There’s been a big, gaping hole in the photo community. These photographers are stepping up and stepping in to highlight the voices of diverse creatives.
Tomayia Colvin is changing the photo community, one experience at a time.
If you haven’t heard of The Cookout, you will soon. This ShootProof-sponsored conference-slash-workshop-slash-experience is revolutionizing the client-based photo industry, with an emphasis on talented people of color.
The Cookout founder, Tomayia Colvin, may not have set out to run the photo industry, but she’s well on her way. Her educational efforts are second only to her community-building, which has carved out space for even the most marginalized photographers to have their voices heard and their work seen.
“The Cookout photography conference has welcomed me as a person, a photographer, and a speaker,” says Britney of The Glam Lab. “I was able to be myself and not be judged.”
As if Tomayia’s educational platform and yearly photographers’ conference weren’t enough, she also publishes Toffee + Honey, an online magazine that celebrates artists and images you won’t find elsewhere. We reached out to community members about what Toffee + Honey means to them, and how this one-of-a-kind magazine is rocking the industry.
Photography: “An industry that sometimes feels plastic.”
“Toffee + Honey represents inclusion, diversity, community, and realness in an industry that sometimes feels plastic,” shares Nikia Williams-Wilson (Nikia Williams Photo). “This magazine is intentional about creating a new ‘normal’ that includes everyone!”
Nikia’s statement rings true and tough in an industry overwhelmingly preferential to white, thin, able-bodied representation.
Photographer Chyami Hill has noted the same. “I find myself scrolling [through] the major photography media outlets for work by photographers of color, or for work that reflects subjects of color, and they are few and far-between.”
“When you look at the most-followed hashtags, [none of] the top posts [depict] people of color,” reiterates Tanya Smith (Tanya R. Photography.) “The advertisements [geared toward] photographers have very few people of color. And the ambassadors for many photography products do not [include] people of color.”
It’s clear that diverse, inclusive communities and publications are the unicorns of the photography world. “WithToffee + Honey, there’s no playing favorites,” photographer Jen Needham expresses. “They’re wonderful about including people based on their talent rather than who’s ‘well-known.’ Our industry needs more inclusion, and Toffee + Honey is stepping up to do just that.”
Be a unicorn in a good-ol’-horse world.
With real working photographers experiencing community and visibility gaps for people of color, Tomayia has refused to give up. Even when money was tight and personal challenges abounded, Tomayia doggedly persisted in her community-building efforts. After all, why settle for mediocrity when you can create your own elite, inclusive community?
“Toffee + Honey magazine means a photographer like myself – an immigrant Black woman – can love the arts and showcase my work equally amongst other creatives,” expresses Virgeline Simone Roland (Virge Simone).
By focusing on education, openly sharing her own struggles, and actively highlighting photography by and of people of color, Tomayia has grown her own little network into a booming community of thousands. Photographers of every color and creed show up in Tomayia’s online forums for support and advice. They buy tickets to The Cookout, and submit their best images to Toffee + Honey.
“Toffee + Honey makes me want to be a better photographer,” emphasizes Me’Cshell Moore-Butler (Photos by Meme). “It’s all-inclusive. People are not overlooked because of their color or gender. There is a seat at the table for everyone.”
Your photo community is out there. You just have to find them.
Maybe you’re actively building your own community and need inspiration. Or perhaps you’re seeking a community that welcomes you without hesitation. Whatever your goal, opportunities for connection are finally expanding. In addition to Tomayia Colvin Education, Nikia Williams-Wilson recommends Queen Photographers and Catalyst Wedding Co. as fantastic resources.
“I think we’re all here to help each other grow and become the best we can be,” shares Nichole McKeever (Nichole J. Photo.) “We’re all here to go forward – and together.”
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Header image by CHARMED LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY | Additional thanks to Brenda De Los Santos, Annette Matthews, Nine 19 Photography, OH Experience, Q88 Photography, Art Thru the Eye Ov Ra, Shaw Photography Group, Brown Betty Photography
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