It has been a known fact throughout history that people of color were not accommodated when cameras and photography were developed. For decades, people of color have had to deal with their skin tones not being accurately captured and displayed in all its glory.
This problem has only been seriously addressed and adjustments made for it since the early 2000s. That is just a little bit over 100 years since cameras have been in existence.
Today, many black photographers (female photographers in particular) are continuously mastering the art of photographing darker skin tones and are bringing awareness to the importance of how these images are captured.
Why it is important to study it
The August 2020 issue of Vogue Magazine came under tremendous scrutiny after the photographer in question produced what many described as unflattering images of Simone Biles, a world-renowned gymnast. Biles, who you would describe as having a warm undertone, was put against a warm background, almost seemingly blending in with it. But why were people so upset?
Many of them believed the image could have had better lighting while others believed that more thought and creativity could have been put into the photoshoot. Overall, this incident revealed the need to further study the best practices in capturing the magnificence of black skin.
In the early 20th Century, the majority of photographs taken were of persons with Caucasian skin. This reality created a bias toward how cameras were made and how photos were produced.
As photography became more popular, there came a pushback from photographers who had difficulty producing true-to-tone images of persons with darker skin. Today, there is less pushback as technology has solved this problem.
The dynamics of photographing darker skin tones
Darker skin tones are not more difficult to capture than lighter skin tones. The most important element is the photographer and their knowledge of how to use light. Of course, other skills will come into play such as knowing what colors go well with someone’s undertone and how well other images and backgrounds will blend to make the perfect picture.
Their editing skills are also very important. The ‘raw’ photographs are just the beginning; using applications such a Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance these images is also essential.
Black women photographers being overlooked in this industry
Who is better capable of capturing the beauty of black skin than black women? Unfortunately, black women are underrepresented in the photography and media space, but that doesn’t mean that they are non-existent. Malika Humphrey is a Professional Photographer/Videographer, Creative Director, and Marketing Strategist specializing in capturing people of color (POC). She has a strong belief that capturing images for POC is an art that should not be taken lightly. She wants to foster a community of black women in the multimedia space and Creatives so that they can claim the space that they so rightly deserve in the industry.
The problem isn’t that black female photographers don’t exist; they simply are not headlined or showcased enough. It can almost be equated to the ancient belief that women should be home, barefoot and pregnant.
A new era is on the horizon and Black women photographers and filmmakers are emerging. Their art and the stories they want to tell through their lenses will be heard.