It started with a Facebook link, as is so often the case these days. A list of suggestions for things to do in the wake of election results so many of us did not see coming. Yes, the list was reactionary. A bit over the top. But here I am three weeks later still thinking about #5. "If you work, your work has racial implications. If you work in any job where you have clients, you can do so in an anti-racist way. You are probably NOT already doing so. "
I do work. I do have clients. And I'm certain that there is an anti-racist way to approach my work and clients, and I'm certain that I have just begun the process.
Looking at the websites of most of my favorite family photographers will leave you searching for a person of color. There are painfully few. The galleries are filled with thin white women and their well dressed children. And if I don't work to make sure mine is more inclusive, it could easily look the same.
These photography websites populated with size 4, limp haired, mothers are appealing. Don't get me wrong. It is an aesthetic that I can enjoy and appreciate. But why is it the only aesthetic? Why is it the only type of person featured?
White women who see a version of themselves in all the marketing would appear to be the only ones eager to shell out the money for the artfully, disheveled aesthetic a certain breed of photographers sells.
But why would anyone else go that route when they don't see a version of themselves in the photographs?
There is little chance I would book a photographer who only featured pictures of people and families of a single race if I was not a member of that race. If all the advertising for any good or service only pictured black, Latino, Middle Eastern or Asian people, I would assume that I was not the intended audience, and I would move on to spend my dollars somewhere I thought wanted me.
As a white women, most advertising includes people who look like me: thinner more beautiful versions of me, sure, but people who could be my sisters at the very least.
My clients have been almost exclusively white women. But even in the infancy of my business, it bothered me. I'm trying to change that, and the first step is offering some portfolio building sessions to people of color. I did that for the first time this fall, and when I posted those images on Facebook groups, for the first time, those images were liked by people of color and people of color contacted me for Spring shoots.
"Strategic portfolio building," the concept of offering free sessions to people so that you maintain creative control, is common. Photographers should be approaching people of color in order to build diverse, inclusive portfolios.
Photography, in the grande scheme of things, is not that important. My work, my field, isn't going to dismantle racism in this country, but I am going to do everything I can, in whatever small way I can, to make sure that my work is not unintentionally perpetuating the idea that only a certain type of person is deserving or understanding of what I do.