Note: There will be a post about my Project 104 and other exciting photo news really soon, but I just had to get this off my chest first.
There is a lack of diversity in conceptual art photography. Everyday on Flickr (and other sites), I see wonderful photos, but they are often featuring the same type of people: thin, young and white.
I shouldn’t be surprised, of course. We still live in a society where if you are not young, skinny and white with straight hair (long, especially if you’re a woman)- you are considered an “other” and generally aren’t represented. And that sucks, because I’m not any of those things.
I was never what you would call skinny or even thin and I couldn’t “pass” if I tried. The fact is that I’m a curvy black (African-American, brown, Caribbean-American…so many title options, yada) girl with natural hair. Most of the “long” hair you see in my photos are wigs and I’ve also gotten rather clever with posing so I look my best. It took me a long time to shoot full-body photos because I was afraid of being judged. And even longer to start taking taking self-portraits.
Now that I’m beginning to submit work to galleries, contests, etc – I wonder how my work would be received/sell in the mostly lily-white Pacific Northwest (no offense, I love you PNW, but you are…) and the rest of the art market. At first I avoided including my self-portraits and I briefly (very very briefly) considered hiding my race* in certain photos to make the prints more “acceptable”. But why hide who I am to fit what the majority wants? My appearance is one of the many things that makes me unique, different and stand out from the incredibly saturated crowd. If someone doesn’t want to buy my prints because of my race, size, hair – then that’s their problem.
So, I’m putting it out there to the world: I want to see more diversity in conceptual photography (hell, art in general) – racial, body type, gender, sexuality, etc. Let this be a challenge to you – self portrait artists, photographers, etc. Consider using more diverse models or make yourself visible. And to the folks on Flickr: I love this community, but there are so few self portrait artists of color or different body types. Or who shoot with diverse models. The few artists I’ve found and loved, I’ve favorited immediately and continue to follow.
Now this doesn’t mean you should turn away a thin model or a white model – I’m open to working with all types of people. I just wish more photographers, artists, etc would consider portraying many different types of folks.
Let’s represent everyone on this big blue marble, kay?
Here are a few Flickrites you should check out: