Diversity in Photojournalism: ‘Talk Is Cheap’

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Diversity in Photojournalism: ‘Talk Is Cheap’

Credit Zun Lee

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Over the years, Brent Lewis has stood out in media scrums on assignment or in the audience at conferences and workshops: He’s usually among the very few photographers of color — or the only one — around.

“We are easy to spot in a crowd at photo events,” said Mr. Lewis, the photo editor for ESPN’s The Undefeated. “Yet I personally know many black photographers.”

In fact, he credits his own career to a childhood moment of recognition one hot summer day in 1997 during the Bud Billiken parade, a celebration of African-American pride on Chicago’s South Side. He recalls seeing a black photographer — he thinks it was John White of The Sun Times — weaving through the marching bands of the seemingly endless parade.

“That opened my eyes,” he said. “First off it’s amazing he got paid to take pictures for a living, and second, he looks like me. That was a wake-up moment, I wanted to make pictures that matter for the rest of my life.”

He has now made it his mission to wake up photo editors who tell him they would like to hire photographers of color but don’t know any. Mr. Lewis knows that they are out there, but photo editors need to go outside their normal circles, and outside their comfort zone, to find them. Rather than just leave it at that — solid advice that gets repeated like a mantra but seldom goes further — Mr. Lewis, 27, has created a website with a searchable database of some 340 experienced photographers of color with details and contacts exclusively for photo editors.

The move is part of Diversify Photo, a new organization devoted to “creating a place where people can come and see photographers of color, to know they are out there and they exist, and to provide editors with the ability to find people…

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