[Note: I'll update this post periodically (at the bottom of the page), adding photographers and links. We're now up to over 80 photographers!]
Last Saturday morning, I clicked on a link that took me to yet another photography list with only white guys on it. It wasn't the way that I wanted to start the weekend. (If you're looking for the 37 photographers you should know, scroll down.)
Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are white guys. (Really.) But lists of various sorts with just white male photographers on them show up on my radar screen way too often. I don't get angry anymore, just annoyed.
The latest example is from a website called Digital Trends. A couple of days ago it published an article called "7 of the Most Captivating Photojournalists on Instagram Capturing Conflict Zones." You're not going to be surprised when I tell you that all seven are white men. This comes shortly after the Artsy website posted "A History of Photography in 12 Photographs." The creators of the photos? White Europeans and Americans, one and all -- 10 men and two women.
So, what's the problem? Let's start with the history of photography. First... Well, first, it's absurd to think that the history of photography can be summed up in 12 photographs. Second, it's equally foolish to believe that you can tell that history without including the likes of James Van Der Zee, Daido Moriyama, Dayanita Singh, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, or Malick Sidibe. A Frenchman and an Englishman may have invented photography, but it quickly spread around the world, where people innovated in hugely important ways.
Back to Instagram. There's no question that the white guys on Digital Trends' list are damn good photographers -- Ben Lowy, Marcus Bleasdale, and David Guttenfelder, among others. In fact, I happily follow several of them on Instagram. What annoys me is that the website ignores equally strong female photographers and photographers of color who photograph in conflict zones and show their work on Instagram.
I don't think that Digital Trends' writers created a whites-only list out of malice. A combination of journalistic laziness and ideological blinders is the far more likely cause. Laziness explains itself. By "ideological blinders" I mean the tendency for those of us who are the products of western culture to see the creative and intellectual output of white men as naturally better than that of women and of people who happen to be black or brown. It's a difficult habit to break. I wonder, for instance, how many people who saw the story noticed that the list was exclusively white and male.
It's hard to remove the blinders, but it's an important task. Lists like this are one of the small, insidious ways in which gender and racial inequality are normalized and reproduced.
David Campbell (a white guy, coincidentally) addresses similar questions these in a blog post from yesterday. He also includes a diverse list of photojournalists on Instagram who are all showing excellent work.
Below is my own list of women photographers and photographers of Asian, African, and Latino descent who are using Instagram in beautiful, creative, and powerful ways. Most of them are photojournalists or documentary photographers. Some work in conflict zones. There are also fine art photographers, editors, and a filmmaker or two in the mix.
This list is by no means definitive. I'd love to call it "The Best Asian, Black, Latino, and Female Photographers on Instagram," but it's far too provisional. It's made up entirely of people that I happen follow on Instagram, and I haven't been at all systematic in following. I tend to follow photographers that I know, friends of friends, photographers that I particularly admire, and those that I've somehow stumbled across. The point here is to show you the sort of people that Digital Trends' writers could easily have found, if they'd bothered to try.
I look forward to the day when exercises like this aren't necessary, to a day when photography lists routinely reflect photography's rich diversity.
37 Instagram Photographers That You Really Ought to Know. (Besides Ruddy Roye, the photographers are listed in the order they appear in my Instagram "following" list. I've linked to a photographer's website if it appears on the photographer's Instagram homepage.):
I started (above) with Ruddy Roye, one of the most creative photographers on Instagram. More than anyone else that I know about, he's exploring Instagram's potential, making new kinds of images, inventing new forms of story-telling, reaching new audiences. Roye's website.
Updates (listed in the order that I receive suggestions):
I owe the following suggestions to Melissa Lyttle (see above and in comments). She's amazing:
Everyday Africa (many different, excellent photographers).
One more from Melissa. (A conflict photographer, by the way.):
These suggestions are from Alet Pretorius. (Thanks!) They're all from South Africa, I'm delighted to say. There are also several South African photographers in my list above:
As I said at the top, this list is far from complete. These are all terrific photographers, and you certainly should follow them, if you're on Instagram. But the list itself reflects the thoroughly un-systematic way that I've clicked on the "follow" button.
Point is, the list can be better -- with your help. If you've got photographers that you'd like me to add -- female photographers or photographers of Asian, African, Latino, or Native American descent who do superb work on Instagram -- leave a note in the comments, and I'll check them out.
Update, 14 October 2013: I missed this when it was published, but last week the New York Times' Lens blog published a story about a new exhibition, "Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment." Written by Whitney Richardson, "Women on the Front Lines and Behind the Lens" features Stephanie Sinclair and Lynsey Addario, among several others. Both Sinclair and Addario have worked extensively in conflict zones, and you'll find both in the list above. Richardson's there, too,
PS I'm on Instagram, too.
Update, 16 October 2013: Something seems to have gone wrong with Typepad's commenting system. Kate Knibbs, who wrote the Digital Trend story, let a comment. I approved it in the usual way, but it hasn't appeared in the comments section. Here's what she had to say:
"I'm the author of the original post on Digital Trends and I'd like to thank you for taking the time to put together this more inclusive list. I threw together that list of photojournalists as a bit of last minute content for the weekend and I didn't research it as well as I should have. I'm kicking myself for not even giving the homogenous makeup a second thought. This was certainly not done out of malice, but that doesn't really matter -- this is not a good list if it's all white men. As a technology journalist often upset at the gender/race/class dynamics in my field, I'm pretty appalled at myself. Even though the list is woefully unbalanced I'm happy it provoked discussion."