Yesterday was a long day friends. If you follow me on instagram or facebook, you have probably by now read all about the madness that occurred between myself and the local wedding blog, Philly In Love. In case though you have no idea what I am talking about, let me give you the really short version! (If you’d like the whole story, you can read it on my fb page by clicking here). Yesterday Philly In Love posted 18 photographers that they called their list of “favorites” on their instagram and shared only images of white, straight, thin couples. On the list, it appears that 17 of the 18 photographers are also white. So after hearing that PIL was deleting any comments about asking for why there wasn’t more diversity on a blog in one of the countries most diverse cities, I took to instagram stories and the whole thing went down from there. From being blocked, to watching countless of my friends’ comments deleted and then them blocked from their social media, to the owner threatening me on my account and telling my friend to “pound sand” if she didn’t like it, to PIL posting on their page that they are for ALL love with a handful of tokenized POC and LGBTQ couples, to the final straw of the owner calling all of these calls for inclusion to be bigotry, hatred and racist. It was a hot dang mess ya’ll. And I have allllllll the receipts but that’s not what this post is about.
Last night as I sat trying to process all that happened, I kept having the words of some of my local vendors swirl through my head. This is not the first time I have called someone out for fake allyship and it won’t be the last and it is always met with people saying this stuff doesn’t really matter and that talking about it is just for drama. And yet they will want to shoot an LGBTQ wedding because it makes them feel cool or because “I mean money is money man even if I think they will all probably go to hell.” Yes, a local photog did say that to me while second shooting for me once. And that makes me so angry ya’ll. And this happens well beyond the queer community. People say they are about equality but don’t show black and brown bodies. They say that all bodies are beautiful and only share thin ones. They say all love is equal and that they value every wedding they are apart of yet only showcase thin, white, barbie looking couples.
Of the 18 photographers they mentioned, only 3 of them had an image in their top images that featured black, brown or queer bodies. 5 of them had more if you scrolled a little further but the representation was not great. And many of them commented on Philly in Love’s post, patting them on the back for even showing any diversity at all. And that’s when it hit me, this isn’t about inclusion for almost anyone. This about money and knowing that showing a few POC or LGBTQ or bigger bodies or not able bodied folks makes them look good. They don’t actually care about creating space, just about what makes them look good and that’s not just Philly In Love, its so many vendors as well. They will be queer-friendly or be all about those curves or showing off a gorgeous ethnic couples when it serves them and that isn’t allyship friends.
In putting this blog post together I looked at well over 220 local photographers websites and I sat here at one point with tears rolling down my cheeks. I could only come up with 24 photographers across all genres and styles that I felt consistently showed diversity, advocated for the rights of others and who didn’t just pay lip service to the idea that love is love and all love stories matter. Philly deserves better from us ya’ll. And while maybe not all of these 24 photographers are the best allies to marginalized communities, they seem to be going in the right direction. And I am sure I missed a few too. But what is so heartbreaking is HOW MANY SITES didn’t have a single LGBTQ couples, a single person of color, a single interracial couple, or any plus size/larger bodies. And if they did, it was buried at the bottom of a portfolio or randomly sprinkled in because they only had one.
Here’s the deal. You can’t call yourself a Philly area photographer and not have diversity. This is a majority minority city and if you aren’t attracting not white, not thin, not heterosexual couples….that is your fault. It is because you do styled shoots that feature only one kind of couple. It is because you make your contest winners the ones who are thin, white and straight. It is because you showcase families that are like your own. How can you change that? Get involved in communities that are different from you. Donate money, help causes that support the rights of all people. Shoot for free if it means getting to work with folks who you don’t have in your portfolio. Put in the time and effort to learn and shut up when someone from a minority group tells you how something makes them feel. Stop choosing the images that showcase one kind of client and make sure that when anyone views your work they have the opportunity to feel seen and welcome. Support the work and effort of folks who are putting their name and business on the line to call attention to a lack of diversity. And be willing to pay for others to help you learn, grow and become a better ally.
This list isn’t perfect, but it is my way of saying both to Philly in Love and to my community at large that we can do better. We MUST do better. If you are a photographer reading this, you can do better. You can show more diversity, be more involved in pushing for equality for everyone and use your portfolio as a way to fight back that the perfect wedding, shoot, boudoir session etc isn’t only with a thin, white, able bodied, or heterosexual couple. We all can do more, especially me. I don’t say all of this thinking that my work is done. There is always new ways I can fight racism, homophobia, ableism, sizeism, zenophobia, etc. Join me in that journey. Go update your portfolio, post a model a call, reach out to a queer couple who has kids, volunteer for a social justice organization, call out racism, donate to causes that fight for equality. Just go do something. And encourage your friends and family and networks to do the same.
**Presented in no particular order**
NYC Wedding photographer and photo editor of Catalyst Wedding Co