The last thing you should do is use Wikipedia as a viable reference source, but when you are trying to prove a point it helps just a tad.
I will start by telling you that this link will direct you to the Wikipedia entry that lists 33 African American Photographers. Only 33… [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:African-American_photographers ]. I am not here to challenge what is, and what is not photography. Nor, am I here to challenge your ability as a photographer. What I am here to do is to ask “why” there are only 33 photographers listed.
My goal is to be that 34th photographer on that list. I don’t dream of being well known, nor do I dream of being famous. What I do wish to do is to step outside of the culturally artistic barrier we have created for ourselves in the world of photography. Artistic activism through creative expression has taken a backseat in the world of African American photographers. While it is great to have our own forms of cultural expression, the doors of mainstream media are often overlooked as the ultimate goal. While it may be a good thing to have my work showcased in a magazine, website, or book fueled by a culturally biased agenda. The fact remains that It is still not what the mainstream considers “mainstream”.
I am all for the betterment of African American culture, and I am all for the expression of the “black voice”, but we need more than that. There are more black fashion, wedding, event, and family photographers that I can shake a stick at. Where are the photojournalists? Where are the photographers documenting history? Not just African American history, but history itself? I have had the opportunity to be a part of some amazing moments of recent history through photography, and I have nothing but God to thank for that, but it bothers me that Phil and I are sometimes the only black faces in the room.
I admire all forms of creative expression, but I feel that we often segregate ourselves in an attempt to empower ourselves. At the end of the day, we are still the minority, and that is a fact. While the fact does remain for us as a people to express the uniqueness of our culture, a photo of the cover of Time Magazine is recognized more than a photo on the cover of Ebony Magazine. In actuality, I have often discovered that we as a culture give more recognition to those who give the impression of success, over those who may actually be successful. I can find hundreds of photographers in a 500 mile radius, but how many of them have shot for Time Magazine? Why are there only about 400 works of art from African American artists out of the over 20,000 peices of work in the National Gallery of Art? I’m not going to go off on a rant about how the doors are closed, and how it’s their fault, because it’s not. It’s cool to be a photographer nowadays, and it’s cool to be an artist, but then what? A camera is a powerful tool that can be used to provoke change and awareness, but why do we limit ourselves to trendy forms of expression, instead of capturing history?