Skip to main content

Celebrating Black Women Photographers

Lesson 1 of 1

Celebrating Black Women Photographers with Polly Irungu

Polly Irungu, Kenna Klosterman

Celebrating Black Women Photographers

Polly Irungu, Kenna Klosterman

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

1. Celebrating Black Women Photographers with Polly Irungu


  Class Trailer
Now Playing

Lesson Info

Celebrating Black Women Photographers with Polly Irungu

Mm. Mhm. Mm. And yeah. Hello, everyone. And welcome to Creativelive. Welcome back to Creativelive. I am your host, Kenna Klosterman. And we are streaming to you live from my home to our guests home to yours. And today is February 1st. It is the first day of black History month. And I am super excited to tell you all about a partnership that we are kicking off here today with the founder polio Nyongo of black women photographers. Now, before we get started, I want to let you all know that this is part of our podcast. We are photographers where we take you behind the scenes behind the lives of photographers, filmmakers, industry game changers from all over the world who are doing amazing things and talk about their lives, their history, the ups and downs of living a creative life. And so you can be sure to check out all the episodes of we are photographers on creativelive dot com slash podcast or wherever it is that you do get your podcasts. Uh, and we are also, like I said, streaming li...

ve here on creative live TV. And if you are on creativelive dot com slash t V. You can click on the chat icon and jump on in there. You can chat with your fellow community. You can ask questions for Polly throughout this conversation. And, of course, I love to give the shout outs of where people are tuning in from. So we have got Abram on who's tuning in from Turkey, for starters again, if you're on Facebook or Twitter, let us know where it is that you are tuning in from. Okay, get that out of the way. So, everybody, I am super excited and honored that this month we are kicking off a conversation series partnered with Black Women Photographers, which is an online community and database that is supporting women who identify as black women and non binary woman who are making waves in the photo industry. And we're going to talk about what the goal is, um, that Polly created and how it's evolved over the past six months since it launched. Polly herself is a multimedia journalist again. She's the founder of black women photographers, but she also has a day job where she is a digital editor, Uh, for the podcast, um, at W N Y c. The takeaway, which is one of the most incredible series on NPR and as a photographer herself. Her work has been published by NPR Washington Post, CNN huffpost Okay, Africa. She was named one of Okay, Africa's 100 women to know in 2020. And she speaks about social media branding, podcasting, media diversity, photojournalism for places like Twitter, NBC News, National Association of Black Journalists and more. All right, everybody. Once again, let's bring on Polly. Oh, Polly, how are you doing today? Oh, my God. It's kinda Hello. Thank you so much. Thank you for all of that. That was beautiful. Um, I'm so excited to be here again for those who don't know actually kicked off, You know, black women photographers on my birthday. What kind of back? In July of 2020. It's just so amazing, you know, to see the community grow. Um, so thankful for the support of you and creative lives and everybody else. So thank you for having me. Of course. Of course. And before we get into a conversation as well again, the shout outs are coming in. So, you know, I love to do these We've got from Belfast. Uh, We've got someone in Houston. We have Jesse who is tuning in from Ghana, which is awesome. Uh, we have a me in Toronto, We have B C, we have Atlanta. And then we have someone saying Polly is such a boss, and we agree. Thank you. Thank you. So again today? Yes. Today is February 1st and again throughout this month of February. Every Wednesday at 10 AM Pacific time. 1 p.m. Yes, New York time. We are going to feature four of the women who are part of the community of black women photographers the database, uh, to learn more about their lives and their stories. And again, that's part of our podcast. We are photographers. You'll be able to see them right here on creative live TV or any of the social channels. And we are, Let's just talk about the four women that we're going to be featuring throughout the month. Um, we are, Yes. We are going to be hearing from this Wednesday, February 3rd, um, from Rasheeda slogan. We have a Dara Ekpo coming up to me, Thomas and Alexis Huntley And you can our recipe for all of those if you are incredible. I've dot com slash t v right now. So they get reminders when you are going to do that when we're doing this. Okay, So, Holly, let's talk. Go back six months ago and tell everybody who maybe is not fully familiar with black women photographers. Why you launched it? Uh, and we'll start with, we'll start with the goal of it and then talk about how it's evolved. Yes, six months ago. Oh, my goodness. It feels like 10 years ago. Um, let's see. So to remind us back, um, when I was in Oregon, So I'm arranging if I'm not really Kenya grew up in Kansas, but to Oregon. So Kenya, Kansas, Oregon, Uh, and so when I was in Oregon, um, you know, just now beginning the state, I was very new, doing a lot of emotions, culture shock, all of it. Um, it's actually indeed depression. So I picked up a camera for the first time to, like, get myself out of that to find that creative outlets. Um, and when I was there, you know, just like I said, navigating and, you know, predominantly white state for those who don't know. And so I didn't know any of the book photographers. Woman's I mean, some women photographers, not women photographers. And so I really was just It's like speaking a community. I was just missing that. It's like a void in a sense, and it's just so hard navigating industry alone. But also it's very still white, male dominated. And so just doing all that at the young, you know, see college students. Um, it's very overwhelming. But fortunately, you know, I learned about any DJ, which is the National Association of Black Journalists. So I tapped into that community for a while. Still, part of it still love my, um, visual task force family. But, you know, I graduated in 2017, and I really wanted to be like, Okay, how can I pursue his, You know, as a career, what would that look like? And I just didn't know where to turn. Um, and so, you know, three years later, here I am in New York, um, while I'm doing social media for my day job at your public radio and still seeking some kind of community. And so when I was in Oregon, I created this Twitter list called Blossom Photographer. and I just, like, randomly added people on my timeline as they popped up. Um, and then I often just tweet out my Twitter list randomly. I don't have, like, a method to that randomly, maybe based on some conversations or whatever. I just tweet them out as a refresher. And so I tweeted it out. And one of the times he retweeted, I think, What's around? March? Where, um, there was a lot of things happening. You know, there's a lot of like, you know, related to, like police brutality, things as well in conversations that were taking place about how the photographer should tell their own stories. Um, and so that sparked one of the times. I I reposted the Twitter left out in the Twittersphere and, you know, one of the times I did that it garnered a couple 100 retweets, Um, a few photographers, one particular, uh, you know, they reached out to me and said, You know, we should do something with this. I don't know. What exactly would that look like? Um, but I took the time for any from March to May. I really just took the time to reach out to the photographers on my list. I just started deeming anyone and everyone, um, if their demands were open and I emailed them like I was really just like it's sending notes to everyone. Thanks. Hey, all Like, how are you feeling about, you know, the state of industry Where that in your journey would you want a former community? What would that look like to you? What would you want in a community? Um, you know, what would you like? Last page assignment, like, you know, as photographers, as women as black women are getting hired was just, you know, what does that look like for you? Um, And here we are in this pandemic. How can you know that industry supports you during this time And what would that look like? And so I just started reaching out to people having those conversations, also asking them what they want to be a part of the database, because I wanted to create a resource, you know, inspired by the work of, like, Danielle of woman, photograph and others, you know, create a resource that people can point pinpoint too. Um, and so really, You know, I just took that time to take a step back and do a lot of listening because I knew about my own personal experiences build, you know, we're not a monolith. And so I wanted to listen to theirs as well. And then, you know, after I think a month or so, I decided to first kick it off with the covid 1980 fund. So that was in June on Juneteenth. That's when I dropped that, um my goal for that was only 7000, because, you know, I've never did a group fundraiser before, but also, I wanted to launch the community on July 7. 2021. Sorry, of my birthday. And, you know, fortunately, thanks to the power of community, in a sense, uh, was able to double that goal and reach over 14,000 U. S. C. For photographers, platform photographers here in the space and internationally. Um, and that was just incredible. And then, you know, followed up that with that, with the database launching on July 7th, and since you know, since the time we spoke, you know, I think when we spoke, I probably only had, like, 100 photographers. Now that over so it's just really amazing to witness. You know, it's like I said, This group, this community just grows organically. And so, um, all I have to say that, you know, a lot of it was inspired by just needing that sense of community. Other other part of that was inspired by the fact that tired of hearing the same excuses that you can't find any black women to hire, And so all that said, you know, decided to go for it to do it. I mean, it's it's just even saying the statement as we did, you know, six months ago when you launched and and there's a lot of there's a lot of, um, organizations out there, but the it's still like the fact that people can say, I don't know where to find a black woman photographer for hire, you know, like, let's talk about if and how you've seen things change. 2020. There was an incredible year in in many ways Um and, uh, so much happening. Um, and and have you seen changes in the industry? Yes. I mean, yes and no. I think we all have seen some, you know, needles pushed I guess the sense where yes, people have started to utilize this database and other databases. Um, you know, most recently, like for black photographers. Photographers have reached out to me. And, you know, I think when I shared a few weeks ago was, um, the photographer Namika she's based in I wanted to Oakland, California airline, major airline. Tapped into the database to hire her, and I When I, you know, sought out to do this, I never thought. Okay, let me go to some airliners and show them the database. You know, I was showing it to just like photo editors and directors and curators and other people who are in position to hire. But now I'm like, Oh, my God, it makes so much sense. So, of course, airlines would also need to use this, like, you know, the pamphlets that they have in their seat pockets of every seat. And they're like, those are photos taken by someone, um and so that just really you know, again, I guess start to feel under me. Um, but, you know, in addition to her, just other newspapers and outlets like the Washington Post. Netflix, um, New York Times, dreadful. You know, those are just some of the people who have tapped into the database to hire, uh and, you know, like I said, there shouldn't be any more excuses, right? I mean, in 2022 we shouldn't have been any excuses. Now, on 2021 there's devolution not being excuses. We have blocked photographers. We have diversified photo. We have authority collective woman's photographs like I can go on and on and on. There's always been organizations who are doing the work. Um, because it's a lot of work, not gonna like sugar coated to anyone. It's a lot of work to make this run. And to, you know, I spend like my weekends updating the data varies all the time because I have a full time job and so, you know, it's just like a lot of work. And then, you know, at the same time, it's also just a lot of, you know, unpaid labour. In a sense where you know, this is the role. You know, finding photographers, it's somebody else's job, like an editor's job. Photo editors. Simon Editor You know, these are people who actually get paid to do that, but Now they just have to turn to resource that's already provided to them. And so it really that's what I'm saying, why there should not be excused because we're removing some of those, Like, I guess, you know, barriers to whatever that you may have to fly photographers. You know, when I just love about this community, it's just that, you know, we're not just the New York or L A to the world. You know, I you know, there's photographers in Little Rock, Arkansas, Tulsa, like Montgomery. I mean, always like pockets like that I would never even think of Like, Of course, of course, it makes sense that, you know, there's photographers and cancers that are black woman, you know. And so it's just trying to find that, um, I guess just trying to connect with God and just remind people that, you know, there is plenty of resources out there. You just have to do a few Google searches and a son or just, you know, like check out the ones I just listed off bookmarks, safer friends, family, whoever you never know who they need it. And so really, it's just like getting the word out there. Speaking of getting the word out there, I mean, well, first of all, like thank you. Um, for all of the I mean, this is like you said you have You have a full time job, which is an incredible full time job, and and And you have dedicated yourself, uh, to this and I and I think I mean, I'm sure it's amazing to hear the stories, like the woman who, you know, was contacted by the airlines. But it's also cool like that to think about now. You have 500 photographers like you will. You won't actually probably end up knowing all the stories of all the impact that it will make. And like, how is that what continues to motivate you? Yeah, that's a good question. I really think that Is that this point apart? Because sometimes, you know, I am a Bush critic. I know that for a fact. I'm very hard on myself. I have very high expectations for myself. Um and I, you know, just do that for a lot of reasons. But for me, I think you know when I hear photographer has been contacted for an inquiry or higher or you know, they look at their, um, analytics on my website and see their most recent source. It's black emphasizes dot com. You know, those are the kind of things I feel me. Also, we have a private spa community and so over 300 photographers in our slack where we're just constantly they're just like communicating. Asked me to the questions. Advice. You know, there's a lot of emerging photographers in the community, and so they turn to the more advanced ones. Or the more you know, photographers for the more experienced in a sense, um, and asking those questions about licensing, pitching, whatever, or just like, how does my photos flux that it took the other day? And so when I see those questions being asked in the black and then people like engaging with each other, I mean, those are the kind of moment that I just like love and feel me to really just see that, you know, all of that is like, what makes this work all of that makes it so unique. Um and really, just, you know, it happened organically, in a sense. And so, like, at first, you know, you know, like I don't know. Maybe people are feeling it out. And now I'm like, OK, people are really just turning to each other and being so vulnerable, What they're sharing and just, you know, it's so willing to help. And, you know, because often times of this industry, there's some mentality where it's like not enough room for everyone. And it's not the case. Uh, how much room for all of us and seeing that like sisterhood, in a sense, you know, form, you know, amongst each other's must be to the photographers. And when I'm like, endlessly scrolling Twitter does I, like, spend like half my have my life on Twitter, in a sense, but half of it because of my job. It's not because I live on Twitter have industries. I'm working. But you know, when I'm scrolling on Twitter and I see that you know the Congress between each other or just talking tweeting as you said, I'm like, Oh my God, like I just I love all of that like all of that, just like feels me all the guy just like, makes me feel so happy that this is what I'm supposed to look like this is what I was supposed to be for, like all those hours, you know? But it didn't work. Um, you know, makeup where it was moments like that. It's just awesome. And a couple of things that I'm hearing within here, I mean, first of all, is the community aspect, Um, to your point of like, you never know what you start something and you don't know. You know what? Where it's going to go. But then when When other people start, you know, you gain, you get this momentum going, And then, you know, things are created and happen in ways that you, um that you wouldn't expect necessarily. Um, you do spend a lot of time on Twitter, but like you said, uh, like you said, I, um it's part of your job. So So what I have observed Polly in the past six months is just the, you know, you said when you started it you were just emailing, um, photographers that you're following or saw whatever but similarly, like you have partnered with so many bigger brands. And so, um, once again, today is the first day of Black History month. Tell me about some of the things that, um you are doing this month that people can can go and look and follow and check out because I know again like you started the database and then you lead into interviews. Um, you know, you're doing all kinds of all kinds of other things as well. Yes, I'm very excited about that. It's now It's like it's been taking something different, like queens or whatever. I don't even know it's been growing into so many different things. So along with a good in addition to the database, you know, I'm interviewing photographers about their stories, started rolling the outpost interviews on the site, Um, most recently one with Sarah Liza, who is the Ugandan documentary photographer based in Nairobi, Kenya. She's just incredible credible work. Um, and so that was the most recent interview posted. Um, but additional to that all these different events and just like workshops and portfolio of the opportunities have also been taking place. And then the partnerships and collaborations and so currently have one ongoing series with Adobe Light Room, where I speak to photographers. Um, creative is really a lot of them were different hats about their journey. Um, it gives a chance for these photographers to speak to photographers they look up to, You know, 2020. We had Joshua Casey, who was a photographer, and Dr um, and director, and he was most recently tapped for Beyonce's black as king. So I'm one of the seven directors Captain for that. Yeah, Kennedy Carter, who is the youngest? I think, at age 21 was able to photograph three covers of Beyonce for British Vogue. Yeah, slow Ngala. And we also had an idea. And all of them are just so incredible and so continuing That series this year with them just didn't want Today with Maha Mila, based in London in New York. She's incredible. Um, how what else? Just also announced a collaboration with this girl? Uh, back in August, we collaborated with them for their black joy Matters campaign that was on social and so excited to, you know, partner with them almost long, you know, keeping that same energy and a sense of, you know, telling about black stories, black joy, Um, showcasing that. And so people can participate through that on the skull and on social all month long, so I'm very excited about that. And also going to have a few other photographers curators on disco speed for, um, I think one every week. Um, so that's gonna be fun. Um, partnering up with you all that creative life we're having for photographers from the community. Dara, Tommy Rashida. Um, Alex says, you know, common share their stories. Looks like I said, this community just both of so many stories. Um And so I've been trying to, you know, create those thoughts where people are able to, you know, share their stories and not let those just like I told her than at them, I guess because everyone has the story, I truly believe that. And I truly hope that, you know, everyone who loves this story told, gets that chance. And so this is just one way that they can do that. Um, you know, there's just so much power in telling your own story on your own terms, in a sense. And so I'm very excited about this, or those photographers are able to do that. You know, some of them may have not been on a podcast before, so this could be the first time and, you know, getting comfortable speaking about yourself and your work. It's so essential, and we don't talk about it so busy creating that photographers. But it is so necessary. You really have to be able to do both Now, um and so looking for that. Looking forward to that everyone's day, you know, it's gonna be partnering with photo shelter on month. Very excited about them. Uh, they have been super supportive from the start. Uh, the folks at the shelter, um, that's a lot. Well, I know what I know. One that we're missing is the print sale. So let's so let's go back to again. Part of when you launched this part of it was again where we were in 2020. It's the pandemic. Um, and, uh, it's an continues to be an incredibly challenging time financially for many, many people, but including creatives and freelancers. And so, at the time you had done, like you said, done a free, uh, fundraiser that was actually putting dollars back in the in the hands of credos who were, um, out of work or, you know, and so talk to me now about what you just launched today and so that people tuning in, Um, can, you know, seek to support purchase? Um, all the things of of these 50 prints that you are or 50 images that are available as prints. So tell us more. Thank you. Um, so this is just another way of, you know, supporting the photographers and community, but also supporting black photographers as an organization takes a lot to keep this up and running a lot of cops. I've just been buried on my own, um, and, you know, with the help of some donations from the community at large as well. Uh, so there's probably believe 50 50 split 50% of those photographers who decided to take part in the D percent to block in. Photography is not gonna give organizations that we can use the proceeds for, you know, uh, I mean, cause operations, programming, et cetera. You name it to keep, you know, bringing all this great resources to these photographers for free. It's the goal. And so there's a 50 plus beautiful, beautiful work. Uh, it's a really a wide mix. From outdoors to wildlife to landscape, um, portrait, fashion, beauty, some film photos as well. Um, you know, from all over the states and the world. Really? And so you can check that out where you see dark room to do the print sales. So that's just black when we talk of our star dark room dot tech. Um, and you can see that in the black, um, staffers timelines on all the platforms. Really? I'm going to do it all month long. I'm very excited about that, because again, it would be another way to support these photographers. But also just to help keep vwp up and ready. Awesome. So everybody again. Be sure to check that out. I was looking at the the images this morning and just like you said, such an amazing variety of genres and styles And and, um, you know, like you said, people from all over the world. Oh, what is it for you about photography? Um, that again as I'm just thinking about that, like you're thinking about all these images Or, you know, just all these global photographers, you know, like, what is it for you that you find in the is the power of photography? Oh, um, I think again, it's for me. It's really just like learning the story. behind every image, but also the person behind the camera I've always been super aware of, you know who is telling the stories and why they're telling the stories. Um, and, you know, I think that photographers were often I'm feeling the title to be the one to tell these stories because we have a camera and, you know, you know, even more So I was talking to a photographer a couple months ago, just like when the pandemic hit. A lot of the photographers are based internationally. Start everything assignments because people can parachute in, Um, because they couldn't fly in because of the pandemic. And, you know, it was just so unfortunate that those are the reasons why they were being hired. Um, because of that. And so for me, it's just always again who's telling the story while they're telling it, Um, and really just her intentions for me. I just try to be super mindful of that. Even if I feel like I'm not the best fit to tell us certain store take on a certain assignment, I'm always able to take a step back and like, evaluate. That's all the stuff that and you know, pass it along to somebody else and maybe a better fit. Um, and so for me, I do. That was part of it. Um, you know, I really am hopeful that this industry will, you know, because a lot of conversations have sparked at the end of the year and Indian carrying on into the beginning of this year from harassment and sexual harassment. You know, black photographers being able to, you know, get paid and, um, and tell their own stories. And so a lot of conversations were started. Um, and so I'm kind of hopeful. Optimistic, no, cautiously optimistic about you know what? Lessons will be learned from 2025 early this year. Um, what action will be taken place? Because we can talk all day, but, like, what are we actually gonna do about it? Um, And who is going to, you know, really, I guess Take action, Do some change for me to change it. So for me, I guess so. I think about when I think about photography. Um, can we can we Can we dive further into that statement that you just made? Because yes, we can. We can talk all day long And then there's and And then there are people that, you know, put things like yourself that that take the actions to make things happen. Um, what do you see around you? Um, that kind of is that other things that where people are taking action, Whether that's, um, just in, you know, other organizations doing things similar to you. Uh, or, um, I don't I don't know. Like what? What what else are you seeing out there where the action is being taken? And where is it not? Where is there still opportunity for change? That's a big question. But I mean, like some practical some some things that can take a look at in terms of, of how to take action and or like what? Are you still hoping to see change? Mm. Yeah, stuff like that. Question. I think most recently, I've been seeing a lot of creative, you know, start their own. Just anything. You know, like I saw that problem. I created a solution. And I've seen a lot of talk about do that in this past year. Um, and so there's two who comes to mind, Um, one. I'm forgetting the name, but she started a three magazine, um, where it's just a magazine by black creative black and brown creative for black and brown creative. Um, their cover star was Andre Wagner, whose incredible photographer, uh, and so, you know, machines, you know, formed a team and started this magazine that I think, a quarterly issue, um, on her own during limited to the damage. And it just launched on January. And so for me, I think that's just one action. A little thing like, you know, she wanted to see more platforms for black folks black around. Folks can have their voices told the stories, told, um, and do it on their own terms And the sun and, you know, magazines that would publish their work And, um, given those, like, access to opportunities and what not? And so she just decided to watch the whole magazine magazine easy work at all. I mean, this is a print magazine. I mean, print has been dying left and right during the pandemic. Um, and so she just took it upon herself to do this. Um, I think the issue only cost, like, $40. Um and so, you know, just to take that charge. I think it's really commented for that because I can't even imagine the work it takes to put together an issue. Um, and so there's the first issue that she launched. And so I think that's amazing, because again, like getting your work on a magazine is so hard, Um and so might as well just create one right, um, and future, the photographers, the creators that you admire on it, Um, this is your platform. And so I've seen a lot of photographers just against creative General create their own, you know, create their own tables and then provide a lot of seats at it. Um, in a sense, And so for me, I think, I mean, that's just like I'm very hopeful about. I'm going to see. I think you'll see more that this year. I think it would be a lot of more photographers or whoever really, just to take charge on their own. You know, at some point you'll get tired of waiting at some point, will be tired of waiting for the next opportunity. You just have to create it. And so for me, you know, that's what I did with black photographers and now that's what I'm doing for the photographers in the community. I'm creating different opportunities for them. You know? Just did a papillary recession was getting, uh, images and AP images this past month. And so, you know, those are too big, you know, um, you know, record notable, you know, platforms, getting images, ap images. And unfortunately, you know, since launch had over 70 photographers, you know, receive both portfolio review from, you know, like I said, getting a p, but also an icon, USA and and others. And so for me, I think, really, that's just really all about is just, you know, in a sense, you know, sure, well, they have received a prefer there to be at some point, of course, probably. But for a lot of the photographers, this is the first time. And it's so critical for a photographer to have that review from an outside perceptive not just friends and family, all but a real, professional, real industry professional. Reviewing your proposal is so key tea or growing, you know, starting those relationships at those different places. So one day maybe you'll work out Getty or maybe one day you'll work at AP who knows? Like it really is so key. And so I mean, I created those opportunities, and thankfully, you know, those relationships have been built. And so those people have been willing to do that and donate their time, uh, to do that. But, you know, again, when would that have happened? Right? If I didn't just take that lead to do it, um, eventually. Sure. Like I said, that could have happened. But I just don't want to, you know, put all my eggs in one basket for eventually, right? And so that's just like Russian. Well, I just again wanna, um, pause. And for me, the fact that you are 26 years old and, uh, you know, it's, uh it's you field. That's funny. Um, but, you know, again not wanting to to put your all your eggs in one basket. You know, you're just you You at the beginning of the somebody wrote, um, you know? Oh, she's Polly is a powerhouse. And it's so true. Um, I want to talk a little bit more about these portfolio reviews and sort of I mean, take me behind the process of because I know these have already happened, at least the ones that did just happen. 70 people. Let's pause. It can cost hundreds of dollars to get a portfolio review. And so, um, so getting 70 photographer's portfolio reviews, like you said by industry folks who you know, take incredibly seriously who are you know, they're to give. That can be, you know, life changing approaches, Um, to how you approach your photographer, your business. What have you relationships, Um, that that are being built. So again, just this, like every you are so encouraging for for anybody, not just like looking to do what you're doing, but just this attitude of, like, might as well ask, you know, like Let's just go, go, go. So how did you go about getting all these people involved with the portfolio reviews and side note like, what are opportunities for people who might be tuning in as well? Now for something like that in the future? Yeah. So, you know, I love Twitter site. Uh, often used Twitter as a way to, uh, reach out and just ask. Like you said, you just don't know and you never know who's watching, and you never know who may be listening or who may be able to be able to help. Um and so I for a p for example, I tweeted at, um, tweeted at api. Just asking, you know, who can I get in touch with? Um, and I know there's other ways to go about it. You can also use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great way to reach out to people who are not connected with, um because they show everyone at that company right there in bed. But, you know, you know, some platforms that are hasn't very active social persons like a P. I decided that that may be the fastest way until, you know, the person behind the counter. Wonderful woman. She reached out right away. Um, and just, like, made those intros and started, you know, rallying of the troops at 80. Um, it's similar to getting ready. That was my same approach. That and you know, when I tweeted out the other day that you know, we've had 70 photographers, at least 70 photographers, specific portfolio review, You know, uh, someone in the comments in the replies from Reuters picture Reuters resupplied and say, you know, how can we help? And so like, just like that. And so now, going to be in the works to stop. Of course, everything was later, um, ordering the work to set up a further we will reveal with Bloomberg. They contacted me. I didn't have to reach out to them. And so it's just beautiful to see that, you know, those are the pieces that are working on our emotions. Um, and I think you know the photographer who are listening who have more advanced skills who are professional industry. Just tweet out that you may have time to review some propose, you know, offer that if you can if you have that expert piece because, like, you know, kind of said some of these reviews so much money. Um, and I'm just so thankful that, you know, I'm able to provide these opportunities for free that they won't be at charge, because again, I'm trying to remove barriers and not trying to create barriers. Um and so for me, I really think that is just so important to see that, you know, all of those things are happening, and those are not the last review sessions that are happening. I said, like, here's this time do more. So I'm very excited about like, whoever the next will be. You know, just stay tuned for that. At least two opportunities will be coming up very soon in February and March with Reuters and Bloomberg And stay tuned about that. Um and I think it's just, you know, other ways are photographers can be involved in, You know, like any time you want to. If you're listening to your black when the photographer and all being a photographer and you want to be involved is to reach out, Um, you know, I'm always accepting, you know, community was going to be growing. There's no real sense of, like, an open call season, just like any day. So think all again because I don't want to prohibit people from, like, you know, missing out on these opportunities. I mean, these things happen so quickly, and so it's so quick, so easy. Missed out. Um, and so for me, I'm just trying to create those doors and open the doors more often. And I'm very excited about doing that more so this year. Um, with performance reviews or with workshops, I mean the beginning of the some of our first workshop. Um well, you know about Grant writing one a one because there's so much money out there for grants. But how do you know that if you never applied and how do you know apply for a grant? And so, you know, just trying to create more of those, um, and also gonna be partnering with Bloomberg again. Um, um, like how to just like how to pitch and how to, you know, all these different things. I'm very excited about that. But worse is more system. That's amazing. And, of course, my mind. I'm like, Wait, let's put those on creativelive. Yeah, because I mean that again, if you're if people are tuning in, you know, it's part of like we are all here, this global community of people, you know, like you said, trying to learn self directed learning, uh, in order to transform and improve our lives. And, uh, you know, if if getting people access to places like Reuters, ap Bloomberg, you know, it's not something that people think that they can necessarily just, you know, tweet and do. And yet you are, and yet, you know, you do things like that, and and And so I guess I'm I'm curious Going back to the portfolio review. Are you even putting together a portfolio? Let me tell you, putting together have you together propel your car, but also putting together a portfolio reviews take a lot of time. Um, we recently did one with red I rep. Um and they are busy, busy folks. They an incredible, uh, group of four women. Um, and you know, they were just a busy team. And so I remember I reached out because they were doing their own special open call for black, indigenous and people of color photographers and creatives. Uh, and a lot of photographers and creatives in general aspired to be one day represented by an agency like Red Eye are others. And so, you know, I reach out to them, and their next opening was in May 2021. I mean, shocking them in September 2020. The next company once in May. But fortunately, thankfully, they made a way to make some time in January. So that's discussion idea that sometimes these things are in motion for a long time. It takes a long time to plan these, especially when this photography community is just like on all these different time zones. And so just trying to make it work for people with one thing. Um, but only Yeah, like what you're saying? It's like building a portfolio, also just overwhelming. It's so hard because you never know. Like, what do you put on the homepage? How do you divide up your work? Okay, if you are multifaceted, you know, how do you do that? I remember in my review session with Greta, You know, they, you know, in the most elegant way. I don't see that this is a hotbed because, like, like in the most nicest way, Because I just like, you know, I do so many different things. I'm you know, by day I'm a social media manager by night and found a box of Congress, and then I speak on payrolls and I, you know, I feel that's right and shoot. And so I do all these different things, and I just wasn't present in the best way. I just wasn't owning that, um and so really, just hearing that from, you know, sometimes you have to. Like I said, you have to hear from somebody else, Um, and somebody else who's been doing this for a very long time. And they know what they're talking about. And they know what they're looking for when they're trying to hire, you know, creative, like me. And so, what were some of the tips that you got? What were some of the Oh, yeah. What did you change? Because I think we all feel like our websites and things are a hot mess, like we all do. Yes, Yes. I mean, I'm still in the process of applying their feedback. Um, but for me, you know, I think the biggest thing was just, like, making it very clear. Like, what do you do? Like they were like, Who is probably Okay. Now when you say that, like, what is probably do and you know, how can you own it? You know, just don't be so timid about it. If you're gonna, you know, listed. I don't just own it. Then, um And what do you actually want to have more of the soul front? You know, going back to the U. S. Policy. Like, what do you want to be known for? Your photography is your writing. Is that all of those? Um, you know, when you are directing people to your site, who are you trying to reach? You know, And how can you make it so clear for them to see you know, the photographer photo editor? How can the photo editor actually see your photography? Do they have to go looking for it everywhere? Like they're not going to spend time looking for your photos. You know, like, how can you just make it as easy as possible for the person to China Rage, Um, and just simplify it. Because sometimes you just over think at all. Um and so that those are the kind of things that they told me. I'm going to apply for my own work. Um, and that's for those who are listening and apply to theirs. Well, that's awesome. Advice for sure. And thank you for passing that along. Uh, we you talked a little bit about it, but we have Rogina Montgomery who is unique in, uh, Regina. Uh, and she had asked, uh, what do you see? The black women photographers platform growing into. And I'm not gonna ask you your five year plan, but you name some of the things, but, uh, but, you know, in just in general, it because it is a platform and, you know, whether it was started for a place for people to be hired, and then, you know, there's the community aspect. So, you know, what are some of the other things that that you're looking forward to? Yes. Oh, Regina. Hello. Hello from Chicago. Regina, Um, what are the things I'm gonna be hard to? Oh, my goodness. I feel like that could be a podcast episode itself. I think one thing I would want this platform to continue to be a first and foremost is actually a platform of people like there can be hired, um, and not to establish the photographers in the community to understand what it means to be hired and what they should be looking out for. You know, the business side of photography. Those are the things that are really going to try to emphasize this year. Uh, for the community, just like three. I think you know, when you reset the year when you have a new year, it's a good time. Just reset yourself in your work. Um, and just to lay out, you know, just label foundations again. Uh, and so for me, I think, you know, just for against the photographers, a lot of them are emerging. It's just, like, what do they need to know about contracts? I don't want them to get hired and have a terrible contract. You know, like those are the kind of, like, layers to it that, you know, I want people to understand, Like, I don't want to get hired. And they're just, like, lose out on a bunch of money that it could have had. I don't want them to, you know, not think about licensing our stock, you know, in a just during this time. And so for me, those are the things that I'm thinking about it, like how to just against provide those fundamentals, Um, and more advanced, you know, questions. You know, actually have a good session that's coming up. Um, towards the end of February, with the agency 72 sunny, we're partnering up for a series of work Smarter, not harder than the title of it. Uh, and actually the flyers, uh, I don't know if you have seen or other coalition has seen the where the money resides, maim and whatnot. And so that's the fire of it. Because we want to be where the money resides this year. So for me, it's just like those are the things that I'm thinking about. Um, and, you know, 72 sunny would be, like, the first, like, business side of photography workshops and things and, you know, in the works of doing others with a few other different platforms, Um oh, I think, you know, get it says having these different opportunities now going to, you know, partnering with you all partnering. Um, gonna be announcing a few other collaborations, you know, Just set them at the top of this hour. Fisk. Oh, uh, you know how many photographers to get the chance to partner up with someone like, you know, with a brand like this? Go right. It's a but not for, you know, connecting those dots. And for me, those are the things I'm thinking about having that on your resume. Huge. And so for me, it's just a few other things. Something about really more So the hiring more settling down, laying that foundation down, um, more so just again trying to continue to have that community aspect. What? Photographers can be there for each other. Uh, because it's still crazy times we still need that sense of sisterhood in the sense. And so for me, those are the things that I'm thinking about and what I wanted to continue to grow as want more, you know, outlets and brands. And whoever really is in a position to hire to utilize the database resource. Actually, in the beginning, the new look, uh, very soon with the thanks to Red Bull bursting at the site, um, you know, I'm very excited to be unveiling that this month. Keep the maybe more user friendly and easier for photographers to be found in their different nations. And so, uh, you know, those are the things when I'm thinking about, like, what does you know look like next what I'm looking forward to for the platform. I hope that answers the question. I do not. I mean, I just I'm I don't want to say exhausted, but like just listening to all the things that you are looking, you know, that you are putting together and accomplishing, and I think one of the really cool things is that I mean, we're talking here. We are talking about, like, What's next? Like you just started. You know, I know there's like, there's also the just like, Let's be in it like, let's let it work Like lets, you know, uh, and there's the just the yes, there's the organic nature of of how things evolve. But it's also like, just yeah, I mean, continuing to to make what you've created do the thing that it was created for And I just I just again want to, like, say, kudos to you, um, for for do you Do you ever feel like you've, like, taken on? I don't know. I mean, we we talked in in in your previous episode on on the way our photographers podcast here in creative life, just like about your work ethic and growing up And, you know, and just all these things that you said earlier, like, I I you know, I, um, have high standards for myself, but like, do you allow yourself to take a break? Uh huh. Oh, man. I mean, I know what what I should say because I know my mom will be watching. Yes, I do allow myself to take a break. No, but okay. I think I do. I do. I I think I don't do it enough yet. Like I'm still learning. You know, it's been quite the six months. Um and I don't know. I don't know why I put so much pressure on myself as well. I do know why, but I also know that it's so important to us because there are those who can't continue to do the work. Um, and so, you know, really learned that at the top of this last year when I was feeling extremely just tired and burnt out. And there's all those things going on with the world. Um, and so, actually, you know, at the end of December, I think I was just like I think I just, like, did not respond to any email December if you received an email from in December, you're one of the lucky for you because I did not email December because I just needed to rest because that alone is a job in itself is the emailing um and so you know more. So now you know, it's funny. I'm actually taking this whole week off from work because I'm trying to rest. And also because I'm crazy. And I plan Is that after event after event, uh, you know, doing an event, Just doing an event today. Have one on on Wednesday with Pete. Souza was thrilled about on Friday. I'm also thrilled about this. That with a B and E m just dynamic duo based in Atlanta. Um, but, you see, I factored in two days arrest Tuesday. I'm resting Thursday. I'm alright. Yeah. Please hold me to that. You see me? You receive an email for me at like, three AM Please be like Danielle of Woman's photograph and tell me that quote my laptop. This is not healthy. Um, she always says we like those notes and WhatsApp and what not to like. Hold me accountable. I actually did create an accountability partner group with the black from Star Wars community. There's about 40 of us. Uh, we're holding each other accountable on different, like personal goal. Career goals was like health and mental health and just other aspects of that of what makes your successful. And so, um, you know, I also have people accountability partners, texting me and reminded me to know drink water and like, things like that, you know, holding me accountable. Because all of that is so important for self care and, you know, being able to work. And so, having that, you know, those reminders to be set to pause, to refuel, recharge whatever you need just so key. And I'm trying to be more, uh, better. I'm trying better at that this year. I am. I'm going to be better at that this year. I will. I tell you, the accountability partners certainly is a huge aspect to that. And, uh, and and, you know, again coming back around to like its community. And that's why you created what you did. Uh, and and it's just so cool to see I am really looking forward to, uh to this conversation series that we are collaborating with you on again. That is going to be every Wednesday here in the month of February. Um, super excited about the photographers that we are going to be featuring and hearing their life stories again. If you are on creativelive dot com slash t v right now you can R S V p down below So you get notifications about those, um, and so I just want to incur You've given us so much, not just telling us about everything that's going on with black women photographers, but also so many words of wisdom. I want to make sure that everybody knows how they can get involved in black woman photographers. Um, how they can support, you know, whether you are a black woman photographer or, you know, you're looking to help because obviously, there are a lot of people who have stepped up, um, and helped. But I would say you also continue to need help from my outside opinion. Uh, just not that just because of the the level of how quickly you know, this has has grown. So tell us everywhere that people can can find out more. Yes. Um, So I will start off with going to black women photographers dot com. Right now, it's in the middle of a new look Rebrand. Uh, so you can see some of that, uh, refresh. You know, the feed is gonna look differently all week. It's gonna be amazing. Uh, so going to block one block dot com, you can go and, uh just created this new like format of browsing the photographers that has been updated as we speak. Um and so that's where you can submit yourself and go to the contact page and also, you know, send up an inquiry if you want to join the community and also just reach out to database at Black Woman talk of this dot com, especially if you're an editor as well, and wants to request access to the editors air table to see the photographers in that way. Um, what else? I am gonna be hiring some folks to help me. I'm so excited. Um, right now I know. So this month I'm gonna be announcing, like, the team roles that you can apply for because actually having one of the photographers and community to bring to help with that right now. So, uh, right now we're in other roles. And so if you want to be a part of the social team, you wanna be a part of markets and whatever Stay tuned for that because I will be announcing that this month as well how you can apply to join the team. Very excited about that. If you are photo editor. You know, whoever has experienced if your photographer as staff place that, you know, you feel like you're, you know, maybe work at the Seattle Times, you feel like the photo team will be able to offer portfolio reviews reached out to me. I'm always, always looking to set that up. I have a very long list of folks who have expressed interest, and they're saying they're properly critique this year. And so please reach out and just reach out to Polly at black women to talk of this dot com or again, you got contact form on the site, and I will respond to you, Uh, a cordially manner. Um, again, there's all these exciting events lined up pieces of the next one on Wednesday. Um, Miss India Bill, who is incredible forces industry. It's gonna give us a private talk. Um, this is you know what it is, especially because it will not be recorded most of her time recorded. That hurts will not be That's on the 25th. Um, again, if you just go two blocks and tackles dot com slash events, I'll be putting all the information about events over there, and most importantly, you know, just utilize the resource that created. Also, the Prince sale is live the first ever print sale where we'll be splitting the profits 50 50 with artists and supporting DWP operations. So if you ever asked, how can I donate Polly, have you ever asked how can I, you know, help with the relief fund? We're not doing the covid 1991. We're doing a principal right now, so please, please, please check it out. There's 50 plus parents from all over the world. Beautiful, beautiful work. We may extend it to march. I don't know yet. Right now, I just want to get through February, so just check it out. Utilize it. Um, support these photographers, please. Still still challenging time. So please check that out. And that's a dark room. So you can just go to black women photographers. Dark, dark, dark, dark room dot Check again. All that information on the site. Non social. Anyway, if you're not following us on Social is I think we just hit $8000 on Twitter. Very excited. So you can just follow the Twitter account at blk women's photo. Ah, turn on those vacations on So you don't miss a beat because it's gonna be a lot more announcements coming on. And then, of course, Instagram, which is at blocking photographers. So those are the ways you can tap in pretty much anywhere and everywhere. But I do appreciate again, um, you know, you're all the different accounts. All the people that you feature, um, and and I I highly encourage everybody to go again black women photographers dot com and all the socials. And, um, it's just it's just, um, again, kudos to you for your super inspiring or everything that you are creating, uh, and everyone that's kind of creating along with you again. And And, um so I am super looking forward to everybody again. The conversation series that we are having here on Creative Live during the month of February. Every Wednesday, 10 AM, Pacific. Come join me and we are going to be featuring four. Incredible. They're photographers or creative directors, journalists, visual storytellers. You know, everyone is so multifaceted. Um, we're going to be having Rasheeda saga, and it kinda, um I'm blanking on Expo. Thank you. Direct bow to me, Thomas and Alexis Hunley and very much looking forward to all of those conversations. And you can R S v p, um, on credible live dot com slash t v.

Class Description


Our weekly audio podcast We Are Photographers brings you true stories from behind the lens and behind the lives of your favorite photographers, filmmakers, and creative industry game-changers. From their struggles to their wins, host Kenna Klosterman discovers the real human stories about why they do what they do.

Listen to this and other audio episodes on our audio Podcast page.


n this episode, we celebrate the first six months of Black Women Photographers and discuss why Polly created the site and its mission. We kick off BWP x CL: A Conversation Series in honor of Black History Month that will feature Rashida Zagon, Idara Ekpoh, Temi Thomas and Alexis Hunley. We talk about other organizations also working to encourage inclusive hiring practices in the industry, how she organized 70+ portfolio reviews with AP, Reuters and Getty Images, as well as success stories from the BWP community. If you've ever wanted to improve your networking skills, let Polly be your guide.


Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist, digital editor and photographer and is the founder of Black Women Photographers, a community and online database of Black women photographers. Polly is a Digital Content Editor at New York Public Radio (WYNC) for ‘The Takeaway’, a national NPR show with over 2 million listeners. As a photographer, Polly’s work has been published by NPR, The Washington Post, CNN, HuffPost, OkayAfrica. She was named one of Okay Africa’s 100 African Women to Know in 2020. Polly has spoken about social media, branding, podcasting, media diversity, COVID-19, and photojournalism on panels for Twitter, NBC News, and National Association of Black Journalists.