On July 7th, the multimedia journalist Polly Irungu celebrated her 27th birthday. That same day, Black Women Photographers, the community she created, turned one year old. In that time, BWP has grown to include 700 members worldwide. For Irungu, who credits photography with helping to develop her voice and confidence, the community has become a way to amplify the voices of others.
Since Irungu started BWP, members have landed jobs with The Washington Post, VSCO, Nasdaq, and more. When Kennedi Carter became the youngest-ever photographer to shoot the cover of British Vogue at 21 years old (Irving Penn, by comparison, was 26), she sat down with BWP and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for a virtual Q&A. Irungu has organized free portfolio reviews for more than one hundred Black women and non-binary photographers, hosted by industry insiders at The New York Times, NPR, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Reuters, Nikon Inc., and beyond.
In 2020, Black Women Photographers launched a COVID-19 relief fund, raising $14,000 amid the pandemic. “One day, this BWP relief fund will turn into the BWP grant,” she tweeted at the time. Now, that day has come.
After a year of building and giving back, Irungu recently received what she calls “the best birthday gift ever”: in partnership with NikonUSA, Black Women Photographers has announced a $40,000 grant fund, available to community members, plus the equivalent of $10,000 in cameras and lenses. “There will be 13 grants and three camera kit giveaways,” she explains. Grant recipients will be selected by the model-turned-celebrity photographer Jessy J; Danese Kenon, who is the Director of Photography at The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the portrait photographer and Nikon Ambassador Audrey Woulard.
“This is a dream that I thought would take several years to actualize,” Irungu tells us. “To celebrate the first anniversary of the launch with this grant fund is nothing short of remarkable. I am so honored that Nikon believes in the work that I am doing and in this community.” Applications open this month. Stay tuned on Instagram at @blackwomenphotographers.
All photos by BWP community members.