All year-round we should celebrate photographers from the black community. February, however, is a great opportunity to shine extra light on the best of the best in the scene–it’s Black History Month in the US after all. In line with Black History month, we have compiled a list of 10 photographers whose work gets our photographic juices flowing. From portrait photographers to street photographers, this list showcases the breadth of quality throughout different sub-genres in the industry.
Allow these fine photographers to provide the glitz and glamour, and let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
1. Andre D. Wagner (@photodre)
Andre D. Wagner is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. His work blends the core elements of street photography and social documentary, creating an eye-opening view of the black experience in NYC. His work is shot with a gritty black and white aesthetic, giving it that raw, unedited feel. In his images, we see hope, togetherness, and little moments that make up everyday life. Andre has been featured in the New York Times, held solo exhibitions at Culturefix, and delivered talks at various events and conferences.
His work is both meaningful and important, hence why we admire and respect it so much.
2. Melissa Bunni Elian (hellobunni.com)
What attracted us to Melissa’s work? Not only does she produce stunning portraits, but her mission is something that can only be admired. Melissa has an interest in documenting people on the margins. Through her work, she aims to breakthrough the singular image certain people have been labelled with. ‘The poor’ for example; Melissa wants to go beyond that one-dimensional description and reach the human. The love, the pain, the laughter – characteristics we all share but yet so many have been stripped of.
Her portraiture, for us, has one key component that makes it so compelling; strength. Her subjects show confidence, self-assurance, and a domineering presence. This is an important quality, as Melissa is able to extract these attributes from people who society has wanted to label weak or beneath.
She is also doing some exceptional photojournalism and her portfolio is something we strongly suggest you spend time with.
3. Jamiya Wilson (jamiyawilson.com)
Jamiya Wilson is a versatile photographer who seems comfortable in any sub-genre he shoots. What is more impressive is that whether it’s portrait photography, street, or videography, his quality and standard never falters. His portraiture is created through the use of well positioned, accurate lighting – giving him amazing results. What’s clear through his work is his ability to connect with people. His subjects look settled and content; something only a photographer with high interpersonal skills is able to achieve.
Jamiya has recently completed his series 100 Faces. The project includes impromptu portraits of people who pass him by. He has set out to break the status quo of people being strangers in one of the busiest cities in the world, New York City. We were impressed by the manner in which Jamiya was able to engage with his subjects and extract emotion in a short period of time (he took three-five shots max). Taken from his artist statement he says, “100 Faces is my humble attempt to get people to stop for a moment and consider that stranger.”
4. Aundre Larrow (@aundre)
Aundre has such a cool body of work. It’s not flashy or overdone. It’s minimal in set up, yet offers so much in aesthetic. From hip locations to eye-catching colorful backdrops, Aundre has the skill of carefully positioning his subjects in order to get the best out of them.
His portraits are powerful and belong anywhere from a huge editorial campaign to that niche pop-culture magazine. It’s no surprise that Aundre was given an Adobe Creative Cloud residency, allowing him a great opportunity to showcase his work.
5. Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (@laylahb)
Based in NYC, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn is a documentary photographer creating some magnificent work. She has had features in the likes of The New York Times, National Geographic, and The Washington Post. Her work includes projects that document a Journey Through Senegal and black Muslim women of Abu Dabi – showing her determination to give power and voice to those on the fringes.
Her work aims to move and, for us, she has been successful in her mission. She is an excellent photographer, doing exceptional work, and one you should check out for yourself.
6. Grace Bukunmi (@bukunmigrace)
Grace Bukunmi actually began in the corporate world. Well, we’re thrilled she kissed that goodbye! A creative talent who is comfortable across the spectrum of the arts, Grace is an amazingly skilled photographer too. The warm tones, coupled with appealing subjects, covered over with that grainy film look makes her work hip, edgy, and creatively strong.
You can find her work in Vogue, TeenVouge, and Afropunk (to name a few). This gives further punch to the statement that Grace is a credit to the scene and has a long, successful career ahead of her.
7. Myles Loftin (@mylesloftin)
Currently based in London, Myles Loftin is a 20 year old photographer making his name in fashion and conceptual photography. A youth flying the analog flag, Myles’ intimate portraits can be found with lots of vibrancy and a various amount of film stock. He is a photographer who is keeping it real. He’s not interested in flashy, modern day, photoshop culture, rather sticking to the roots of the craft and producing quality work too.
His old school vibes have led him to be featured in the likes of i.D. Magazine, Urban Outfitters, and Gayletter. Myles is a photographer who is doing himself proud and will only get better and better with time.
8. Courtney Garvin (cdgarvin.com)
Courtney’s work has gained interest from the likes of Magnum Photos. In 2018 she became a Magnum 2018 Photography & Social Justice Fellow. She has a deep interest in documenting the black community, creating simple portraits that have a big impact. We like her portraits because they revolve around family. They are a picture of bonding between people and show how the black community does everything they can to come together, more so in times of struggle and adversity.
9. Deun Ivory (@deunivory)
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for me. for you. 💭 don’t be afraid to say yes to new adventures. because on the other side of this painful journey is something far better than you ever imagined. and you can’t experience it, if you allow fear to shape your reality. intention: willfully commit to walking with God in unfamiliar territories that lead to complete fulfillment, joy, abundance, peace + happiness. intention: trust that this new direction is a necessary season that will result in something magical. the outcome, whatever it may be is God’s way of protecting you, teaching you, freeing you + showing you that something better was or is waiting for you, all along. #vsco #beauty #growth #truth #journey #love #self-love #notetoself
Deun’s work has a consistent beige color tone to it and we love it. It’s clear she connects to her subjects through her portraiture; she feels what they feel. The results are magnificent as we see so much of the human in those she photographs.
Through her work, Deun is committed to showing black women in a position of strength. She thrives on the opportunity of putting them at the center of her creative capabilities. Obviously, she is passionate about her work. This is even more evident when you consider just how good it is!
10. CreativeSoul (@creativesoulphoto)
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It took some fancy maneuvering to keep this hairstyle in place but miss @london__stone was here for it. She truly enjoyed playing dress up for the day. 😍❤️ Hair: @naturalhollywood asst: @natcurljunkie Body art: @mirage_magic Neck Cuff: @zulubeads_ada Earrings: @rashidagurl #creativesoulphoto #afroart #teamnatural_ #frobabies #naturalhairkids
If you think you’re smashing the relationship goals you need to check out CreativeSoul. The photography brand is made up for Regis and Kahran, a married couple based in Atalanta. They specialize in photographing children. We know how difficult that can be, especially to do it to their high level, making it all the more impressive. The photography they produce is experimental, ambitious, and slightly outrageous (in a good way). They go much further than the ‘sit down and smile’ approach, pushing the creative boundaries with their subjects.
They have had widespread success, hitting the mainstream with features on BBC, CNS, and CNN. You need to go and check them out!
Remembering Those Who Came Before
On this list are only 10 photographers: we could have made it 100. But in order for these fantastic photographers to be able to do the work they do, people had to pave the way before them. This Black History Month we also remember the likes of Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, James Van Der Zee, Florestine Perrault Collins, and Addison N. Scurlock – just a handful of the legendary photographers who did their thing so today’s photographers could too.
All images used with permission.