Disclaimer: In this post, I am specifically addressing the issues in America and Europe. And I do NOT speak on behalf of ALL Black people – I am just sharing MY point-of-view.
I am open to a healthy and constructive discourse in the comments.
If you haven’t done so already, read my previous post “Diversifying Your Wedding Photography Portfolio & Beyond” before going ahead with this article.
Discerning tokenism in some situations can be tricky. So let’s start by looking at the core meaning. And for this, I am going to use the definition put forth by Cambriage Dictionary: “actions that are the result of pretending to give advantage to those groups in society who are often treated unfairly, in order to give the appearance of fairness.”
So when it comes to diversifying your wedding photography portfolio, it is important to keep the following three aspects in mind to avoid tokenising Black people:
1.Analyse your true intentions
What are you trying to achieve by diversifying your portfolio? I talked about this in my previous post, but let me repeat this point one more time, because it is relevant here as well.
Do you want to do it, because you ultimately want it to benefit your business? Are you trying to garner attention or avoid criticism? Or do you truly care about Black people and want to make them feel seen and welcome to book with you?
If you are truly working towards achieving equal representation of Black people in your portfolio rather than just trying to appear inclusive, then you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are aiming to create a safe space for Black people to inquire and book with you, then you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are making the effort to educate yourself further about social injustices facing Black people, then you are doing it for the right reasons.
2. Ensure Accurate Representation
Once you have Black people in front of your lens, make sure that you capture them with dignity and accuracy.
If you don’t know already, learn how to properly photograph and light darker skin tones, because, yes, it makes a difference.
And if you are organising a styled shoot, do not put your Black couple that is modelling for you in a stereotypical set-up or attire – and stay clear of cultural appropriation. And if you are working with vendors, make an effort to work with Black vendors as well. This is an opportunity to support and promote Black-owned businesses.
And during post-processing, be very cognizant of how to you edit the skin tones – stay true to reality. If you are using a preset, make sure you make the necessary adjustments. The images should be a true reflection of the people that you are photographing.
3. Stay Committed
Championing diversity and inclusion is not a one time gig. You don’t simply check it off your to-do list. Making a lasting change and impact takes time. Let your efforts not be symbolic at a moment in time, but rather consistent through the years to come.
This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but certainly very important to keep in mind.
I have compiled a list of articles addressing diversity and tokenism in the wedding industry to help you gain a deeper understanding on this topic.
If there is a topic on your mind that you would like me to address, write me a message on Instagram @aidaglowik
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I’m Aida, a European intimate wedding and elopement photographer. I provide wedding photographers with the inspiration, tools and resources needed to build a sustainable brand and business. Click here for more about me.