Is YouTube Holding Back the Best Black Photographers?

I wanted to show you the best black photographers on YouTube, but it wasn’t as easy I thought it would be.

I’ve had the privilege of showcasing the best black photographers during my three-plus years writing for The Phoblographer. Whether it’s in round-ups or interviews, I’ve enjoyed every minute of working with those I’ve featured. And I don’t do this at a certain time of year; it’s a constant. But in line with Black History Month, I pitched to my editor the idea of doing a round up of the best black photographers on YouTube. Once approved, I set out to begin my research. My findings were both saddening and frustrating.

Where Are the Best Black Photographers on YouTube?

I’ve written a lot of articles rounding up the best photographers on YouTube. Allow me to let you see behind the curtain for a moment. I’m a photography consumer, but I don’t have a long list of photographers ingrained in my brain. Such articles take time to research. It’s important when I write a piece like this, that I’m giving our readers the best. Researching the best black photographers on YouTube was no different: I took to the internet to begin my research. The problem was, I could barely find any!

I looked at round-ups that featured 100 photography YouTubers. Most of them were white, a few of them were photographers of color, and not one was black. So, I went to another article, then another, then another, and, you get my point. Most of the articles showed the same, white photographers as the top photography Youtubers. Okay, time for Plan B.

Reddit is a wonderful source for photography. I’ve found countless photographers on the platform. So I was certain it would serve me well and show me the best black photographers on YouTube. Sadly, another brick wall. I found this article, where a user asked the same question as me: where are the best black photographers on YouTube? The comments were scarce. One Reddit user had this to say on the matter:

“Youtube algo [rithm] seems to favor white people in general – I’ve seen similar complaints in other communities I’m part of…”

— Reddit User

Is YouTube Holding Back Black Photographers?

I cannot confirm how accurate that statement is. Unless YouTube admitted it to be the case (which it never would), we would never know. But I did go to YouTube to see what kind of results the algorithm gave me.

Instead of searching for the best black photographers, I searched for what I feel are the most popular genres within the field.

For an average user, the likelihood of them going past the first 10 results is very slim. For each category, below are the results for the number of black photographers in the first 10 video options.

  • Portrait photography – 0
  • Travel photography – 0
  • Landscape photography – 0
  • Street Photography – 0
  • Wildlife Photography – 0

Admittedly, I wouldn’t class myself as an average user. I wouldn’t be good at my job if I stopped at the first 10 results YouTube gave me. Now curious, I wanted to know what results would show up in the top 50 videos. Here’s what I found.

  • Portrait Photography – 0
  • Travel Photography – 0
  • Landscape Photography – 0
  • Street Photography – 1 (result 46)
  • Wildlife Photography – 0

A Blanket Search

Frustrated (and sad) at this point, I thought, rather than do specific genres, I’ll do a more blanket search, instead. I typed in the YouTube search bar: photography tips. From the top 50 results, only one of them was a black photographer. Some may argue, well, YouTube automatically shows people the most popular channels.

But in the top 12 results, two YouTube channels had under 80,000 subscribers. White photographers presented both. From the knowledge I already have, I know black YouTuber, Photo-Me-Ike, has almost 150,000 subscribers. He regularly gives photography tips, yet he was nowhere to be seen in YouTube’s results. Another black YouTuber covering photography, YCImaging, has 375,000 subscribers at the time of writing this. Again, he did not show up in the top 50 results for photography tips.

Leading Platforms Need to Do More

Black photographers exist. Black YouTubers exist. But for whatever reason, YouTube didn’t want to show them to me. Nor did Google’s search results. I’ll be back with the best black photographers on YouTube: I promise you that. But for now, we all need to wonder if there’s a greater problem with representation. And if our biggest platforms are doing enough to ensure inclusiveness.

What do you think? Does YouTube have a problem it needs to resolve quickly? I’d especially love to hear the thoughts of black photographers. Share your feelings in the comments below.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host professional photographers within the industry.