Black women’s photography group partners with Nikon

The Black Women’s Photographer collective will receive a $50,000 grant from Nikon to support their work

The Black Women’s Photographer (BWP) collective has partnered with Nikon for a $50,000 grant distribution to assist creatives in funding their projects. The grants provide funds for photographers’ equipment, protective gear, documentary resources, travel expenses, high-end cameras and other miscellaneous needs of the artists.

BWP is an organization dedicated to displaying the talents of Black women and non-binary photographers that have been marginalized in society, in addition to providing a platform that recognizes their creativity and generates income for their artistry.

The resourcing of webinars, workshops, and profile reviews included in this initiative gives Black creatives a safe space for open dialogue about their experiences. An active database with over 1,000 BWP members from 45 different countries is distributed to major heavy hitters in the industry, including editors, directors, and art buyers, showcasing the photographers’ talents.

Polly Irungu, BWP’s founder, was inspired to launch the platform when she was unable to find other Black student photographers to build a community and share resources with while attending the University of Oregon.

Polly Irungu (Mickey Stellavato of the University of Oregon)

After creating a Twitter list called “Black women photographers looking for community,” Irungu began connecting with others who wanted the same.

“At the time I was studying journalism and doing freelance photography,’ Irungu told theGrio. “I was depressed and photography was my creative outlet, so I used NABJ as a guide and I wanted the same for photographers. That’s why I created the Twitter list… I started this initiative because I was tired of waiting for a seat at the table. I wanted to create my own.”

In May 2020, Irungu reached out via social media to several more photographers concerning their struggles finding exposure and paying work. As her tweets gained traction, she seized the opportunity to implement a COVID relief fund initiative to assist Black women photographers impacted by the pandemic.

After tweeting about it for almost a month, donations poured in to the tune of almost $14,000.

By utilizing platforms such as Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram, BWP has provided its members with networking and job opportunities with the likes of NPR, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and National Geographic.

“I want us to continue to be hired and showcase our talents. I want to provide opportunity and to put money into these women’s hands. I can find you a photographer all over, in Lagos, in Germany. It’s 2022, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to hire a Black woman,” Irungu told theGrio.

When Irungu, 27, wanted to raise $50,000 to support the work of BWP, Nikon asked how it could be of service in supporting her vision. After an offline conversation, Nikon donated the entire amount in grant funds, with $40,000 going towards the Black Women Photographer collective and $10,000 going towards cameras. 

On Jan. 10, 2022, the Black Women Photographer collective announced its BWP x Nikon grant winners via Instagram.

Grant recipient Zhané Gaybyrd shared what the opportunity meant to her.

“Being a recipient of the $5,000 grant means I can see a very personal and impactful project to the Black community through,” Gaybyrd told theGrio. “Also being chosen by trailblazing photographers on the committee was extremely validating to my work. I am so grateful for the community and resources BWP has brought to the industry.”

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