[Blackstudies-l] For the first time in 30 years, a book celebrates black women photographers

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Sep 19 01:04:48 EDT 2017


lisaparavisini posted: " An interview by Lily Kuo for Quartz. In the 1980s,
Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe an American photographer, wanted to document the
contributions of black female photographers in the United States. She dug
through US Census reports and business directories to "
Respond to this post by replying above this line
New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> For the first time in
30 years, a book celebrates black women photographers
<http://repeatingislands.com/2017/09/18/for-the-first-time-in-30-years-a-book-celebrates-black-women-photographers/>
by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 11.02.48 PM.png]

An interview by Lily Kuo for *Quartz*.
<https://qz.com/1075097/for-the-first-time-in-30-years-a-book-celebrates-black-women-photographers/>

In the 1980s, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe an American photographer, wanted to
document the contributions of black female photographers in the United
States. She dug through US Census reports and business directories to track
down women like Jennie Louise Van Der Zee Welcome, who photographed the
Harlem renaissance, or Elizabeth “Tex” Williams, the first black
photographer in the Women’s Army Corp during World War II. Moutoussamy-Ashe
finally published *Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers* in 1986,
updating it in 1993. Since then there has been no other comprehensive
compilation of the work of black women photographers.

More than 30 years later, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, a photographer
<http://laylahbarrayn.com/>based in Brooklyn, is publishing an anthology of
work by black women photographers descent, *Mfon: Women Photographers of
the African Diaspor*a. <http://mfonfoto.org/> Barrayn’s book, funded by a
grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council as well as a crowdfunding campaign
<https://www.gofundme.com/mfonwomen>, features 100 female photographers of
the African diaspora, including those based in the US, Africa, Europe, and
the Caribbean. It’s named after Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essien, a young
Nigerian-American photographer who passed away in 2001.

The book is the beginning of what will be an annual publication. Barrayn
and her partners will also be offering a grant later this year to a woman
photographer of African descent. Quartz spoke to Barrayn about *Mfon*,
which will be available later this month.

[image: Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 11.06.47 PM.png]

*Quartz: Why did you name the book after Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essien?*

*Laylah Amatullah Barrayn:* I thought it would be really fitting to have it
be in honor of Mfon, who was someone that I wanted to meet as an aspiring
photographer back in the 1990s. I loved her sense of self and pride as a
woman and as a Nigerian-American woman. She faced her illness, breast
cancer, head on. She created art around her mastectomy and was a muse for
many of the visual artists in New York City at the time. She died right
before the opening of her seminal work, ”The Amazon’s New Clothes,” part of
the “Committed to the Image” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

*How does Mfon diverge from Viewfinders, which you have described as an
inspiration for the project?*

*LB:* The major difference between that text and our book is that I wanted
to do something international and make a real statement. That’s why I
wanted to include 100 photographers. We also have a few essays from art
critics, and the book is photo heavy. We have a range of genres represented
from fine art and abstract to documentary and photojournalism.

*How different is the world for black female photographers now compared to
when that book was published?*

*LB:* Black women photographers have more exposure than they did in 1986,
but nothing compared to our counterparts, white women photographers, who
have much more exposure and opportunity. Black women photographers are
grossly underrepresented across the board, unfortunately. I’m doing my
small part to add to this conversation by creating this document. But it is
the gatekeepers, the editors, and curators, who really need to do examine
their processes of inclusion.

*What are the biggest challenges for female black photographers? What about
for female African photographers, from the continent or in the diaspora?* I
deliberately tried to include African Americans and continental Africans in
the book to really bring home the fact that this is a global black
community. The challenges for us is that editors, curators, and gatekeepers
are committed to only engaging with a select few that, I suppose, maintain
their comfort level.

*Can you tell us about how you chose the photos for the book?*

There are several photographers in the book that I’ve admired for a while.
I was on Instagram a lot. When I was in Africa, I tried to go to
exhibitions and check out the scenes in cities like Cairo, Adis Ababa,
Dakar, and Cape Town. I did tons of Google searches. I had tons of
conversations on and offline.

*What do you hope the book achieves?*

I think it’s important to create a record. I would hate for another 30 plus
years to go by and virtually nothing about the work that women
photographers of African descent goes documented. I want aspiring
photographers to be inspired by the work, effort, and sacrifice these women
have made to become storytellers and photographers.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
September 18, 2017 at 11:08 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-xzb

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