Black female and non-binary photographers need to be brought to the forefront. The representation in the industry for these creatives is next to non-existent, with only 13.7 percent of US leading publications being shot by women, according to Fashionista.
In addition to the gender bias against female and non-binary photographers, the craft was founded on an in-built racial bias. Cameras were invented with the sole purpose of capturing white skin. Don’t believe me? Try searching up ‘racial bias in photography’ or ‘the Shirley Card’ and you’ll know what I mean.
Due to inherent racial prejudice, Black skin was not taken into consideration in the manufacturing of cameras. If you look at any photograph predating the 80’s, you’ll see that Black people were either washed-out and overexposed or fading into the background. But, the manufacturing companies aren’t the only ones to blame, white photographers just seem to be clueless when it comes to photographing black skin.
Thankfully, Black people picked up their cameras and began to capture the natural beauty and spirit of the Black individual through their eyes. So, as a part of Women’s (Black) History Month, I’ve put together a list of some of the best Black female & non-binary photographers who are using their lens to not only capture Black beauty, but also change the narrative of the African-American people.
Kennedi Carter sent Twitter into a frenzy last October when she became the youngest cover photographer for British Vogue Magazine at just 21 years old. When Queen B requested a woman of color to take pictures for her shoot, the fine art photographer suddenly found herself thrust into the limelight. Did you see those pictures? Yes? Well, you should look at them again. Beyonce aside, Carter’s work focuses on the highlights and socioeconomic aspects of Black life. Her photos capture love, family, trauma, and pain among other things.
Flo Ngala is a formidable presence in the music photography scene. The New York native is known for having traveled with and photographed musical icons Gucci Mane and Cardi B. She’s shot for Atlanta Records, Rolling Stone, Universal Records, and Billboard Magazine. It’s her personal belief that you don’t photograph people with a camera, you photograph them with energy.
London-born photographer, Nadine Ijewere, likes to incorporate her Nigerian-Jamaican heritage into her work. In one of her recent spreads for Vogue Magazine, she shot multiple women of African descent dressed in traditional African attire. Ijewere then expressed in a heartfelt Instagram post what it meant to her to have her heritage on display in such a prestigious magazine and have it be called stylish.
Vanessa Charlot is a documentary photographer who has traveled throughout the U.S., Caribbean, and Southeast Asia for her work. Through black and white pictures, her hope is to capture different human existences across various cultures and share those existences to the world free of an oppressive gaze. She calls her work an ‘intersectionality of spirituality, socio-economic issues and sexual/gender expression.’
Kahran Bethencourt is the other half of Creative Soul Photography. In her critically acclaimed, AfroArt series, she transforms young Black children into African royals. The series was done to try and connect children of the African diaspora back to their roots. She also hopes that it is a foreshadowing of what is to come in the future. AfroArt has been featured on BBC News, CNN, and Glamour Basil, to name a few.
Tori Lens is all about making a big impact. Literally. Her photos are vibrant pieces that feature Black people striking their best dynamic poses. You’ll find a lot of her subjects jumping, running, skating, stretching, etc. But, she is most known for her use of colorful smoke bombs in her shoots. The results are breathtaking.
Endia Beal is a photographer who blends the lines of art and social justice. Many of her pieces depict the struggles of being black in America. In her series, ‘Can I touch it?’ Beal wanted to share how Black women often feel othered in the workplace because of their hair. She chose several white women in their forties, donned them with traditionally African-American hairstyles and had them take portraits, corporate style. The photos created a lot of discourse about what it means to look professional.
Lauren Woods, aka ‘Portrait Mami’ is a non-binary analogue photographer based in North Carolina and California. In their work, they highlight the intimate lives of people in the queer community. Lauren hopes that by capturing these moments, they can help validate the love, sexuality, and true essence of queer people.
Black women and non-binary people just keep continuing to change the game. If you haven’t already, make sure you check these talented photographers out and follow them on Instagram!
Written by Jada Davis
Feature image via Lauren Woods Instagram.