Where Have All The (Unconventional) Black Girls Gone?


That’s what time I went to bed one Saturday night. Not because I was out with girlfriends or my husband having the time of my life. Or even because of the (more believable) sick child or insomnia.

I was up until 3am on a Saturday night because I was unsuccessfully trolling free stock photo sites in search of black and brown women.

The type of emotive, moody photo with shadows and longing and wonder. The type of photo with a depth and openness that reminds you of humanity, how vast the world is, how life in all its grandness can be whittled down to a moment.

A photo that makes emotion tangible.

Remember the last time your mindless scrolling through Instagram was interrupted by a remarkable photo? Not just another bride in a gown, yogi in a pose, or woman in her #ootd in front of a really cool wall in a really cool city.

But a bride so enamored with her partner and the wind in her hair, a yogi in tune with her mind, body, and surroundings, and a woman whose self-love and acceptance was more than the clothes on her back.

That photo made you feel. The darkness in the corner, a partially open mouth, bent fingers in grass warmed and pricked your skin. It made you wonder, dream, and want to create an experience of your own.

Stock photos have come a long way from the cheesy, 1994 thumbs-up-and-a-wink guy leaning over the computer at his desk. Or staged, laughing groups of women at a coffee shop, lattes in hand. These images still exist, but now we at least have options. We no longer have to settle for fake and inauthentic.

But black and brown women with an unconventional, moody aesthetic just getting their businesses going a) still have little representation in both the cheesy and realistic stock photo world (I maybe found 4 that night.) and b) they may not have the means to hire a photographer who gets them.

I went to bed at 3am that Saturday night not with photos equally representing my ideal audience (which includes women of all races), but frustrated, posting photos of rooms styled in a way my ideal audience would style their own homes. It looked nice, sure, but it lacked humanity and connection. I am talking to women, after all. Not Eames chairs and fiddle leaf figs.

Where have all the unconventional black girls gone?

I don’t know.

Diversity and inclusion are not impossible, abstract ideals. They are as real as rain puddles and menstrual cramps. Representation is real. It shows women like me that yes, we see you, we are here for you.

Where are the black girls with half smiles and soft, creeping fingers? Girls photographed like the muses and works of art they are. Where are the black girls with windblown hair? Their natural curls swept effortlessly by nature across their pensive faces.

I know they exist. They must.

The wind blows for us too.


And because I adore that gripping, artistic, shadow-filled photography and feeling represented in this category, here are a few female photographers of color to follow on Instagram:

@kelleyraye / @brimcdee / @yumnaaa / @deunivory / @beewalker_ / @alisha_sommer

Know of any others? I want to keep this list growing. Let me know in the comments so I can add them. 

Make it a good day, friends.