AS: What do you think is the best way to also add to the numbers of black picture editors?
BL: I feel like this is a moment when people are gonna start to realize how important black photo editors are. People are starting to have these tough conversations in their offices, in their newsrooms. And it's awkward to have a conversation about race when there's no one black there. It is also awkward to have a conversation about race when there's only one black person there. Immediately off the jump you are seeing that something is wrong.
What we will need to do is open up these gates, understand that we need to do a lot more mentorship; we need to open up and meet the folks that we are not used to meeting. Go places we are not used to going. Answer those phones for people we haven't spoken with before, that we don't have those relationships with. Ask around, because there are folks that want to get into it, but don't know how to get into it. There are folks, like myself— I'm a pretty decent photographer, but I am a better editor— who might need those opportunities, might need to see that pathway and, honestly, draw that pathway out and let people know there's a possibility and a way to do that.
AS: I feel like portfolio reviews and contests are a good place to really push to get more people of color involved and to really make it priority.
BL: And they are. I can honestly say, all the ones that I've been part of, they are. From the judges to reviewers to the reviewees, people are making honest to god, hardcore pushes to incorporate more black and brown folks in the portfolio reviews that they do. And there have also been moments where, if I'm on a judging panel, and I'm the only black person, I'm going to be like, “I don't know if I really want to be involved in this one. Not unless we can add another person of color in some way, shape, or form into this because this is not reflective of the people who submitted.”
So I think that's one thing that's been happening a lot more. I don't think that has been super public. Most of those are handled in back room email channels, threads, and things like that. I've been in conversations where white folks have just been like, “No, I'm sorry, I can’t. You're going to have to get some other folks in here. I will recuse myself. Here are like six people that are amazing that you should work with, that you should look at, that you should call.”
The NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) mandates it now, but, on top of that, they are intentional with it. They're like, “We’re going to do this. I know it might take a little bit of work, but everyone is going to feel better at the end for it. We're gonna have a much better judging pool than we've had before. And, you know, at the end of the day, we're going to find the best work that's not through the white gaze that we've seen for the last 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 however many years.”