In June of 2020, Polly Irungu launched Black Women Photographers with about 100 members and the hope that more Black women would receive commissions and greater recognition for their work. “I didn’t really know that photography was a space for me to be in, as I didn’t see myself in the world of photography or really any art spaces for that reason,” Irungu said about the impetus for the organization in a recent interview. “I think with the work that I’ve been doing, it’s obviously shattering that. It’s putting us, as Black women, to the forefront, as we have been shut out of the industry for so long.”
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Just two years later, the organization has grown exponentially, now touting a global membership of more than 1,200 from 50 plus countries. It offers a directory geared toward curators, editors, and brands looking to hire, in addition to programming, educational opportunities, awards, and portfolio reviews. In 2021, it also established an annual $50,000 grant fund in partnership with Nikon, furthering its mission by providing direct support to those in the community.
Irungu—who was also just named photo editor for the Office of the VP to the Biden-Harris Administration—hopes to expand the original goals of the organization as it enters its third year and continue to champion Black women in the industry. She explains:
I just want to continue building this community, celebrating these works in the community, helping nurture these photographers and get them to the next level, whatever that next level looks like for them. But also to continue to take up space in this industry, letting people know what “Yes, we’re here,” and we photograph portraits, we photograph sports, music, fine art, and we photograph anything that you can think of, like architecture, real estate, outdoors, landscape, film, all of that is within this community.
In honor of World Photography Day (which is today!) and its second anniversary, Black Women Photographers is hosting a print sale. We’ve gathered some of our favorite images from the collection here, but visit Instagram for a deeper dive into the archive.