Nikon Adds Two Black Photographers to Its Roster of Ambassadors

Nikon Adds Two Black Photographers to Its Roster of Ambassadors

Responding to criticism from its community of customers, Nikon has announced that it has added two Black photographers to its team of Nikon Ambassadors: Audrey Woulard and Jide Alakija.

Many companies within the photography world have stated their support for the Black Lives Matter movement over recent months, only to be faced with awkward questions about how their ambassadors reflect the diversity of their customers. Of the 37 ambassadors now listed on the Nikon website, three are Black, and 15 are women.

Nikon has selected two very accomplished photographers to add to its roster, with both Woulard and Alakija being selected not just for their image-making skills, but also their presence in the world of photography as educators and public speakers. Both have been working with Nikon prior to their appointment.

Woulard is a portrait photographer based in Chicago who specializes in children’s portraiture but has a strong presence in the industry for her teaching programs. She’s also a Profoto Legend of Light. You can find her online at katcteens.com, awteaches.com, on Instagram, and on Facebook.

Alakija is known for his wedding, documentary and editorial photography, with assignments taking him around the world. Some of his work has been included in the Smithsonian Institute Collection and he runs workshops as well as mentoring programs for photography students in West Africa. You can find online portfolios at alakija.com and jidealakija.com, and you can follow him in Instagram here and here.

The process to become a brand ambassador across most manufacturers has never been transparent, and there’s often been an assumption that there is a small circle of professionals and gatekeepers who struggle to look beyond their own bubble of photographers who look the same, mix in the same circles, and have very similar backgrounds — almost like a golf clubhouse, an analogy proposed in this article.

Should brands be doing more to broaden the diversity of their ambassadors to more accurately reflect that of their customers? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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19 Comments

Robert K Baggs's picture

I can't work out why this makes me so uncomfortable. I want better representation of photographers at the highest levels and as Nikon's roster was skewed and it was being publicly highlighted, what else could they do other than add some black photographers? But it just feels so... disingenuous.

Deleted Account's picture

That's called bias, not that bias is necessarily a bad thing.

Alex Herbert's picture

At this point Robert I've learned to see the good in lip service.

Robert K Baggs's picture

I mean, I guess even lip service is better than no action at all.

Mike Ditz's picture

It's a marketing move, for a long time whenever I've run across the manufacturers lists (in North America) of Influencers/Wizards of Images/Masters of their Domains/Spokesmodels/Legend of Light/Wizard of Flash/Carney Barkers I was first surprised because there were not many photographers I've heard of.
Secondly it was tilted very much in the white male direction (I am older white male) with some women and people of color.
If Canikony feels they can sell to more people by being more inclusive in who they choose as influencers they will. It is not "PC" it is business.
Sort of like when the car industry found out that women bought 62% and influenced 85% sales, then they put women behind the wheel in car ads.

Gary Pardy's picture

It's complicated for sure. I'm sure you can appreciate that, fundamentally, Nikon (and other large corporations) are capable of appointing brand ambassadors based on any criteria or motivation. Their "mostly white male" roster is reflective of a history of most prominent photographers being white males (with a lot of spare cash!). Changing that landscape is an arbitrary thing, but it's also the right thing, and big brands like Nikon can play a big role in achieving a professional photography landscape that better reflects the world we live in - or want to live in, someday.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

It's not disingenuous. It's Nikon improving something that should be improved. Give them credit for that.

Greg Silver's picture

When I talk or work with people, I never think, "oh...he's black" or think in terms of a minority group. It's simply a person.

I hate it when organizations simply want to add diversity into everything for the sake of being politically correct. And then making a big deal of it.

Why couldn't the headline read, "Nikon Adds Two Photographers to Its Roster of Ambassadors"

This world makes me sick.

Robert Nurse's picture

I'm near 60 now. But, at the impressionable age of about 5 or 6, I didn't know anyone who was an "artist" until I walked into the studio of a dear aunt. There I saw paint, brushes, canvases and easels. My eyes probably grew to the size of saucers, LOL. And, she was GOOD! Hence, she introduced me to something that I/we could be. Among the many creatives I've been blessed to have in my childhood, several of them were photographers: yet another thing that I/we could be. Do you want to know the common thread that ran through all these creative ambassadors? They were all people of color. Fast forward to today where this man of color is a "creative" who would not have been without a personal introduction. Nikon clearly saw a void they could fill and make a buck in the process. Seeing people like you succeeding is that introduction. Nikon's just making an introduction.

Gary Pardy's picture

You're fortunate to have a perspective that doesn't immediately label people based on their appearance. Of course, there are many reasons why it's important to adopt diversity and representation as corporate values. Even the effect on workplace banter - more women, more people of colour, etc. will lead members of the workforce/workplace to begin confronting their own biases, and that's a good thing.

James Marshall's picture

2 people doesnt say much for a sencitive topic like black lives mater

Steven Dente's picture

I think that we will all be better off when people of all races, have opportunity at the same level, achieve success or fail at the same level, own homes and are vested in society at the same level, commit crimes and are incarcerated at the same level, etc.. Our society, and we will as individuals, will be safer, happier, and financially better off if we can reach that point.

Since that is clearly not the case today, we will need to make some investment in getting there. That investment may need to include an intentional effort to recruit people of all races into roles of opportunity and respect, even though this doesn't pass the color blindness test. We need not do this in pursuit of a noble cause. But, as an exercise in pragmatism because we will all benefit from it.

In that light, I am both comfortable, and supportive of this effort on Nikon's part. Even though these people may have been brought on at this moment primarily on a basis of race, they are still accomplished photographers, positive contributors to the photographic community, and worthy of the role.

Why be sick or uncomfortable with that?

Spy Black's picture

In a way, this almost more embarrassing doing it at this time. Should have been there all along.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Yes we do have to wonder why there hasn't been more representation of all colours as ambassadors with all camera brands.

Suddenly adding two black photographers at this time certainly does look like marketing trying to stay politically correct, although I'm sure we all welcome the balance being redressed.

In fairness, any brand that doesn't already have a all inclusive model to its team of ambassadors is going suffer a "damned if they do / damned if they don't" commentary.

But what I'd like to see is an explanation as to why there was an imbalance to start with. I'd hope that it wasn't a conscious decision, so why does this happen in a field where talent can be found all over the world, from all backgrounds and from all colours or people. Talent should be the driving factor, but I'm guessing that other forces come into play as well, (industry presence, numbers of followers...)

We need statements that go beyond "we must do better" to be assured that brands aren't simply pandering too perceived market forces, and that they are truly being inclusive on merit.

Les Sucettes's picture

It is ... just that you got to be careful... there recently was an article here complaining about the under representation of Asian Americans - asking for equity - but when you ran the numbers based on overall population size in America, they were actually OVERREPRESENTED. Certainly black and hispanics are underrepresented.

In terms of whether or not symbolism counts, I like to look at what Germany did after WW2 and compare that to whether Americans, Australians, Canadians, British would be willing to do the same in their countries. In Australia for example they apologised to Aboriginals and introduced history lessons but then there was a change of government and history lessons reverted back to colonial history.

You can’t do that in Germany - they institutionalised change, they have huge monuments, museums, history lessons, and wrote that the Dignity of all humans is guaranteed as their first amendment into their constitution. To change any of that you need a super majority.

Is the US/Canada/Australia and Britain willing to take those sorts of steps?

You can argue it’s “superficial” but if you cannot resolve the superficial it says a lot about the society...

Reggie Hughey's picture

I’m here to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”. Better late than never Nikon. As a kid, I was told you could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be. I rarely saw anyone who looked like me out in the professional photo world, so I guessed this profession was off limits to African Americans. Then I discovered Lou Jones, and Matthew Jordan Smith. It’s really hard to aspire to a profession when you rarely if ever see someone who looks like...you.

Ivan Zalesskiy's picture

Is the notion here that Nikon deliberately chose white males as their ambassadors based on their skin color and gender?

I don't think so. Maybe that's just a demographic where there are most pro, experienced photographers. Skin color shouldn't even be a debate, it shouldn't be something we notice at all. It's silly.

Actually, it's degrading towards those people if you will. I don't have a goal of being a Nikon ambassador, but if I ever earned that title, I wouldn't want to see an article heading reading "White guy becomes Nikon ambassador".

Cool Cat's picture

I certainly do not support the organization Black Lives Matter. And I do not support affirmative action. I do support talented people no matter who they are. However, I do believe Nikon may want to have diversity with Ambassadors. So they picked a good looking guy and a beautiful woman, both very talented. Nothing wrong with that.

Steven Gotz's picture

It seems like it is never enough for some people. They added two accomplished photographers. Maybe they will look harder and find more. Maybe not.

You don't like that they don't have enough and when they add some you complain.

Give it a rest.