Founded in 2017 by Brent Lewis and Andrea Wise, Diversify Photo is a database and community resource for over 300 photographers of color working in the United States. We produce exhibitions, in-person and virtual gatherings, facilitate speaking, publishing, and networking opportunities for our member photographers, and advocate for greater diversity across all photography industries including journalism, fashion, and advertising by creating resources for art buyers, creative directors, and photo editors to find and hire photographers of color.
Our launch was announced in the New York Times Lens Blog.
"Earlier this year, Mr. Lewis and Andrea Wise, a freelance photo editor, put out an open call on social media to photographers who identify as “being of color.” One thousand five hundred people replied and filled out the questionnaire.
With the assistance of a team of editors including Elijah Sinclair Walker, Jennifer Samuel and Jehan Jillani of National Geographic; Jessie Wender and Elizabeth Krist, formerly of National Geographic; Dudley Brooks of The Washington Post; and Michael Wichita of AARP. They winnowed the list to about 340 who they had confidence would be consistent in fulfilling freelance assignment work."
The public facing site - www.diversify.photo - features a simple thumbnail view of 300+ photographers of color working across the U.S. allowing visitors to quickly search by name and location. For editors, art buyers, and creative directors, we have a private comprehensive database with detailed contact information, spoken languages, areas of expertise, client list, and other information useful when researching to make hiring decisions.
In 2017, we partnered with National Geographic to bring a group of early and mid-career photographers of color to the highly exclusive invite-only annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in Washington, D.C. We also partnered with sponsor Rovers North to fly two photographers cross-country to attend the event. Opening doors to vital networking situations and reducing the financial barrier to entry to attend these types of events is a top priority for Diversify Photo.
In addition to virtual and in-person networking and community building, we also work to raise the profile of photographers of color working across various disciplines from journalism to fashion and advertising. In 2018, we partnered with United Photo Industries, LuxLab, and Hahnemühle to celebrate our 1-year anniversary with a print exhibition at Photoville in Brooklyn, NY.
We also encourage our members to create smaller informal Diversify meetups at major photo conferences, like the 2017 NPPA Northern Short Course in Fairfax, VA, which tend to be predominantly white and can be intimidating, particularly for younger photographers of color, who may need a bit more support to feel that they, too, belong in these spaces.
Diversify Photo also creates space for critical conversations about media trends. In 2017, we produced a few panel discussions, including "A Celebration of Black Women in Photojournalism" and "What Do Photo Editors Even Do?" in partnership with the Photo Brigade at Adorama in New York, NY. These live discussions are free and open to the public, but also live-streamed through Facebook Live and AdoramaTV, garnering a massive audience.
“While promoting photographers of color to industry professionals is the main thrust behind Diversify, it’s by no means the only goal. The initiative also provides community-building resources for photographers of color and professional development opportunities that help emerging photographers further refine their business and networking skills. Additionally, Diversify facilitates travel grants and tuition waivers for workshops, conferences and festivals for their roster of photographers in order to “reduce the barriers of entry that sometimes keep photographers of color from the spaces where critical relationships are formed,” says Wise. “It’s a win-win, all around,” she adds. That’s because the status quo negatively impacts both photographers of color and the quality of media awe consume. “By working to change that, we can lift up underrepresented voices that aren’t being heard and produce more compelling media that will resonate more with readers — and our democracy will be healthier for it.”
“People understand now that their audiences have changed, and are craving media that reflects their life experiences,” Andrea Wise, a co-founder of Diversify Photo, told Artsy via email. “The challenge is how to do that. If you’ve always looked to your prestigious college or workshop’s alumni network to find fresh new talent, and those networks are financially or otherwise inaccessible to people of color, then you need to find new ways to source talent. That’s where we come in.”
In 2018, Diversify Photo hosted an exhibition and panel discussion at the PDN Photo Plus Expo. Entitled "A New Gaze" the exhibit and discussion explored the colonial roots of contemporary American photography and called for creating room for a wider range of perspectives in photography.