion and advocates for dark-skinned women in her work. Kpukuyou got her start by taking photos of her friends in school and has now been able to show the world the beauty and richness of Accra through her mesmerizing photographs. Kpukuyou’s career is just beginning and we can’t wait to see it unfold in the years to come.
Vanessa Leroy † Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Vanessa Leroy holds a BFA in photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She remains on the hunt for new ways of seeing, remembering, and altering the world through photography. She is drawn to image-making because of the power it holds to create nuanced representation for marginalized people and uplift their stories. Leroy sees photography as a tool for social justice, and with it, she hopes to create worlds that people feel as though they can enter and draw from, as well as provide a look into an experience that they may not personally recognize. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, STAT News, Bloomberg, and exhibited at Gallery Kayafas in Boston, MA — where she is represented.
Barbara Minishi – Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Barbara Minishi discovered her passion for the visual arts after graduation from Daystar University Kenya with a BA Communication (Print Media and Advertising) degree in 2003. Primarily self-taught through exploration and experimentation, Minishi recognizes the transformative values of intimacy, connection, and belonging that photography gifts her as a tool to engage with herself, her community, and the world. To date, her eighteen-year career has been successful and impactful with its diverse selection of commissioned and personal work with people, products, and places. Nevertheless, Minishi considers it a priority to consistently explore and experiment with her visual direction and storytelling skills in flow with the shifting cultural and technology norms.
Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah – German-Ghanaian visual and documentary artist Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah is an internationally exhibited and published photographer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Her work is frequently awarded for exploring new territories through image-making, research, and human connection. She believes in the diversity of thought and expression, which results in various practices that inform each other: she equally engages in documentary work and conceptual arts. The title of the piece featured here is stone and it belongs to the body of work Inheritance – Poems of Non-Belonging. The medium of choice for this piece was a photographic sculpture made of silk, coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, exposed with a macro-photograph of my skin, crumpled up, and held together by a white thread, approx. 20x20x20cm large.
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. Launched in July of 2020 by Polly Irungu, Black Women Photographers (BWP) is a global community of over 1,000 active members from around the world. Through honest dialogue via social conversations and workshops, the platform seeks to ensure that more Black women and non-binary photographers are empowered to make the industry as colorful as it ought to be. Doing so by supporting their members through online and in-person exhibitions, events, webinars, educational programs, and annual grant funds with Nikon Inc, as well as sharing and promoting their work in an active database of photo editors, directors, curators, and art buyers.
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† IWMF and BWPa 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