There is no flicker of hesitation to write about this project, but even before the words form on paper I’m prepared for the derogatory responses. Ironically, the disparaging comments that try to cast aspersions on the subject, and press like us, that cover it, rather neatly highlight the problem, making the coverage all the more autotelic.
Diversity in photography needs be addressed, and Diversify Photo is making a step.
Diversify Photo is self described as:
“Diversify is a verb. It is an action – an intentional movement to break with the narrow lens through which history and the mass media has seen and recorded the images of our time. Diversify was born out of a recognition that calling for more diversity in the photo industry is not enough. To diversify photo, we need to equip Art Buyers, Creative Directors, and Photo Directors with resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments and commissions.”
A bit more concisely, Diversify Photo is a database of minority photographers, and each image displayed is hyperlinked to that individual’s own site. But further removed from being a standard visual database, Diversify is looking to educate the peruser to the extent they want to be educated in the background of the photographer. With a simple email to firstname.lastname@example.org a potential buyer, art director or the likes, will be provided with contact information, language(s) spoken, and area of expertise of the subject of inquiry.
What Diversify Photo is doing then, is giving a helping hand by way of a platform to talented photographers who perhaps wouldn’t have the same exposure, connections, or opportunities, and making the process of finding talented photographers easier.
Now, the responses to this are easy to imagine, just skim the top of the platitudinal grab-bag and the following are likely to be found: “This is racist, promoting only people of color,” or of course, “This is promoting people on their race and not their ability and value of their work.” Neither of those, however, really addresses the issue.
Anyone in this industry knows that your success (if defined by measure of exposure, jobs, earnings, etc…) is not exactly a reflection of your skill. You likely know someone who, empirically and unbiasedly, you shoot better than, but they’re outselling you; they’re getting featured and you aren’t; they’re busy enough to choose clients where you’re scraping for them. Hell, you may know a lot, and if you don’t, a quick scroll through Instagram will show them. We sort of intrinsically know that popularity is mo measure of quality, and we can extrapolate from that, that success doesn’t stand alone.
Within western society we appreciate and revere the hustle and the hack, but we know too well that as factors of success ‘opportunity bestowed’ is just as, if not more, critical. I mean, you don’t send your kids to the best universities just for the degree, but for the connections.
We work hard so when the opportunity arises we can grasp it, but the playing field of opportunity isn’t even for everyone, and that’s all this boils down to. Western societies tend to present less opportunities to those of color, and that starts from the very basics, which then affect the opportunities at the polar opposite end. That isn’t to say that it continues to exist this way today out of some malice, neither from some insidious and conscious bias by the majority of the population, but simply that it does exists, and Diversify Photo is trying to level the pitch.
For those who are not sure what to make of this, or who are leaning toward criticizing it as being exclusionary, I’d probably just float the idea that it’s about providing for those with less, without taking from those who have more. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle, so to speak.
Then of course there’s the practical side of things, that as people move around and the world begins to turn beige, there is a growing need for photographers who either understand a particular language or custom to photograph certain events with a bit more ease of fluency. Just a thought…
You can find out more about Diversity Photo on their site.