Are Black Female Fashion Photographers Underrepresented?

Are Black Female Fashion Photographers Underrepresented?

The fashion industry is home to some of the most dynamic and fluid trends that the world has ever seen. No doubt, the existence of this ever-changing and highly creative environment is mainly as a result of the diversity and creative uniqueness of the individuals that constitute it. However, even with this seemingly all-inclusive and globally encompassing genre, there is a prominent neglect that seems to be growing even further: the underrepresentation of black female photographers.

Racial divide and marginalization has been a big problem in most fields and even more so in fashion photography. One may argue that this issue spans across all other aspects of black women participation in the fashion industry and there definitely would be a point there. However, the contribution of black women to fashion and beauty photography has brought about great innovation at both ends of the camera and it is a wonder that there are so many of these talented individuals flying under the radar with very little representation.

Photography-by-Beauty-Photographer-Joyanne-Panton

Photography by Joyanne Panton

Photograph-by-Beauty-Photographer-Dana-Cole

A vital point that must be noted is a severe lack of appreciable participation in the industry as a whole as a direct result of the marginalization that these woman face. Not only do they lack a strong platform that provides more opportunities for them in all areas of the industry, black female photographers seem to lack the proper exposure necessary for them to get their work noticed by the larger audiences. Even more interesting to note is the remarkable talent of the few black photographers in the industry. Any in-depth research will reveal a good number of black women who are doing groundbreaking work in their functional spaces and possess a strong portfolio of projects under their sleeves.

Photograph-by-Photographer-Letura-Idigima

Photography by Letura Idigima

Photography-by-Photographer-Kia-Caldwell

Photography by Kia Caldwell

Why then do the big photography companies and other major players in the industry not shine enough light on this demographic? And why does their work seem to be hidden among their fashion photographer counterparts? Why aren't they standing on the forefront as ambassadors or speakers for any of the photographic companies or community in general? Whatever the case may be, the amazing talent that black women have to offer has proven to be a tasteful and revolutionary touch that cannot be ignored. Bringing more notice to this faction would require the creation of strong platforms for these voices to be heard and for their works to be showcased. This helps to provide an avenue for proper recognition while creating prospects for opportunity and progress. By doing this, these women not only get to learn more about themselves but also find support and motivation in one another by fostering a professional community of like minds.

I did months of researching to compile a list of black female fashion photographers. These ladies are talented and deserve a bit of recognition. I am happy I am able to give them a platform to showcase their talents and work.

All images used with permission.

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151 Comments

dimasa sparrow's picture

I personally don't see color amongst photographers, b/w, color all remains behind the viewfinder, it is the photograph or the art that speaks for them. just my opinion, no offence.

Dana Cole's picture

That is great that you think that way individually, but this topic touches on the community as a whole, and as a whole, there is a lack of representation. Hopefully it changes, with more topics and open discussions ! :D

The community as a whole is not generally racist or sexist.

david shepherd's picture

While I would agree generally that you are correct, unfortunately, the results do not support minorities getting fair representation in the market. It is not to say that these groups are not working, but I see first hand inside a creative company the lack of diversity in photographers hired.

Why do you feel diversity is something that should at best exist or should at worst be forced on a society? What about letting people decide what they wish to be interested in? I see more and more girls in grade school and young women being pressured into going into career fields that they are clearly not interested in, all in the name of diversity and so-called "fair representation. I saw plenty of that crap going on in the military before I retired, with the result being young women being absolutely miserable in a job they were obviously not interested in.

Forced diversity is the antithesis of diversity. It's politically correct BS.

D'Artagnan Winford's picture

I'm skeptical of people, especially photographers who don't see color.

What do you mean? I didn't understand Dimasa's comment either.

D'Artagnan Winford's picture

To say that you don't see color is disingenuous at best. We all see color first. Once you get to know someone that thought may fade away but you always see color first.

I think that depends on what you mean by "see". I take it to mean, "take notice of". Of course, when I see a white Ferrari, I can see it's white but the first thing I notice is, it's a Ferrari.

I don't know about anyone else. When I see someone, the first thing I notice is male or female. Then "approachability" based on clothing, attitude, activity, etc.. Skin color is probably in there somewhere but pretty far down the list. But then, I've known a lot of people of various races. My wife is Japanese and the first time someone mentioned I was in a mixed race marriage, I had no idea what they were talking about. My eldest sister's husband was black and her children, by appearance, are black. My oldest son's fiancé is black. When I describe her to anyone, her skin color is one of the last things I mention and sometimes, it doesn't occur to me at all. But again, I don't know about anyone else.

Ben Perrin's picture

"Don't see colour" doesn't mean someone can't physically see colour, it means they are looking at the talent and/or competency of the persons work instead. I'm more skeptical of people who see skin colour in everything and then claim that they can't be biased because they are in some form of minority.

Greg T's picture

"I don't see color" is a coded phrase for denying the existence of structural racism and their potential complicity in it.

Ben Perrin's picture

What structure is the racist one? And honestly what you are saying isn't even remotely true.

Greg T's picture

I mean, the very fact that you replied with "what structure is the racist one?" tells me that you're both entirely ignorant of the issue, but also very reflexively defensive about it. But hey, don't take my word for it—there's just thousands of studies and articles that are abundantly available which explain the machinations this problem to help you understand:

https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.intergrou...

https://www.brown.edu/academics/race-ethnicity/how-structural-racism-works

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4306458/

https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.racialeq...

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)30569-X/fulltext

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/is-america-repeatin...

https://www.salon.com/2016/10/07/scathing-u-n-report-structural-racism-e...

Ben Perrin's picture

Lol. I couldn't find anything in those articles that specifically pointed to the structure that is racist. This is not the same as saying racism doesn't exist. What am I saying is that in a country (mine at least, yours might be different) where anyone can live anywhere, go to any school they want and get any job they want (as long as they are qualified) there is no structural racism. I'm certainly not oppressing anyone and I find it weird to be accused of oppressing anyone because of my skin colour. That's racist. Once again, I couldn't see anything in those articles except for extremely weak conclusions and dodgy reasoning that would make me think I am in any way complicit in any of this nonsense. If you want to feel guilty, go ahead, just don't expect the rest of us to buy into your dogma. And honestly I think it's disgusting to blame the "sins of the father" so to speak on the next generation due to their skin colour. It's deplorable.

I'm skeptical of people who see color.

Leigh Miller's picture

Oh no...politics, religion and race issues. A sure way to ruin a person's daily flow.

D'Artagnan Winford's picture

GREAT ARTICLE! And that list is phenomenal!

Dana Cole's picture

thank you kindly ... As I find more fabulously talented women, they will certainly be added to the list. :D

Eric Salas's picture

Photography/art is subjective and to say that Black women face challenges we all as photographers don't, is making a claim that cannot be justified. I appreciate the attempt at bringing light to a subject but the argument made is so convoluted that your piece loses steam.

"Why then do the big photography companies and other major players in the industry not shine enough light on this demographic?"

- The easy answer is that it doesn't matter who is behind the lens, the work is what matters. You may really love a photographer's work but do you check on their gender and race immediately after you see an image? If this is what you do, then you're making an issue of something that isn't of any concern.

Dana Cole's picture

Representation matters !
So we can agree to disagree.

Eric Salas's picture

If representation is the key focus here, then the quality of work these women are doing isn't the issue (it's clearly not), it's the representation they are hiring to get them noticed and them being female and of color second/third. Anyone in the industry can say they are "represented" but you can find representation at any local burrito barn in LA.

What I'm really getting at here is that this is a claim with no story to back it up. Give the audience soemthing to latch onto so it doesn't go off track or get put into the "reaching" category of opinion pieces. Your last paragraph centers on these women relying on others to create a platform for exposure when they in fact should be grinding and building that platform. Nobody is going to pull up the oppressed (if you want to make that claim) they have to push through the barrier themselves.

Currently living in the Capital of Civil Rights and shooting the Edmund Pettus Bridge today; just a fun fact on where my stance is.

Dana Cole's picture

Welp, it's a good thing I and a few of us are as you said 'should be grinding and building platforms', are doing just that :)

Elan Govan's picture

"they have to push through the barrier themselves"....

I think they are......and this article is just another step in that long journey.

Dana Cole's picture

thank you Elan :D

Elan Govan's picture

All the best with your endeavours Dana.

Justin Berrington's picture

There definitely could have been more to this piece. While I’m sure there is merit to this article, there wasn’t anything written to give it merit. Where’s the story? How about some examples of what’s going on that makes this a problem. What sort of things are you or other black female photographers doing to help the situation aside from writing an incomplete piece on the topic? I was really interested to read some actual news here after days of mostly reposts from other creators youtube videos. I think you have a great topic that can be expanded upon. I hope you do.

Dana Cole's picture

thank you Justin ! Solid critique I can appreciate..
and things to keep in mind and expand upon soon !!!

"What I'm really getting at here is that this is a claim with no story to back it up. Give the audience soemthing to latch onto so it doesn't go off track or get put into the "reaching" category of opinion pieces"

What such people fail to understand is that racism is more often than not an impossible thing to prove. So what's left for them? Representation. The problem with that is that representation on its own can not prove racism. The same applies with sexism. Reaching? Indeed.

Who are you to decide how interested a sex and race should be in a particular subject or career field?

Joe Martinez's picture

Awesome article and an important conversation that needs to happen. Would love to see more black women represented in all aspects of the industry!

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