In today’s world, there are very few spaces for Black women creatives to gather, network, and explore our talents. Without strong support systems and a proper spotlight, Black women creatives continue to struggle to find opportunities in our career field.
However, Polly Irungu — multimedia journalist, self-taught photographer, and founder of Black Women Photographers — is striving to amplify Black women’s creative work and disrupt industries to change common, obsolete hiring practices.
“I’m not trying to be a movement, but I do want to help connect the dots,” she said.
Irungu — who grew up in a traditional African household in Kansas and later in Oregon — has always had a creative spirit but found it difficult to find communities for Black women who had a passion for photography.
After attending the National Association of Black Journalists’ convention, she discovered the organization had a large close-knit community of Black writers and creatives, and so she came up with the idea to emulate that same community online for Black women photographers.
Black Women Photographers — founded on July 7 — is a new global community and digital database for Black women and non-binary photographers.
The platform has been supporting Black creatives during the pandemic by spotlighting their portfolios to encourage inclusivity within the industry.
“By providing a resource for the industry’s gatekeepers, Black Women Photographers aims to disrupt the notion that it is difficult to discover and commission Black creatives. Through honest dialogue via social conversations and workshops, the platform seeks to ensure that more Black women are empowered to make the industry as colorful as it ought to be,” the website states.
As a launching pad for Black women photographers, Irungu lists portfolios, geographic locations, and contact information for all those featured to make it easier for them to network and be contacted directly about potential job opportunities.
Irungu kicked off the soft launch of her online community with a COVID-19 Relief Fund that has raised more than $14,600 to date — surpassing its $10,000 goal — to support Black women photographers who have been affected by the pandemic.
The database’s funds are being distributed directly to 100 Black women to receive a small relief. Irungu also started the #BWPReliefFund hashtag to track how and who the funding has helped so far.
I would like to thank @BlkWomenPhoto and @pollyirungu for the relief provided by the #BWPReliefFund. Because of this amazing work I am another step closer to making more beautiful art and continue freelancing. 🐝 🍯 pic.twitter.com/xXGe5kzUvJ
— hot babie hippo⁷ (@melaninbarbie) July 12, 2020
Thank you so much @pollyirungu and @BlkWomenPhoto for your support of Black women photographers and for creating the #BWPReliefFund for those of us who are experiencing challenges as artists during this time, including myself. So grateful! Many thanks and wishing you blessings🖤 pic.twitter.com/KvAGfaQ20d
— Alayna N Pernell (@Life_As_Alayna) July 10, 2020
According to Irungu, since the platform’s launch, she’s been able to set up the official relief fund, secure collaborations with VSCO, Adobe Lightroom, PhotoShelter, and even co-organized three portfolio review sessions with Nikon Ambassadors.
She recently had the opportunity to speak to Nikon about her latest initiative to uplift Black creatives, and the many victories the platform has had so far on an Instagram Live session.
Through her inclusive platform, Irungu has helped many women featured on her database secure paid opportunities with brands and media such as The Washington Post, MEFeater Magazine, and Redbull to name a few.
Outside of helping Black women get paid, Irungu is also on a mission to foster a positive community where Black women photographers feel welcome and have others to lean on for support.
“I try to do updates and temperature checks in the community to see how people are doing,” Irungu said.
Irungu plans to continue to build up Black Women Photographers as well as her other projects that focus on uplifting other Black creatives like her growing directory for Black women Journalists.
To help amplify this network, she also created several online redirects, including whitemenjournalists.com, blackwomxnjournalists.com, blackfemalejournalists.com, and hireblackwomenjournalists.com.
Irungu also employs the #HireBlackWomenJournalists and #SupportBlackJournalists hashtags to encourage more support on social media as well.
In addition to her many projects, Irungu’s goal is to develop a mentorship program for young Black women before the end of the year.
Over the past few months, she’s equipped her large platforms to have a huge impact on Black women creatives over the last few months and has no plans on stopping anytime soon.
Black Women Photographers is accepting donations for the database here.
For more information on Black Women Photographers, visit their website.