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Are Black Female Photographers Being Ignored? | COLE Magazine Shines A Spotlight On Hidden Talent And Industry Issues

By Brittany Smith on November 17th 2017

It’s no secret that women have been at the forefront of discussion in our industry as of late and are sparking a much needed change by bringing awareness to social injustices. There are large strides being made in the right direction and it is the hope of many to close the gender gap where there is underrepresentation in the various genres.


Fashion in particular is largely comprised of male photographers and there have been numerous articles over the past few months outlining the fact. Dana Cole, Editor-in-Chief at COLE Magazine, took her research a bit further and found that black female fashion and beauty photographers flew even lower under the radar.

It posed an interesting question: do fewer black female fashion photographers truly exist or are they in fact grossly underrepresented at large? This question is similar to the uproar that was created when Nikon named their 32 men to their fellowship in the Middle East, Asia and Australia because surely there are strong female photographers in that demographic. It was also apparent that a community and network was lacking for these women.

With this in mind, COLE Magazine released a list of 19 black female fashion and beauty photographers with incredible portfolios out into the world with the hope of shining a floodlight on the immense talent that is out there.

Having personally experienced resistance in the industry simply for being a woman and watching this lingering question manifest into a mission, it became apparent that adding other parameters into the mix might make this journey that much more difficult. With piqued curiosity, I had a few questions for COLE Magazine’s Editor in Chief.

Have you had any experiences or issues as a photographer where your skin color and /or gender has played a part?

I have personally had known issues where my race played a part in me not getting specific jobs. It sucked but I was also happy I found out who those people were before actually working for them.

Were you surprised by any hurdles or discoveries when compiling this list?

Well, it took me about 3-4 months of searching for a good amount of Black Women who are fashion and beauty photographers, and I am sure I have still missed a few. I was very happy with each new photographer I found.

Do you think the fashion industry and the current cultural blocks we are seeing highlighted play any role on why there appear to be fewer black female fashion photographers?

In a way yes, however, there is a shift happening. Look at the new Editor in Chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful; he is the first black editor of a major fashion magazine. He is paving a way for all of us. Putting more black models in the spotlight that haven’t been given much attention is providing a spotloght to more POC. It all ties in together. Hopefully this shift continues to where there is a more diverse playing field.

What is your biggest goal for this list?

I want to show the photographic community and the world that we exist. Black women are here and we can shoot fashion and beauty with the best of them. I want to show other black women and girls that they too can do these genres and do them well . Aim high!

After checking out the featured women’s Instagram accounts ranging from 1k to over 44k followers, it is frightening that these images hadn’t shown up in various web searches or Instagram feeds.


The work in their portfolios is on par with, and in some cases better than, many of the brand ambassadors getting the global attention in today’s market. The argument could be made that those with the smaller social following are the reason that the work is not being recognized. What about those with an Instagram following of over 10k?

It is alarming that the names of these women have not been brought up in conversation throughout the industry because they definitely have the force of social influence behind them and the work to back it up. Be sure to check out the fashion and beauty portfolios on this list and you will embark on some inspiring work; it definitely speaks for itself.

Here are some of our favorites.

This list hopes to serve as a database for anyone looking for new talent as well as building a community to be a part of. Please feel free to reach out to Dana if you have any recommendations or would like to be added.

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Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

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