Dear Wedding Industry, Black People Are NOT a Trend

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.

The lack of diversity and representation in the wedding industry as a whole of Black people and other Minorities is evident. This topic is NOT new and it did NOT just come to light. It has been addressed on a number of occasions in the past.

In light of the current Black Lives Matter movement, this subject matter is once again gaining traction. I have seen what looks like a show of solidarity on social media with people posting a black box on #blackouttuesday (side note: please stop using #blacklivesmatter and #blm, because important posts on the movement are being drowned out. And if you are using the #alllivesmatter, that is a whole other topic as to why that is not appropriate!).

To that, this is what I have already posted on my Instagram page:

I appreciate the sentiment of seeing people standing with the Black Lives Matter movement on social media. At the same time, I implore you to dig deeper. Ask yourself if participating in #blackouttuesday is you showing solidarity just during a time of heightened sensitivity or if you are going to take meaningful steps to help shape your sphere of influence (within your home, workplace, etc.) on a regular basis?

In my opinion, full-time activism is not required to make a meaningful impact against, racism, discrimination and underrepresentation. Actions, however big or small, will cumulate into a shift in the right direction. Each of us can do our part.

Don’t let your words and posts be hollow. Back them up with the intention and commitment to condem what is wrong and uplift what is right.

Now, I would like to specifically address wedding photographers:

I know that there are many wedding photographers who genuinely want to include more diverse couples in their portfolios, not just to appear like they are inclusive, but because they truly want to advocate for true representation of the societies that we live in.

This is the reason why a few weeks ago my husband, Tim, and I approached Chuy, an intimate elopement and steamy photographer based out of Los Angeles, whose body of work represents all types of couples, for an interview on the topic Diversity & Inclusivity that has been published on Beloved Stories.

You will find a lot of value in reading the entire interview. Nevertheless, I would like to highlight an important point that he made:

“…I will say this to those who seek change, do it out of love. Put yourself in your couple’s shoes and treat them like you want to be treated. Represent them like you would want to be represented and I guarantee you, your art and passion will skyrocket like you’ve never seen it before.”

And now I would like to address wedding blogs, publications and feature accounts:

In the past couple of days, I have been having conversations with the founders of a couple of well-known photography publications. They know who they are and I want to thank them for their openness to feedback, willingness to listen, learn and commitment to do better.

On the other hand, I keep seeing feature accounts on Instagram who are suddenly just posting pictures of Black couples and mixed couples, while scrolling back down on their feed reveals that that was barely the case in the past. Pulling out every last BIPOC person on file to blast out on social media accounts in order to appear inclusive at this moment in time is not the right way to respond.

Also, suddenly seeking to feature the work of Black photographers for the sole purpose of making a “special edition” during this time needs to be dealt with delicately. We are NOT a trend! Yes, there is a call to amplify Black voices and the work of Black people, but I want to point out that our work, as photographers (who happen to be Black) is valid and has always been valid and worthy of recognition any other time beyond when there is an outcry of inequality. Moreover, when we are invited to speak on a platform, I assure you that we have more to share beyond talking about our blackness and our struggles. We ALSO have expertise to share, thank you very much! So yes, feature the work of Black people at this time, but also in the future!

All this is to say, if you genuinely believe that there needs to be more representation of different faces, voices and bodies of work on your platforms, do the hard work to bring about real, lasting change. Let it NOT just be a façade to dodge criticism. Make long-term changes. Start getting educated. You might make some missteps, but that’s okay. If you get called-out, don’t get defensive, listen and do better.

The wedding industry is within our sphere of influence. It is in our hands to make the necessary changes and fight against discrimination.

Let us use our platforms to speak out.

Let us come out of this better and stronger than before.

Let us hold each other accountable for our actions (and inactions).

Much love,

Aida

Links from the article:

Chuy Photography

Beloved Stories Interview with Chuy ”Diversity & Inclusivity”

Links to a few Instagram profiles of photographers whose work I admire and are beautifully diverse:

Henry Tieu

Jonathan Ellis

Logan Cole

Lukas Piatek

Nadia Meli

Please feel free to add to this list.

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