︎The Photographer’s Guide to Inclusive Photography

MAY 2020

As photographers, we have a moral obligation to listen to and understand a story first before trying to tell it. In collaboration with PhotoShelter, we produced a guide to promote more thoughtful, conscientious photographic practices. 

Inside, you’ll find:
  • Definitions and historical context for issues related to photographing race, gender, the Global South and more
  • Ideas for how to engage more generously with communities that are not your own
  • A list of helpful resources and questions photographers should ask themselves before their next project

Contributors: Tara Pixley, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Hannah Reyes Morales, Tailyr Irvine, Danielle Villasana, Mengwen Cao and Jovelle Tamayo.  


As protests grew nationwide, an ethics debate emerged among journalism practitioners about documenting protests and the potential for unintended harm towards demonstrators. So we decided to craft a statement and provide a list of resources to provide context and consideration.  

- Images from protests can be used by police for surveillance, to further incriminate Black bodies, and increase the risk of criminalization and police brutality. Consider your responsibility and minimize harm through sensitive and careful storytelling.
- You cannot put the lives of people you document in danger under the guise of objective journalism.
- Sousveillance vs. surveillance: Is your work holding oppressors accountable or adding to a history of violence and surveillance of BIPOC bodies?
- Photography has been historically used to justify violence against Black communities. There’s a desensitization toward images of Black suffering while white bodies are photographed with dignity, subtlety and nuance.
- It is still possible and necessary to tell truthful, honest stories without feigning neutrality.
- You can protect people’s identities while maintaining journalistic fairness and accuracy.
- Legality doesn’t equal morality or freedom from consequence.
- Think about how prioritizing your right to photograph over concerns of life and death is a manifestation of privilege that borders on narcissism.
- Who gets to decide what bias and objectivity mean in this industry?
- If you are an assigning editor, hire local photographers instead of parachuting photographers from outside the community.
- There are creative ways to deliver a full, accurate story while protecting the safety of the people you photograph.
- Prepare a safety plan for yourself while reporting.
It came to our attention, as organizations previously affiliated with the Flash Forward competition jurying process, that Toronto-Dominion (TD) Bank — connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline project as part of a lending syndicate — is a major funder of The Magenta Foundation. This is disappointing because of the pain and violence Indigenous communities were subjected to as a result of the pipeline project, which was made possible by the support of lending banks. We want to use this letter to address our concerns about this partnership and to offer potential solutions. We think The Magenta Foundation can do better as an industry leader and set an example for other photo organizations.

Representation of people of color and women behind the camera to be abysmal, despite decades of calls to make photography more equitable and inclusive. We offer actionable steps camera companies and photo organizations can take toward equity.

“Whereas individual photographers will likely continue to subscribe to these incredibly harmful ways of depicting marginalized people and places, it is your responsibility as the powerful and monied organizations to change the narrative, to lead by example and to fund and support people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives who value holistic, complex storytelling. For our fellow image makers: we ask that you educate yourself about the visual histories of colonization and anti-black imagery and challenge yourself to actively help correct the narrative. If you aren’t part of the solution, you are completely part of the problem.”


© Gabriel Garcia Roman

Mengwen Cao, Naima Green, Tara-Lynne Pixley, Charmaine Poh, Gabriel Garcia Roman, Ka-Man Tse, Brian Vu, Justin J. Wee, Elizabeth Wirija, Salgu Wissmath

A parallax is the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions.

By portraying individuals who occupy the intersection of queer embodiment and blackness/brownness, who defy the accepted binaries of gender and sexuality, these portraits provide a rare, alternate view of the contemporary queer experience.

This series of photographic and filmic portraits of queer people of color grows from a simple inquiry, a desire to envision the theoretical as material: What is queer? What experiences and bodies are obscured by certain notions of queerness writ large in the cultural imagination? To queer has gradually become an academic catchphrase, a call-to-arms, and an intervention intended to destabilize normalcy. Queer is many things to many people across various contexts. As such, the queer lived experience is beyond blurred. It now signals intersections of gender, sexuality, race, (dis)ability and various other modes of being. Yet, certain racial and gendered embodiments have achieved their own level of normalcy, rewriting what LGBTQIA is in their own image, adjusting the social lens to keep themselves primarily in focus.

The Lit List


Photoville 2018

Miranda Barnes, Dana Scruggs, Josue Rivas, Kayla Reefer, Mengwen Cao, Nichole Washington,Jessica Pettway, Kelly Marshall, Gabriella Angotti-Jones, Anthony Geathers, Sofia Jaramillo, Jared Soares, Maria Del Rio, Lucy Hewett, Arlene Mejorado, Carmen Chan, Carolina Hidalgo, Michael M. Santiago, Aundre Larrow, Shan Wallace, Eloisa Lopez, Rhynna M. Santos, Andrea Morales, Meron Menghistab, Sophia Nahli Allison, Aisha Mugo, Lynsey Weatherspoon, Shirley Yu, Maheder Haileselassie, Erika P. Rodriguez

This exhibition was curated from the winners of the inaugural THE LIT LIST, a list created by the Authority Collective, in partnership with Diversify.Photo, to highlight 30 talented photographers of color and other underrepresented identities.

A white, cisgender, heteronormative, patriarchal lens dominates our world’s visual histories, and it is this same lens that determines access and success in many industries, including photography and film. We are asserting our right to tell stories from our own communities, which have long been misrepresented and erased in visual media. And we are establishing our power to set standards that challenge colonial aesthetics, narratives and notions of success. We are reclaiming our authority as storytellers and image makers.

past events

Authority Collective’s People of Color Photo Editors Salon

January 2020 @ National Geography, DC

A discussion on access, resources and decolonizing visual media featuring perspectives from professional visual editors of color. We asked: what are the challenges unique to being a decision maker of color?  How do we recognize stereotypical imagery and limit publishing implicitly biased photography? How do we  advocate for strong, critically aware imagery that broadens the scope of public understanding rather than reiterating centuries old ways of thinking? The workshop also made space for breakout strategy sessions and networking. Sponsored by Visura, with additional support from IWMF’s Howard G. Buffett Grant for Women Journalists.

ReVisioning Queer & Trans People of Color in Photography Photoville panel

September 2019 @ New York 

A panel discussion featuring the photographers and curators of the Authority Collective’s Parallax group show, sharing their perspectives on imaging the QTPOC experience.

Safety Training, co-hosted by IWMF and Blink

March 2019 @ New York

A free, four-hour safety training for Authority Collective members, sponsored by IWMF, led by Allison Baskerville of ROARR, and hosted at the Blink space in Brooklyn, NY.

Portfolio Review Workshop, co-hosted by PhotoShelter

March 2019 @ New York 

The day before the New York Portfolio Review, we met at the PhotoShelter space in Union Square to share resources and portfolio review tips, and start conversation about the industry issues on our mind before heading to Cafe Erzulie in Brooklyn to decompress.

Portland Artist Talks: Celeste Noche + Josué Rivas

October 2018 @ Portland 

Photographer Josué Rivas, one of the 30 inaugural Lit List Photographers to Watch, and local photographer and Authority Collective member Celeste Noche presented their work at Ori Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Our event space sponsor, Ori Gallery, is an art gallery and space for trans and queer artists of color and community organizing.

Seattle Artist Talks: Meron Menghistab + Chloe Collyer

August 2018 @ Seattle 

The Authority Collective presented an artist talk featuring photographer Meron Menghistab, one of the 30 inaugural Lit List Photographers to Watch, and local photographer and Authority Collective member Chloe Collyer, at Indie Genius Media studio in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood.

POCs in Production x Authority Collective showcase and meet-up

July 2018 @ New York 

Certain film festivals and art galleries are very elitist, very expensive and of course, very white. These spaces make it hard for talented folks of color to gain access and showcase their incredible art. We co-hosted a showcase with POCs in Production to support creatives of color. We started the night with film screenings, a photography gallery, panel discussions, then shifted gears to party the night away.


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