with street photography
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.”
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.
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Armed with his Leica and an extraordinary amount of patience, Matt Stuart ventures through the streets of cities worldwide to capture the unexpected and coincidental moments of everyday life. His practice revolves around finding humor, play, and serendipity in the mundane, a skill he’s cultivated throughout his 25-year career and recounts in the recently released volume Think Like a Street Photographer.
Published by Laurence King, the book pairs 100 of Stuart’s images with detailed descriptions of his process. “My general outlook is, get up, get out and go and find things. I try to summon an excitement and amazement for life,” he writes. “Ultimately, you need to remember how lucky you are to be walking around with a strange black box looking at things, making a record of them, and bringing them home. It’s a privilege.”
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One of the more accessible mediums, photography has long been an entry point for those relegated to the periphery of the art world, and a group exhibition on view now at the Denver Art Museum celebrates those who helped develop and define the genre as it grew throughout the 20th Century. Modern Women/Modern Vision features more than 100 shots by some of the era’s most influential photographers—the list includes Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Eva Besnyö, and Imogen Cunningham—showcasing their distinct aesthetics, politics, and styles.
An indication of the medium’s technical evolution as well as the shifting cultural milieu, the exhibition opens with the modernist sensibilities and painterly impulses popular around the turn of the century, evident in works like Abbot’s textured, black-and-white “Court of the First Model Tenement.” The show ventures into the moving, documentary images funded by the Works Progress Administration throughout the Great Depression—some of Lange’s most poignant shots are included—and then touches on the feminist practices of photographers like Flor Garduño, who captured the life of Indigenous populations throughout Mexico. Reflecting the rise find digital, the collection’s closing section incorporates a broader range of techniques and more directly addresses issues of race, class, and gender that continue to dominate conversations today.
Modern Women/Modern Vision is on view through August 28. (via Blind Magazine)
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In ‘Eyes on the Street,’ Photographer Jamel Shabazz Identifies the Boundless Culture of New York City’s Outer Boroughs
One of New York City’s most discerning and essential documentarians, photographer Jamel Shabazz has built a career around capturing the unique visual lexicon of the outer boroughs. His images are deeply empathetic and resolute in the value of all life regardless of race, class, and social status. With a self-described goal of preserving “the world history and culture,” Shabazz continually finds the joy and vibrancy emanating from communities like Brownsville, Red Hook, and Harlem.
His first institutional survey, an expansive exhibition of Shabazz’s photos is on view through September 4 at The Bronx Museum. Eyes on the Streets contains more than 150 images from his extensive archive, some of which are shown for the first time. Distinctly rooted in place, the collection transcends neighborhood and time period, creating a rich, photographic mosaic of New Yorkers through the last four decades. The exhibition also speaks to current conversations around policing and alternatives by showing how tight-knit communities and street activity have long bolstered public safety.
Often recognized for capturing hip-hop culture and the fashions of the 1980s, Shabazz’s photos range from the stylishly posed to the candid and serendipitous. He frames a pitbull mid-air as it grips a strap, children flipping onto a frayed mattress, and a beaming, rush-hour crowd grinning through an open window. Having recorded poverty, the widespread effects of racism, and those housed at Rikers Island during his time working for the Department of Corrections, Shabazz continually chooses humanity and happiness. “Some of the people in the community might see themselves when they were at a really bad point in their lives,” he told The New York Times in reference to the images he chose to leave out of Eyes on the Streets. “I wanted to focus more on the joy.”
Shabazz has published multiple monographs throughout his career, and his new A Time Before Crack is available for pre-order. The forthcoming Jamel Shabazz: Albums, which won the Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize, is also slated for release next fall. You can find more of his photos on his site.
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Since 2017, a multi-faceted initiative has celebrated hundreds of street photographers whose work develops and expands the boundaries of what’s historically been a male-dominated field. The project of Gulnara Samoilova, Women Street Photographers connects the widespread and deeply personal by highlighting the subtle, nuanced ways the world appears when viewed by different people. Broad in subject matter and style, the initiative’s collection ranges from Anna Biret’s intimate, shadow-laden portrait of a young girl in India to Debrani Das’s candid shot of children at play in black and white.
Women Street Photographers also function as a vital community for those working today, and in recent years, the project has grown from an Instagram account to an artist residency and book collecting a small portion of images. It also culminates each year in an annual exhibition, with the fourth edition opening on April 7 at ArtSpace PS109 in Manhattan. The upcoming show features the work of 79 photographers from 20 countries and will be presented alongside a collection by residency runner-up Maude Bardet. Similar to previous iterations, this year’s exhibition is an expansive consideration of the photographers working toward a more diverse genre.
See some of our favorite shots included in the show below, and visit the project’s site for a deeper look at the ongoing initiative. Samoilova is also curating a show by Women Street Photographers member Sandra Cattaneo Adorno, which opens on April 23 at Personal Structures.
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A print sale from the women-led nonprofit Vital Impacts (previously) is raising money for people affected by the ongoing war in Ukraine. The month-long fundraiser, titled Impact Now, offers more than 100 images from National Geographic photographers. Taken globally and diverse in subject matter, the collection includes a variety of landscapes and wildlife, in addition to stunning underwater shots by renowned photographers Paul Nicklen (previously) and David Doubilet (previously)—and multiple shots focus specifically on life in Ukraine. David Guttenfelder documents protestors from the country’s Orange Revolution in the mid-aughts, while Justyna Mielnikiewicz spotlights young dancers from Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in 2015, the latter of which became a hub for pro-Russia rebels the year prior.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.