Blackness. Ethnic. Urban. Race.
These words embody a lot. It often feels like we can’t have open conversations about these things because the sides are so polarized. There are people who can’t relate and others who don’t want to relate. You have those who are sympathetic to the different sides and those that are too steeped in being right to even open their minds. This post isn’t about race in general. I’ll save that one for another day. This post is about race issues among certain groups in the photographic community.
I am writing this post because a friend of mine
encouraged told me to write about this. (Her name is Sasha – y’all should know who she is.) This morning, my friend called me to see if I had seen a particular post online. This post was about something that we’ve talked about quite a bit – being a black photographer that doesn’t have many (if any) black clients. If you’re white, I bet you’ve never even thought about having clients that have your skin color. There’s no reason you would and it shouldn’t even be an issue. The thing is, in the black community, we often feel underrepresented. This makes many of us feel like every black person has to be a champion of EVERYTHING black. When we see a black artist, writer, teacher, politician, any-job-of-importance that isn’t sporting their blackness enough, people tend to write us off as being “Uncle Toms”, “race switchers”, “out of touch”. Pretty much, there are certain people that have some unwritten rule as to what “black enough” really means. When you don’t fall into their spectrum, you’re cast off. This is where the problem lies.
In case you didn’t know it – I am black. I’ve been black my whole life and have dealt with the same issues of being black that any other black person has.
I also have very few non-white clients. This doesn’t make me any less proud of my heritage or my ancestors. This doesn’t make me feel like I’m better than anyone else. This just means I have white clients. That’s it. I’m good at what I do and my skin color doesn’t matter. I’m also a business owner. Should I just turn away clients that are willing to PAY MY PRICES because their skin is lighter than mine? Should I not photograph what I want to photograph because YOU don’t think I’m “keepin’ it real”? Should I drop my prices so that those that don’t find my service worthy can still have it? I don’t owe anyone a hookup. In fact, since you’re so pro-black-let’s-sing-together-the-song-of-our-people, why don’t you hook a sistah up with a little bit more than what I charge? Why don’t you go the extra mile to show support and hire me yourself? (For the record, I would LOVE to have more black clients. If you know anybody who’s looking for a kick ass photographer in Puerto Rico, send them my way! You can view my website at www.monicaday.co)
You see, it’s easy to point a finger when you have NOTHING to lose. It’s easy to sit and judge when you’re steeped with anger and frustration because you’re not where you want to be. It’s easy to put the blame on someone else instead of on yourself. Not everything is about the color of your skin or the texture of your hair. Sometimes, it’s just about being who you are. Sometimes it’s about business. Sometimes it just does not matter. Is it worth it to be bothered by the fact that my portfolio doesn’t look like yours?
It truly saddens me when I see black photographers putting down other black photographers. I say photographers because that’s most of my community but I hate seeing it in all realms. There are so many issues going on around skin color right now that the least of our worries should be something like this. I don’t know a single person that has said anything negative about a photographer that seems to only photograph black folks. Nope. We don’t really care. We’re too busy working. What I do see is certain black photographers judging other black photographers that have “crossed over” (as if there’s anything to cross over). This crossing over is all in their heads. My take on it is that you should embrace whoever your clientele is. If your clientele consists of military families, go for it. If your clientele consists the ladies of 5th Ave, go for it. If your clientele is your cousins who don’t pay you, go for it. If you shoot fitness, go for it. If you shoot alternative looks, go for it. Find YOUR place and do YOUR thing. As for me, I’m going to do mine.
*Disclaimer – because I have to do these with these kinds of posts. There are PLENTY of successful black photographers that have 90%+ black portfolios. They are doing their thing and making their way in this world with much success. NOTHING is wrong with this.