It’s Black History Month, which makes it the perfect time to examine the black experience in the photography industry. While The Phoblographer will uplift great work made by black photographers, this piece serves as a platform for black photographers to share their experience within the photo industry.
One thing that frustrates me is when one group of people speak on behalf of another. Whether it’s saying “it’s not as bad for them” or “this group should be angry at this,” my opinion is we should listen most to the group of people it impacts. I’m not the right person to write an article about the black experience in the photo industry. But I do think it’s fair that I help black photographers share their experiences. No matter what you feel about the stories and thoughts you’ll see below, if you do comment, please be respectful. Debate is healthy; attacks are not.
To put this piece together, I turned to YouTube to learn more about the experiences of black photographers and how they feel about how they show up in the industry. Let’s take a look.
Andre D. Wagner on Being a Black Photographer
During a piece on CBS Mornings, Brooklyn-based photographer Andre D. Wagner shared his experience as a black photographer. In the segment, he spoke of how police mistook his camera for a gun, something he says, “I’m sure my black skin played a role in.” He then recounts when a construction worker pointed an iron rod at him and pretended to fire it like a gun. He adds that he thought being a black photographer would be a burden, but he realizes now that it will only give strength to his legacy.
Black Photographer Quintavius Oliver Talks About Representation
Representation is a sensitive subject in the photography industry. It divides opinion, especially when we discuss ways to make it fairer for all groups. Photographer Quintavius Oliver took to YouTube to share his thoughts on the representation of black photographers. He opens the video with, “There is not enough representation of black photographers.” He explains how this is largely because young, black children were not encouraged to enter the arts. And in order to have more black voices in the industry, we need to tell children they can be more than a “rapper” or “ballplayer.”
Ramon Trotman Discusses “Being a Black Photographer in America!”
“I have to work twice as hard as my non-black counterparts,” says Ramon Trotman, something he describes as an “annoyance.” He explains that he doesn’t enjoy the same freedoms as his non-black friends when he’s out shooting street photography. For example, if someone were to call the police on them, they would have the opportunity to explain themselves, whereas Ramon could potentially have issues. “I will be met with wild amounts of force,” says Trotman. He goes into more examples of his experience, something you can listen to via the video above.
Summer Winston Shares Her Favorite Photographers
Returning to the topic of representation, Summer Winston shares how she struggled to find black photographers on YouTube. So she dug deeper and deeper and created a round-up of black photographers making great content on YouTube. It’s sad the algorithm made it so difficult for her, but if you want to see who she found, click play on the video above.
I know some readers will disagree with the points above, while others will relate and empathize. Remember, race is a sensitive issue in the photo industry and beyond. Instead of judging, we should listen and offer a non-biased response when needed. Here’s hoping for a future photo industry where nobody is excluded, and we can all focus on appreciating great photography.
Lead image is a screenshot.