Disclaimer: In this post, I am addressing the wedding photography industry in Europe and America. Moreover, I am sharing my point-of-view and do NOT speak for all Black people. In addition, I recognise that there are a number of Minorities affected by the lack of representation in the wedding industry – at this moment, I am focusing on the underrepresentation of Black people (which can be further applied to other minority groups).
In order to bring about real, lasting change in the wedding industry in regards to pushing for more diversity and inclusivity, fully acknowledging the issue is the first step in solving it. Not everybody truly understands what all the uproar is about. They may realise that there is a problem on the surface level, but not truly grasp the extent of it and what it means on a deeper level.
From what I see online, more and more photographers are starting to call-out mainstream wedding blogs, publications and feature accounts for disporpotionately featuring caucasian couples. This has happened in the past and unfortunately not much has changed in the industry.
Let us take it a step further and talk about photography conferences and workshops. How diverse are the photographers being invited to speak and teach? Are they being afforded the same opportunites to take the stage and share their expertise? If a styled shoot is a part of the portfolio-building and learning experience, how diverse are the models?
Nevertheless, I believe that simply shaming the people who run these businesses is not the answer. It is not productive and does not bring about lasting change. We need to actually start educating our industry about WHY it is so important to have diversity, not only in the people that we portray in our portfolios, but also in the photographers that we learn from.
TIME TO STOP SHAMING, TIME TO START EDUCATING
Shaming leads people to get defensive. What we need is people to become responsive. I agree with what Brené Brown said in an interview “Shame never drives positive behaviour. What shame drives is rage, anger, rationalization and blame.” Therefore, let us move away from critcising towards educating and collectively contributing to creating a better tomorrow.
One way of gaining a clearer understanding of the issues at hand is by changing our vantage points and taking on different perspecitves.
Allow me to paint you a couple of realistic scenarios:
Scenario 1: A Black couple scours through Instagram and Pinterest to find inspiration for their wedding and are mainly confronted with images mainly catering to Caucasian couples.
This signals to the Black couple that they are not the intended clientele being sought out to be served. It creates frustration and prepetuates exclusion in a culture that is already Eurocentric.
Scenario 2: A Black couple reaches out to a photographer and get rejected based on apperance.
This is discrimination. No more needs to be said!
Why is it important to have Black speakers and teachers at photography conferences and workshops?
To begin with, it is a moral imperative to be inclusive.
- Who we learn from shapes what we learn. When we continuously hear from a similar group of people, the sharing of new ideas and perspectives is limited. Diversity allows us to broaden our horizons.
- It makes Black photographers feel more welcome to attend a conference/workshop, which in turn enriches the interaction between participants and expands networking opportunities.
- It communicates to the participants that Black people have expertise worth sharing. This helps chip away at the implicit bias that exists in some people’s minds about the level of value that Black people have to offer.
- Moreover, it provides Black speakers/teachers with the opportunity to increase their credibility in the industry and increase their exposure.
(And I want to reiterate my point from my previous post that Black people should be given the stage to speak and teach based on their qualifications and not as a token or to solely address issues of race and identity.)
I am sure there are many other valid points to be made here…. you can feel free to add them in the comments.
Now, let all these points sink in.
From true understanding stems the need to take action. That is the next step.
Hi! I’m Aida, a photographer & podcaster based in Germany. I provide wedding photographers with the inspiration, tools and resources needed to build a sustainable brand and business. Click here for more about me.