Being a black photographer
September 3, 2020
Being a black photographer in today’s climate means a lot of things. It only took about 440 years before America finally woke up and realized it is mistreating some of her citizens, but I guess better late than never? Being that I am a black man, an African-American male and photographer, I get asked often; “Why don’t you shoot black models?” The very first time I heard that question asked I laughed it off due to thinking they were joking. When they repeated the question, I got angry.
Now I’m not sure why I had anger, but I did boy! When I stopped to think about it, the answer was very obvious to me, but not so much to those who don’t know. At this point I would start to jump into the answer, but I digress and will ask a question of my own; Why aren’t we asking white male and female photographers why they aren’t shooting black models? Then we are instantly reminded of famed photographer,recently took photos of the beautiful US Olympic gymnastics legend Simone Biles, and lets just say, it wasn’t Ms. Leibovitz’s best work
The photos are the August cover of Vogue, which is a huge deal in and of itself, but the photos themselves weren’t the best ones of Biles. The internet went into a rage at how the photos looked with Black Twitter asking “Why couldn’t they get a black photographer to shoot her?” The reason for the questions was due in part, to how the end result turned out. The photos were meant to show Biles in a powerful, yet elegant and feminine way. They turned out to be pretty off key and poorly done over all. With Leibovitz portfolio, knowledge and skill, everyone in the photography world was asking one simple question; “Does she know how to shoot black people?” And it’s a legit question. With the results of the photos above, it would appear she wasn’t as comfortable shooting black people as she is other people?
Either way, back to me and my portfolio and “lack of black models” that frustrated me. Here in Minneapolis, about 20 blocks from where I live, the George Floyd murder happened. The city has been in a position of transition (for the good) and the nation is starting to include Black and African-American people. Now, people are looking to black professionals and placing them under scrutiny. People say to me “You have no black models in your portfolio” to which I say “You’re not looking hard enough” I do have black models in my portfolio, but it’s far fewer than the white and Latina numbers for sure. The reason why I don’t have a lot of black models is simple; none of them are interested in shooting with me!
I have asked many over my 20 years of glamour photography and only a few have said yes. Why? I don’t know and I’ve never asked. I honestly don’t care. But to assume that I don’t shoot any type of model is silly. I shoot black, brown, yellow, white and red models. I don’t care the skin color, I care the connection we have and the willingness of the model to push her boundaries in the name of art! Here is a gallery of the non-existent black women in my portfolio