Reflection: 10 of the Best Black Photographers We’ve Featured

We’re reflecting on the best black photographers we’ve featured over the past decade.

It’s Black History Month. A time where we take a look at photographers from the past, as well as the present. But our representation of the best black photographers doesn’t last for only 28 days. It’s a constant. And we’ve been committed to fair representation for over 10 years. We certainly don’t do it to “even things out.” We’re just very aware of the fantastic photographers in our game that happen to be black. We are happy to be able to give them a platform. And in this piece, we reflect on the best black photographers featured on The Phoblographer over the years.

Editor’s Note: We’re also looking to feature more women for Women’s History Month and Asian Americans for Asian American History Month. The sooner you submit, the better. Here’s how!

1. Lester Cannon is One of The Best Black Photographers

We featured Lester Cannon over six years ago. Back then, he was shooting 80% of his portraits with a film camera. We were especially drawn to the portraits he created during the golden hour. They’re full of character, warmth, and energy. When asked why he loves shooting portraits, he told us, “…what draws me to portraits is that I like to show people how beautiful they are…” We’re happy to see that Cannon is still active in 2021 and continues to create beautiful portraiture.

2. Chinelle Ro’s Self-Portraits Make Her One of The Best Black Photographers

Chinelle Ro is a more recent feature on The Phoblographer. We came across her work in 2020, shortly after she was named a Fujifilm X-Photographer. Out of the new crop of Fuji shooters, her work really stood out. Self-portraits are not easy. There’s little room for error, and that’s why doing it to a high standard is difficult. Ro does her self-portraits to perfection. Honestly, we were blown away by the sharp, vibrant, and super creative images she produces. We expect big things for her over the years.

3. Jamiya Wilson (The Phoblographer Alumni)

Most people know that Jamiya Wilson is a former staffer at The Phoblographer. But that’s no reason to put him on this list. It’s his awesome portrait photography that makes him one of the best black photographers we’ve featured.

In 2019 we offered a platform for Wilson to show off his project 100 Faces. He broke down his internal barriers to approach people on the street and create their portraits. When asked why his series was important, he said, “100 Faces is my humble attempt to get people to stop for a moment and consider that stranger.”

4. Clay Benskin

Clay Benskin is a terrific street photographer with an interesting character. He’s constantly wrestling with the pressure of social media (we’ve lost count of how many times he’s deleted his Instagram) and opts to focus on making photos rather than sharing them. But when he does pop up online, we’re always happy. He creates authentic, raw street images that have a documentary style to them. He’s one of the best street photographers working out of NYC.

5. Soho Trendz

Soho Trendz is our kind of photographer. Gritty, true to life images that show the real world is what we love. We showed Trendz’ work on The Phoblographer back in 2016. As we reflect on his photos, they still give us the same rush of endorphins as they did back then. On how he feels about his work, Trendz said, “I like to think of my photos as different scenes from one big movie.” We certainly dig that vibe!

6. Melissa “Bunni” Elian

Melissa “Bunni” Elian was part of our successful Visual Momentum series. Her documentary work is powerful, as is her personal story. In her past, Elian was arrested on a DWI. Spending 37 hours in jail, she reflected on life and decided she needed change. She turned to photography, photojournalism to be precise.

We published the work she did with The Ground Truth Project. Elian followed a man named Travis, photographing the struggles he faced as a young male. Travis was a uni grade, worked several day jobs, all while building a career and being a father. The work is gripping, and we will remember it for a long time.

7. C. Stephen Hurst

When we think of the best black photographers, C. Stephen Hurst is one of the first photographers we think of. His fashion photography focuses on character rather than perfection. Shot on the New York Subway, he positions his subjects amongst the curious public. Even with the distractions, he still manages to get his subjects to let go and express themselves. Hurst is a cancer survivor, and we’re delighted to see he remains active today.

8. Obafemi Matti

Obafemi Matti submitted his work to us in 2016. We were looking for portrait photographers who thought outside the box. Matti certainly does that. His creative portrait photography takes mundane spaces and puts a surreal subject within them. Sadly, Matti doesn’t seem as active as he once was. But we’re happy to have seen his work and hope he returns to the scene in the not too distant future.

9. Courtney Coles

Courtney Coles has a cool gig. She’s a music and concert photographer and has had the pleasure of photographing some talented bands. But she’s not in her position through luck. Coles is a super talented photographer and has earnt every bit of her success. She’s had four solo exhibitions on the east coast and has received plenty of personal accolades for her work. We’re proud to be part of her journey.

10. Nina Robinson

Students from Nina Robinson’s Photothearpy class at William Hodson Senior Center practice street photography using Polaroid cameras.

Nina Robinson offers a beautiful story. She’s hands down one of the best black photographers we’ve featured. A talented photographer, Robinson set up a group that focuses on what she calls, Phototherapy. Providing cameras to senior citizens, Robinson showed them how to create memories and stories, helping them gain a purpose in later life. She documented the project and gave us a feel-good story that brings a tear to the eye!

A Note on The Best Black Photographers

Some people may take issue with the term “best black photographers.” In fact, we know they do. Sadly, we receive angry comments and emails from people who feel it’s wrong to separate black photographers from white photographers, for example.

To be clear, the black photographers we feature are some of the best photographers in our industry, regardless of skin color. But history exists. We cannot deny the struggles black people have faced and still face today. Black History Month is important. It gives further voice to those who were silenced because of their skin color. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the racists – not us, and certainly not the talented photographers in our scene.

All images used with permission. Lead photo by Nina Robinson.

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