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These artists are capturing the food waste problem in America

Food waste worldwide has gone from bad to worse in the last few years, and artists are among the loudest calling our attention to it.

An estimated 40 percent of all food supply in the United States is wasted. This means over 80 billion pounds of food in 2020.

During a time in which food insecurity is becoming a reality for more and more Americans, these statistics are harrowing.

food waste artists
Food waste is occurring on an unprecedented scale, image via Bon Appetit

In response, artists across various mediums have thus begun to tackle the widespread food waste problem through their work. We take a look at some of the most influential artists and projects garnering awareness on food waste.

Aliza Eliazaraov

Aliza Eliazaraov
Aliza Eliazaraov, image courtesy of the artist

In Waste Not, Aliza Eliazaraov channels her unique agency as a visual storyteller through advocacy. The photographs reimagine food waste found in dumpsters across New York in the style of 17th Century paintings.

artists work on food waste
Food left overs from Maison Premiere’s The Billion Oyster Project, image via Business Insider

“The way [the] food in these paintings were elevated to objects of art really spoke to me and made sense for this series and subject matter — to take food headed for the trash and make it art.”

Aliza Eliazaraov for Business Insider

Research on work from the 17th century helped her to create the simultaneously captivating and unnerving effect the project has.

A renowned photographer with clients ranging from The New York Times to The United Nations, Eliazaraov is known for her focus on the agricultural environment.

artists' work on food waste
Sorbet rescued from trash outside of Key Foods Market at the corner of McGuinness Blvd & Greenpoint Ave in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Fear of lawsuits stops many retailers from donating food despite The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, which protects food donors from liability. Aliza Eliazaraov via Business Insider.

With an eye towards sustainability, this project reflects the artist’s commitment to creating commentary that’s not only subversive, but also reorienting. After the photos are taken, the food is eaten. 

The Art We Waste

Though no one demographic is to blame, it’s true that to waste food, you thus have to be able to afford it. To address this particular dimension of food waste, Hellman’s partnered with Miami Ad School in Spain to create The Art We Waste.

The idea behind the project then was to stage an auction of high-end art pieces for wealthy dealers and buyers. Unbeknownst to the audience, however, the paint used for all of the art is made from food waste.

artists are calling attention to the food waste problem
Food waste from restaurants is a large part of the problem, image via CAKE

The controversial project is a commentary on the exorbitant amount of money the upper class spends on art in the name of status signaling.

By recycling that which the wealthy find undesirable into art buyers are willing to spend thousands of dollars on, The Art We Waste is thus a cultural criticism with high impact.

Cara Piazza

Artist Cara Piazza also repurposes food waste into artistic material – but for textile work instead. As the fashion industry turns towards sustainable fashion, Piazza thus introduces a means of combating food waste into the process of slow fashion.

Cara Marie Piazza
Cara Marie Piazza, image via The Glossary

Working out of her studio in Brooklyn, New York, the designer turned environmental activist uses organic matter to create natural dyes. Recently, the New York Times covered her for an article on the repurposing of Valentine’s Day flowers, which Piazza claims can get you a scarf and also a kimono in a single bouquet.

She also partners with restaurants to receive their excess waste as material for her dyes. Piazza is working in an industry that’s infamous for waste, as well as its widespread use of synthetic dyes. Made from untested chemical compounds, newly developed dyes pose potential health and environmental threats to its consumers.

Cara Marie Piazza artwork
Piazza uses food waste and upcycled flowers to make natural dyes, image via Botanical Colors

Against the system in which clothes are retrospectively tested for hazards, Piazza is innovating the process of dying clothes safely. Through custom pieces and natural dye workshop classes, she’s interrupting the wasteful world of fast fashion.

Itamar Gilboa

Israeli-Dutch artist Itamar Gilboa takes personal engagement with food waste one step further in The Food Chain Project. Documenting the artist’s consumption over 365 days, the project replicates 8000 products into a “traveling supermarket.”

Itamar Gilboa artwork
Itamar Gilboa with his sculptures, image via Elephant

By closely following his own habits, Gilboa addresses a world in which many go hungry while others waste. The exhibit takes the form of a pop-up sculptural grocery, and is currently housed at the LAM Museum featuring art in discourse with food.

Each item from the installation, like a sculpted lemon, or a can of tuna, can be bought from the artist. Thirty percent of those profits are donated to NGOs fighting food issues, such that Gilboa is creating a food chain. 

“What I ate turned into art, which, when sold, can again become food.”



Last year in New York, the show Peer2Pickle caught the eye of the local art community for its multimedia engagement with food waste.

Curator Tyler Tate showcased a myriad of ways to reuse organic material that would otherwise be discarded.

One contributing artist by the name of Mo Chieh created a documentary titled Perfect Vegetables, on food waste in Taiwan. The work focuses on the struggles that farmers endure trying to sell to supermarkets that have strict aesthetic guidelines for produce.

Another artist, Andrew Gryf Paterson, led a workshop in which he created “Edible Paper Experiments.” The workshop involved making flat sheets of paper out of food waste, and resulted in a series of formulas that one can follow from home to create their own edible paper.

apex art studio
The Apex Art Studio exhibiting the Peer2Pickle event, the Edible Paper Experiments hung on a string. Image via Peer2Pickle

Peer2Pickle was created in the spirit of beginning a collaboration in which creative methods can be used to problem solve and inspire alternative economies.

The exhibit is preserved online as a series of open-source recipes, tutorials, and guides, in the hopes that it will inspire others to be more mindful about wasting food. 

Art can draw attention to the realities of our world in a way that inspires action. Rather than a cynical lamenting of the current state of affairs, these projects are an attempt at creative problem solving and the beauty to be found in what we have been quick to discard.


Who are the young photographers covering activism the right way?

Activism has taken on a whole new dimension with the rise of social media in the contemporary political landscape. And thus, it has been essential that the photographers covering activism be young and unjaded by perceived “norms.”

While the global nature of the internet has changed activism across physical and virtual space, it comes with its own set of complications. 

Beauty in Pain, photograph by Wulf Bradley

Young photographers taking the reigns on an increasingly-unstable world

For photographers, the moral quandaries surrounding the coverage of protests have intensified.

Our contemporary media culture allows for widespread awareness. But it also requires sensitivity towards certain subject matters as well as curative agency. 

The widespread coverage, for example, of the Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. last summer raised a number of questions about the role of the press in these spaces. Often photographers can appear voyeuristic and exploitative of situations that should appeal to their sense of political responsibility.

young photographers
Photograph by Montinique Monroe

On some occasions, the media coverage of political activism has threatened the safety of particular individuals or movements. This often occurred when individuals were identified and arrested via heavily circulated images.

The narrative that a particular image tells too, can be misused or re-appropriated with the intent to frame activism as innately dangerous.

young photographers
Photograph by Kian Kelley-Chung, courtesy of the Washington Post

We move as a means of bettering ourselves as a collective, so being out there I felt a huge responsibility to just make sure that the people I was photographing were being portrayed in a ways [sic] that were 1) respectful to them but 2) showing them in a way where my message could get across to people who may feel differently than the ones who were there.

Wulf Bradley for Rolling Stone

Photographing activism in a responsible way requires a newfound commitment to uplifting the political movement. In a time in which photographers wield unprecedented power, these young photographers are setting an example.

Vanessa Charlot

Vanessa Charlot’s work has always been concentrated on the intricacies of Black and brown life outside the white gaze. This awareness of the politics of whiteness and its cultural/physical violence also imbues her coverage of protests across the U.S.

young photographers
Vanessa Charlot for Black Art Matter

Just as the male gaze has entered mainstream photographic consciousness, Charlot argues that the white gaze reflects in images as a social consciousness that subjugates Black people.

Instead of showcasing the humanity of individuals and relationships between Black people, the white gaze frames them in existing certain stereotypes.

Charlot’s photo work instead insists on the sacredness of work that is unique to the Black gaze. The young photographer is carving out space for Black photographers to tell their own story. 

young photographers
From the “St. Louis Protest: Resistance” series by Vanessa Charlot

Her coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement in St. Louis reflects these values. As is the case with support for the Black Lives Matter movement at large, Charlot laments the commodification of Black suffering as a shock factor.

Instead, she shoots mostly in Black and white to explore the timeless universality of experience. Her work humanizes activists with portrait-style photography amidst large crowds. As well as a focus on the details of facial expressions.

Charlot is able to capture the socio-economic, gendered, and spiritual forces acting on a subject. She does this through just the look in her subjects’ eyes as they gaze past the lens. 

Montinique Monroe

young photographers
Montinique Monroe for Warrior Women Essentials

For freelance photojournalist Montinique Monroe, the death of 18-year-old Micheal Brown was both a tragedy and a call to action. It was while covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri that Monroe discovered the crucial role that photographers play in activist spaces and their representations.

Monroe put herself on assignment to cover the death of Michael Brown at 18 years old. This was the same age Brown was when he was murdered.

Though she’s grateful for the success she’s been able to garner as a photojournalist, when she recounts having paid her respects at the graves of countless young Black people killed at the hands of the police, she knows there’s still a long way to go. 

Our stories matter. Everyday when we wake up and look in the mirror, we see a reflection of the parents who were taken from us. We are their legacies.

Montinique for Vox
young photographers
Photograph by Montinique Monroe

Monroe’s work is deeply personal. Not only as a Black woman, but also as the daughter of a Black man killed by police.

Her family spared her the truth about the circumstances of his death until she was older. But his absence was something she grappled with her whole life.

The shock of hearing how her father was shot by police when she was only 4 months old filled Monroe with a moral imperative to tell his story. The photojournalist says her work is intended to share and protect the stories of families like her own.

Amir Aziz

Graphic artist and photographer Amir Aziz has been making a name for himself in his hometown of Oakland for years. When massive protests began to rock the Bay Area, Aziz credits the ease with which he captured the movement to his knowledge on the lay of the land.

What’s more, being a native of the community and city gives him an awareness of the historical context of each street, many of which have seen groundbreaking demonstrations before. Aziz’s photographs are imbued with intention. Down to the conceptual subjects of focus, and who takes center stage in his work. 

I’ve been making it a point to document what the signs say and the creativity that goes into them. I’m also specifically making a point to photograph black people.

While we have a great number of white and other non-black allies in the protests, it would be a disservice to this movement fighting for black lives to overlook the very black people fighting for our humanity.

Amir Aziz for artnet
Angela Davis by Amir Aziz. Photography courtesy of The Oaklandside.

Aziz is also a member of Youthful Kinfolk, a collective of young artists at the forefront of the Bay Area’s creative movement. There, Aziz chronicles protests that have followed the deaths and frustrating trials of unarmed Black men, bringing them together in a “collection of unity.”

The intention is to focus specifically on how young people of color in his community are engaging with the never-ending onslaught of devastating news. Aziz’s work garners visibility for people of color fighting for their lives. Even still as their neighborhoods are being gentrified every day.

Kian Kelley-Chung

Kian Kelley-Chung, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, first appeared on Twitter when police confiscated his equipment at a protest. Kelley-Chung was held overnight after being taken into custody at a protest in Washington D.C. on Aug. 13th, 2020.

Washington, D.C., June 2nd. Photograph by Kian Kelley-Chung via the Washington Post

While he was released the next morning, the journalist’s two cameras and cell phone were not returned for over two months. During that time, Kelley-Chung borrowed equipment from his father, who is also a photojournalist.

Being on the ground and involved in activism efforts allows Kelley-Chung to make change not only through his work, but in demonstrations of his dedication.

The photojournalist also founded RXNIN LIFE, a platform to encourage creative artists like himself. And he did this from a dorm room his freshman year of college. His work has been featured in the Washington Post in several articles, including one in which his photos appear alongside his father’s

Wulf Bradley

Wulf Bradley for the New York Times. Photograph by the artist.

In the wake of the George Floyd protests, Wulf Bradley’s coverage remains a powerful look into the human complexities of those moments. Traveling to Atlanta from his small town in Georgia, Bradley enters into protest scenes with an eye for storytelling. 

I tend to look for people that I feel are the protagonist of the scene. The emotionally complex character in the frame that you first align with. The character that teaches you the moral of the story.

Wulf Bradley for Vanity Fair

Bradley first got into photography in 2017 when he asked to borrow his mom’s camera. Since then, Bradley has quickly grown into a well-known photojournalist documenting life in Georgia along political axes.

young photographers
Sunday Service, a photograph capturing the day of rest by Wulf Bradley

In a piece for Vanity Fair, Bradley’s photos show an almost haunting humanity and tenderness in a movement that’s often cast as a chaotic, and also violent space.

Approaching photography with mindfulness towards being personable, Bradley’s genuine regard for individuals shows in his photos. His projects capture a meaningful authenticity emanating from his subjects, each of which tell incredibly complex stories in a single shot.

Digital artist Elise Swopes shares how to navigate the world of NFTs

Elise Swopes, digital artist and entrepreneur, is the newest name around NFT town.

The Chicago native has been making waves on Instagram for years now with her surrealist urban landscapes. Since 2010, Swopes has been taking and editing photos on her phone that imbue cities from Copenhagen to New York with elements of magical realism.

In some images, waterfalls rush over the middle of a Manhattan skyline. In others, giraffes lean over tall stairwells and drink from puddles like a watering hole. Trains pass through skyscraper forests. Buildings turn to mirages. 

Digital artwork from Elise Swopes (via @swopes)

Following her success on Instagram and many high-profile collaborations with brands like Adobe and Apple, Swopes is on to the next thing.

In 2019, Swopes delivered an inspiring TED talk on her renewed commitment to mental health and growing up on the internet. She has developed apps, started a podcast, and created content as a resource for a community of creatives looking to get their own brands underway.

Most notably, she’s begun working in the NFT world, which she’s met with great success. We caught up with Elise on how she’s navigating the NFT world, and continuing to evolve as an artist. 

Elise Swopes’ introduction into the NFT world

Kulture Hub: When did you first hear about the NFT space, and what was your first reaction? Did it seem like something you could see yourself getting involved in?

Elise Swopes: I first heard about the NFT space through my manager, Eddie. He told me about some friends he had involved, and we didn’t take it too seriously at first.

A few months flew by before we leaped to apply for Nifty and SuperRare [tokenized digital art collectives]. I noticed an old Instagram friend of mine, JNSilva, making waves on Nifty, so I figured we’d need to step it up and make it a priority.

Once I got accepted into SuperRare, I made sure to pace myself. I learned a lot about marketing through Instagram influencer projects during the last decade, and one thing I’ve realized is you want to think long-term. Skill is essential, but consistency and the ability to go with the changing flow (authentically, of course) are crucial.

My first reaction was, “this is for me.” I knew it immediately. I’ve been creating digitally for years, and trying to figure out how to make my art come to “life” in traditional galleries has been difficult until now.

People are open to seeing it in VR. People are open to spending a lot of money on it because they see my value and worth. And they’re right. I’m here, forever.

Is the NFT world sustainable?

KH: Do you think the NFT world is a sustainable way for artists to garner visibility and earn a living?

ES: Yes and no. I think people need to be careful with anything putting all their eggs in one basket. It would help if you had your hand in many things at once because things happen.

One day you’re on the top, and the next, you’re not. It’s just the way it is. So find what brings you peace and let everything else be a challenge to test your strength. 

Elise Swopes for Kulture Hub

KH: You juggle many projects at one – from Urban Jungle App to your podcast ‘Swopes So Dope,’ to NFTs. How do you do it all, and keep yourself sane?

ES: It’s crazy because it doesn’t feel like that much to me. I’m incredibly organized and particular about how I spend my time.

This hasn’t always been the case. I wasn’t always on top of things or the most professional, but the more I allowed myself to learn through different projects and ideas, the better I failed at almost everything to know what to do and how it felt doing it wrong.

Nothing teaches you more than embarrassment and experience. I also write everything down! Ideas, to-do’s, goals, etc. The Time Paradox was one of the best books ever. 

Elise Swopes in NYC (via @swopes / Amanda How)

Finding solace as a creative of color, online and anywhere

KH: In your TEDx Talk, you mention turning to the Internet to find a space for yourself in a world that seemed to alienate you at every turn, particularly as a mixed-race kid growing up in Chicago. Do you still take refuge online, or do you think the attitude towards creatives of color has changed since then?

ES: I still take refuge online, for sure. It’s my haven, and I’ve learned to navigate it thoughtfully.

Like I said, this has only come from failure. Lol, I learned valuable lessons through each interaction throughout these years. What makes me feel good, what takes up my time? What gives me anxiety? Self-reflection is a crucial component of how I interact these days.

Elise Swopes for Kulture Hub
Elise Swopes self-reflecting in Chicago (via @swopes)

But creatives of color are still in a tough place. Colorism is still a challenging topic for some, and I’ve grown to understand I’m not a victim, as much as I’m just a bystander to what society has shaped people to think.

All I can do is be who I am as a person and understand what people think and say has nothing to do with me. I see color because color matters. But color shouldn’t depict who is blacker than another.

Though, darker individuals are affected tremendously by more systemic violence. So, I know my privilege. It would be ignorant to say otherwise. And I think that’s where the issue lies. The system is the problem.

Mindfulness in entrepreneurship

KH: Have your experiences with mindfulness of mental health and recovery from addiction influenced you as an artist and a businesswoman?

ES: Mindfulness is everything. It’s like this superconscious operating system that I didn’t even know I had until the last five years. There are upgrades and all types of good stuff, lol!

I like to tell my mentees; there’s no going back once you “upgrade” or learn something. 

Elise Swopes for Kulture Hub

KH: You’ve spoken about getting your start selling digital art in the form of myspace templates from a young age. Did you know that you could be an entrepreneurial artist at that point?

ES: I had no idea. I was just a kid, I was just addicted to designing and making a few dollars here and there. I loved the exposure I could gain from creating popular girls’ MySpace pages or how I could get someone to bring me McDonald’s for lunch. It was an early idea of leveraging, I suppose, more than anything. 

Navigating through the online and NFT worlds

KH: How did you come up with the 3-Week Online Presence Challenge?

ES: Many people were losing their jobs and feeling so much defeat at the beginning of the COVID shutdowns. One thing I’ve always loved about the Internet is the possibilities it offers anyone to do anything they love because if I can do it, I know anyone else can.

To lift spirits, I thought I would design some tips and tricks where people paced themselves and focused on what they wanted to do. Once the three weeks were over, they [would have] an outstanding online presence to build the brand they wanted and needed.

KH: What advice do you have for young people trying to find their own as artists right now, as life becomes even more virtual?

ES: Virtual only works if reality is taken care of properly. Practice self-care and continue to educate yourself, whether you’re reading a book or asking for help. It’s challenging to navigate [any] space if you aren’t sure about who you are.

KH: Is anything specific inspiring you these days?

ES: I love living in a new city. I miss Chicago every day, but New York is unbelievable and offers me a new perspective.

For more on Elise Swopes, tap in below

Anti-radiation cases have never been more reliable than with SafeSleeve

If you have an iPhone, go to settings, general, and then “Legal & Regulatory.” There you’ll find an innocuous-looking tab on “RF Exposure,” detailing the kinds of radiation your iPhone is exposing you to, every day. Anti-radiation cases are gaining traction in markets, and as we spoke with SafeSleeve founders Cary Subel and Alaey Kumar, perhaps for great reason.

In a world that’s becoming increasingly virtual, the fact that your phone could be harming you without you knowing is something straight out of a sci-fi horror flick.

But then again, who has the time to read that stuff? And how would you have known to go looking for it? In this hazy realm of EMF radiation and the threats our technology poses to us, SafeSleeve offers a solution with anti-radiation cases.

anti-radiation case
SafeSleeve radiation protection iPhone case (via SafeSleeve)

The design and practicality within SafeSleeve

SafeSleeve is designed with practicality and aesthetic functionality in mind. The logo represents the three types of EMF radiation that its cases protect users from: Extremely Low Frequency, Radio Frequency (Wi-fi), and thermal.

An even closer look reveals “SS” in the negative space, which reflects the seamlessness with which the brand hopes to integrate its products into consumers’ daily lives. Taking care not to obstruct usage while protecting users, SafeSleeve is at the cutting edge of safe technology use.

The cases also come in a bevy of colorways and accommodate any model iPhone or laptop to ensure accessibility. Despite being imbued with state-of-the-art shielding technology, the products are sleek and minimal.

anti-radiation case
Laptop EMF Radiation Protection Case (via SafeSleeve)

Cary and Alaey, founders of SafeSleeve, describe the design process as one in which protection and usability are of the highest priority.

Both founders are also aware that while low-frequency radiation might be dangerous, it’s impossible to live and work in the 21st Century without a laptop or a phone.

Thus, they designed SafeSleeve as a way to allow users to safely enjoy their technologies without putting themselves in harm’s way. 

It’s the same as like practicing safe sex – the best way to do that is abstinence. But that’s not always realistic. So we’re kind of like a condom for your technology, to protect you against electromagnetic radiation.

Cary, co-founder of SafeSleeve

Founding SafeSleeve

Cary and Alaey met at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where they both started as electrical engineers.

They worked well together and quickly became close friends. And then when EMF radiation was mentioned to them by chance, their collaborative relationship allowed for SafeSleeve to come about naturally. 

A friend of mine whose dad is a neurologist told me I shouldn’t use the laptop off my lap because of the radiation. He said it could lead to issues like infertility and certain types of cancers and all sorts of other potential health effects. That idea stuck with me – I told Alaey about it, and we both kind of researched the topic together. 

Cary, co-founder of SafeSleeve
Students are spending more time on their laptops. (Image via The Best Schools).

Neither of them were ready to be entirely convinced without some kind of data to back it. But still, when they dug into the topic, they discovered an immense amount of alarming research that already existed around 2010.

Being engineers, their next logical step oriented them towards researching solutions. It thus came as a surprise to both of them when they realized there really weren’t many effective prevention methods.

So we pretty much set out to solve it ourselves

Alaey, co-founder of SafeSleeve

How the anti-radiation cases work

The way the case works is through radiation blocking shields – similar to something you might put on at the dentists office to take an X-ray. Shielding technology protects against ionizing radiation, which expels enough energy to remove an ion from an atom in your body.

Most household appliances emit EMF radiation. (Image via Family Health Advocacy).

Ionizing radiation at higher frequencies has been linked to certain types of cancer. Lower emissions (RF) may be the cause of headaches, fatigue, or fogginess in technology users.

Unlike the heavy vests at the dentists, however, the technology is light as a feather. According to an FCC accredited lab, SafeSleeve technology is 99.9 percent effective at blocking RF radiation. 

Why aren’t more people talking about anti-radiation cases?

Cary and Alaey suggest that lobbying efforts by phone companies and also a lack of long-term perspective are to blame.

The situation is reminiscent of the early days of cleaning products, or cigarette consumption. New technologies that were purported as safe before long-term effects could be measured have since been exposed as dangerous.

I wasn’t around for when doctors were recommending cigarettes as prescriptions. But I would imagine that people at that time thought ‘this wouldn’t be recommended by doctors if it was bad for me.’ Likewise, with cell phones and laptops, people might think, ‘This wouldn’t be so prevalent and widely adopted, if it was bad for me.’ Well the problem is, we’e the guinea pigs in a massive experiment. You just don’t really know until until it all plays out.

Cary, co-founder of SafeSleeve
Children are spending more time with their technologies. (Image via Austin Moms).

Cary and Alaey are also aware of how increasing virtualization poses even greater risks to younger consumers. As Zoom schooling and remote work becomes increasingly normalized, so does spending longer hours on the laptop or phone. This is one of a myriad of factors making EMF an urgent topic. 

Perhaps the tides are beginning to turn on awareness around this topic.

Solutions for the future

Both founders, for example, were attuned to the news when Berkley became the first city to mandate a warning at the time of purchase. Though the warning merely stated that consumers might want to read the notice in their phones, the attitude seems to be shifting. 

Cary and Alaey are at the forefront of these efforts, using their platform as a brand to simultaneously increase awareness. The SafeSleeve site features a blog that’s almost 95 percent original content, focusing on synthesizing the latest studies in a digestible manner.

SafeSleeve allows users to take calls with the front flap closed, to protect from EMF radiation. (Image via SafeSleeve).

Though studies on RF have grown in the last decade, a lot of information is still being kept from the mainstream.

Whenever an article, like one that appeared in the Chicago Tribune detailing how Apple and Samsung cellphones are emitting radiation up to five times the legal limit, does make it to the mainstream, Cary and Alaey are careful to feature it on their blog site too. 

Our mission is not just to create the best solution to this problem, it’s to create awareness around this problem. And social media has really enabled us to do that and start conversations about it.

Cary, co-founder of SafeSleeve

Spreading awareness as to the perils of radiation

Several customers have also left glowing reviews of SafeSleeve products. Reviews mention lasting quality, easy use, and a feeling of ease.

Some anti-radiation cases also offer built-in card slots that have alleviated the need in some customers to use a purse as frequently.

They also raise awareness in friends and family that those wary of EMF exposure are eager to protect. One customer, a medical student themselves, accredits SafeSleeve for their solution oriented ethos. 

SafeSleeve will save lives and will save many people from long doctor visits and complications down the road. A small and simple change can make a big difference. This is an investment for your health. 

SafeSleeve Customer, 2021

Grassroots engineering to create the perfect anti-radiation case

SafeSleeve represents a kind of grassroots movement to protect consumers where companies and government agencies fail to.

By taking matters into their own hands, Cary and Alaey imagine that communities and individuals will be the ones to push the envelope and bring about the change we need.

Though some skeptics may still roll their eyes and dismiss the subject as a paranoid conspiracy, SafeSleeve hopes to serve anyone looking to take proactive steps around this topic. Anti-radiation cases have never been more accessible than now with SafeSleeve

If you’re gonna buy a cell phone case, you want to protect your phone, right? For those that would rather be safe than sorry, you know, we want to provide a solution for you. 

Alaey, co-founder of SafeSleeve
Ivy Leagues

The racist and sordid history of the American Ivy Leagues

The racist history of Ivy League universities is no longer a very well kept secret.

Ivy League universities and their deep ties to enslaved labor are emblematic of higher education in America generally. Now, the tide is turning towards acknowledgment and accountability for these national institutions. 

racist ivy leagues
Men dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb on the John Harvard Statue, 1924. (Photo by Leslie Jones via the Boston Public Library)

A historical hole of racism

Most recently, Simon J. Levien from Harvard university embarked on a project to expose a “historical hole” in the university’s history after stumbling upon a photo of the KKK posing on campus for Klan Class Day.

The university’s archive revealed a deeply troubling history about the racism on campus from only a few decades ago.

Several of these incidents recount threatening displays towards Black students on campus. As recently as 1952, two students lit a cross on fire facing the dormitories where nine Black freshmen lived.

racist ivy leagues
Annenberg Dining Hall at Harvard University. (image via The Harvard Crimson)

The history of ivy leagues is also deeply entrenched in the slave trade and the labor of enslaved peoples. In his book Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery amd the Troubled History of America’s Universities, Craig Steven Wilder exposes higher education as an institution that often gets overlooked in discourse about slavery.  

The academy never stood apart from American slavery—in fact, it stood beside church and state as the third pillar of a civilization built on bondage

Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America’s Universities

Following Levien’s lead, students are now holding several other Ivy League institutions accountable for their relationship to slavery.

racist ivy leagues
Sojourner Truth for the New York Times, 1883.

Accountability for racism, past and present

“Princeton and Slavery,” reveals the untold history of Princeton’s first nine university presidents who all owned slaves.

A report titled “King’s College and Slavery” links at least half of Columbia University’s presidents to slave-owning. Sojourner Truth, a legendary abolition and civil rights activist, was formerly owned by the president of Rutgers University.

In 1838, Georgetown University profited from the sale of 272 slaves, when Jesuit priests used the money to pay off debts incurred by the university. 

Outside the economic strata of slavery, these institutions disseminated the pseudo-scientific rhetoric that underlies the history of slavery. Not only were Columbia students in 1760 asked to “calculate the profits of three investors in a slave-trading voyage to Guinea,” racial subordination was taken as empirical fact.

racist ivy leagues
Inventory list left from the estate of the first chemistry professor at Princeton University; the last two entries are slaves. Image via Princeton University Archives

In The Propaganda of History, W.E. Du Bois discusses the role that Columbia  University played in creating a falsified science of history with the white South in mind. He also holds the Ivy Leagues accountable for propagating segregation and denying Black students housing. 

Racism at Ivy Leagues today

In the year 2021, Ivy Leagues have not eliminated so much as disguised their racism. Racist tendencies are still afoot and abound.

A Dartmouth senior recently shared that the brothers at a frat party once told them and their friends to go through the dog door in the back, while white students walked through the front.

At Princeton, a senior recounts how their freshman year roommate demanded a room change because they found out she was Black. 

racist ivy leagues
Columbia University students in graduation robes. Image via the Observer, “Ivy league Schools’ Woke Posturing is Part of America’s Race Problem”

The diversification of Ivy League campuses, which has been championed as a mark of progress in recent years, is also more complicated than it seems.

Studies revealed that while African immigrants make up less than one percent of America’s total population, first and second-generation Black immigrants comprise 41 percent of all Black students at Ivy Leagues.

Image via ITooAmHarvard, a photo campaign highlighting Black students at Harvard College run by Harvard University

This suggests that African American students – those with an extensive familial history in the troubled history of the U.S. – are still being systemically excluded from higher education.

African immigrants are generally far wealthier and have higher-level educations than Americans of any race. Ivy Leagues admit these immigrant students at almost four times the rate they do native-born Black students. 

Solutions for understanding and combatting racist histories in Ivy Leagues

As Critical Race Theory gains traction in these institutions, a growing awareness of these oppressive forces is forming.

yale march of resilience
Yale March of Resilience against institutional racism, 2015. Image via Business Insider

A paper from Azusa Pacific University addresses the permanence of racism embedded in institutions built and sustained by slavery.

The paper touches on the notion of interest convergence, which describes how systemic changes are only adopted by institutions when it can simultaneously aid their white leaders economically or socially. 

In response to this internal systemic violence, the paper offers several actionable solutions.

Black men of Yale University
#BlackMenofYaleUniversity goes viral, image via Jet Magazine

One method is to fill positions of power with people from marginalized communities. Another is to re-educate white leaders by enforcing an annual responsibility of learning about the history of whiteness and its socioeconomic functions. 

As anti-racism is slowly introduced into popular culture, it’s obvious that it’s high time we begin holding universities accountable.

Through the grassroots efforts of students and teachers, Ivy Leagues have the opportunity to accept accountability for racist pasts, and how those pasts have seeped into the present. And then most importantly, they have the opportunity to learn how to transform their institutions for the better. 

Why we need more women in hip hop photography

As part of a scene with an evolutionary stake in hyper-machismo energy, women in hip hop navigate a particular set of obstacles. Women in hip hop photography still face systemic exclusion, despite having been a part of the movement from day one.

It isn’t merely that these photographers aren’t being culturally celebrated on par with their male counterparts. It’s also that the language and attitudes surrounding women that deal with technical equipment prevent them from their best work. 

women hip hop photography
Queen Latifah for Lisa Leone, NYC early 90’s (image via Rolling Stone)

The notion of a kind of Black masculinity stems all the way back to slave tropes of the Black male, where Black men are responding to that conditioning and the referential notions of them as ‘boys.’ So then their response [in hip-hop] is pushing back in a machismo way… The hyper-machismo, the hyper-sexuality in rap and hip-hop — all that requires and depends on the subjugation of women.

Professor Ellen Gorman for The Hoya

The state of women photography today

In a study from 2018, 69 percent of participants said that they faced discrimination as women in hip-hop photography. More than 54 percent said sexism presented obstacles to their success. 53 percent cited industry stereotypes about women, and 49 percent reported a simple lack of equal opportunity.

women hip hop photography
Contact sheet from photoshoot with Big Boi and André 3000 from Outkast by Janette Beckman, NYC 2003 (image via lensculture)

The culture of dismissing women in hip-hop photography has long-standing roots in the tech industry at large. Advertisements for cameras have often relied on the sentiment that women are inept, to drive home the point that their technology is so easy, even a woman could use it.

“The Kodak Girl” is a well-known example of this sentiment. Dating all the way back to the late 19th century. In the mid 20th century, the advertisements began to target women as housewives.

These ads implied that the burden of capturing their children’s early days falls with them, and that failure to do so would reflect on them poorly as mothers.

women hip hop photography
“The snapshots you want tomorrow, you must take today!” 1939 advertisements from the Canadian Kodak Corporate Archive via Ryerson University

Standards of “good photography” that have been crafted entirely by men are also holding photographers back. An all male photographer community perpetrates, for example, the sexualization of hip-hop icons as feminine objects.

Men and women experience life differently and have different perspectives to offer, yet the view of what constitutes ‘good photography’ has largely been defined by the work of men … To remain relevant and authentic, the photography industry must seek to become more diverse to fairly reflect the communities it reports on

National Union of Journalists via The Conversation

Women owning their own image

women hip hop photography
Snoop Dogg on the set of “What’s My Name” by Lisa Leone (image courtesy of Dazed)

Megan Thee Stallion recently took to the New York Times to reflect on how this distinctly male gaze perpetrates violence. In the piece, she writes on the cultural obsession with Black women’s bodies, and inescapable sexualization.

She mentions how Serena Williams had to defend herself to the public for wearing a bodysuit at a match. The attention should have been on Williams’ accomplishments as an athlete. Plus, the objectification is disrespectful towards her career as a champion.

Just as a lot of hip-hop music contains explicitly misogynistic sentiments, so is that reflected in visual content it inspires. And, women in hip-hop photography are just a few of the groups who are affected by this.

Megan Thee Stallion for the New York Times

This is concerning for its effect on young girls growing up in this media culture. Not to mention, the creative limits it places on visual media in the music itself. 

The hot girl coach closed out her critical essay by talking about owning her own image. She says she laments the cruel judgment she receives for presenting herself as a sexual being. While the Houston rapper is not a photographer, women owning their own image is an industry-wide imperative. 

But you know what? I’m not afraid of criticism. We live in a country where we have the freedom to criticize elected officials. And it’s ridiculous that some people think the simple phrase “Protect Black women” is controversial. We deserve to be protected as human beings. 

Megan Thee Stallion for the New York Times

Lisa Leone, a woman in hip-hop photography

Legendary hip-hop photographer Lisa Leone, for example, knows first hand what it’s like to have to assert her own vision. But for Leone, navigating hip-hop as a photographer and a woman, has always been an intuitive path.

women hip hop photography
Nas recording Illmatic, shot by Lisa Leone

Growing up as a B-girl when hip-hop was becoming a cultural phenomena, the New York native is known for her work on Nas’ Illmatic recording sessions, and TLC’s Creep, among other projects.

She rose to fame shooting her close friends for their publicity photos, and was touching down in Long Beach to shoot “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” with Snoop Dogg before long. 

Leone has never let stereotypes about her femininity interfere with her work, brushing aside comments when necessary to get the shot.

She recounts feeling angered by the treatment of women on set, but says those women usually had their own backs. Everyone who met Leone could tell that she grew up in the culture, and knew not to test her like that.

Lisa Leone for The Notorious B.I.G.

I was a B-girl, so if somebody had an issue or wanted to come to me in a certain way, I knew how to come back and set it straight. And I guess they could read that I was part of the culture, I wasn’t an outsider, I grew up in the culture so you feel that. 

Lisa Leone for Dazed

If ever the culture was questioning the need for women in photography, Leone’s legacy would be the first answer. 

Women in hip-hop photography gaining recognition

Men are still dominating the commercial photography industry, up to  89% – 96%. But women are mobilizing now more than ever before, to increase representation in every realm of photography.

In Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, women are celebrated as an integral part of the hip-hop community. Curated by cultural journalist Vikki Tobak, the book is a meditation, in part, on the brilliant women who made the hip-hop what it was and still is today.

Nicki Minaj for Angela Boatwright, Queens 2008 (image courtesy of Document Journal)

Legendary photographer Janette Beckman’s work with Run DMC and Salt-N-Pepa makes a central appearance in the book. Alongside them, Angela Boatwright’s contact sheets of a young Nicki Minaj delivers a paired down image of the rapper that’s still saturated in her signature attitude.

There were so many women who documented the culture, and women photographers were going deep with it… their photos often have a very personal, human portrayal of the artist. Telling that story, incorporating the women’s stories in the book was intentional but also not hard to do given how actively involved women photographers were.

Vikki Tobak for The New York Times
A Tribe Called Quest for Janette Beckman, NYC 1990 (image courtesy of the artist)

As the hip-hop industry continues to involve, there’s hope for women dominating the scene behind the lens too. Up and coming photographers are gaining access to more opportunities, and legendary women are still at large capturing the industry.

Hip hop needs photographers that are women, because hip-hop wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Crypto justice: Are NFTs the secret to uplifting women?

Cryptocurrency is opening up a lot of creative possibilities. It is democratizing power and shifting it into people’s hands. And, while it has its own merits and demerits, crypto justice phenomena undeniably increase accessibility to anyone looking to participate.

In fact, women, in particular, are making waves in the world of virtual currency. NFTs and Bitcoin technology enables women towards greater economic independence and also community wealth distribution.

Crypto justice and feminism through NFTs

For example, the art collective Pussy Riot has joined the NFT movement with the sale of their video Terrestrial Paradise. Their leaders wrote that profits would be going towards women’s shelters in Russia, where the group is based.

Thus, as a performance art music group, they have been a fixture of the feminist activism scene. This most recent work is deeply influenced by founder Nadya Tolokonnikova’s traumatic experiences at labor camps.

crypto justice
Terrestrial Paradise sold for £128,000 (image via Pussy Riot)

We can use NFTs to support good causes and communities, it’s a great thing to do, so I’m happy to be part of this.

Amir Soleymani for Art Newspaper

Iranian-born art collector Amir Soleymani bought “Terrestrial Paradise.” He stated that the purchase was an expression of his support, both for NFTs and Pussy Riot. So, turning these experiences into an art form has aligned biotechnology with activism. Something we like to call; crypto justice.

Enabling women to support their communities

Likewise, GUAPCOIN is another site putting crypto justice to good use. They are providing entrepreneurial women with wide-ranging platforms to help themselves thrive.

crypto justice
Tavonia Evans, founder of $GUAP (image via the Powerscope)

The project was founded by Tavonia Evans. She is one of the visionaries to first recognized the highly competitive crypto market. Thus, Evans got to work making sure Black communities were represented in those spaces too. 

The men I’ve observed vying for influence are not very tech-savvy at all. Women in tech, however, tend to overachieve, study more, and expand their expertise legitimately just so they can get in this space.

Tavonia Evans for Glamour

GUAPCOIN is designed to serve Black customers and Black businesses. For this, they reward users for spending habits that keep money in the economic ecosystem of Black communities.

And, as a single mother of eight, Evans is using cryptocurrency to not bring awareness, but justice to the spending power of Black consumers.

crypto justice
More businesses are partnering with cryptocurrency platform, image via GUAPCOIN

For Evans, NFTs are an opportunity to empower women in the Black community as business owners and consumers. 

Remote work that opens doors

The rise of crypto justice also marks the virtual switch from chaotic trading floors on wall street to remote economic engagement.

crypto justice
Elizabeth Rossiello, founder of BitPesa. (Image via Fortune)

For example, cryptos virtual nature enabled Elizabeth Rossiello to run a finance company from wherever she needed to be. BitPesa is a foreign exchange and payment platform in Africa. It uses blockchain technology to make it easier to send payments to and from Africa.

With an impressive career under her belt, Rossiello made the decision to go forward with BitPesa while expecting her second child. She recounts being denied jobs that she was more than qualified for due to the fact that she was pregnant.

crypto justice
A few embers of the BitPesa Team (image via Coinfox)

So, since being founded in 2013, BitPesa has evolved into a platform that facilitates larger-scale transfers between businesses. The program boasts significantly lower costs and higher speeds in every major African currency. And, they are actively enabling greater market opportunities for the whole region.

How do you run a finance company when you’re not in Hong Kong or London or New York? That’s what crypto does. It lets you build these really cool, connected things from anywhere. And I’ve proven that with this company.

Rosiello for Glamour

Rossiello is also mindful of hiring practices and makes sure offices are composed of members from the communities they represent. More than 70% of her employees are African, and at least half are women. 

Safety for sex workers

And, although not widely known, sex workers have been making the most of cryptocurrency. In fact, the use of virtual currency became integral to the porn industry. This happened when Visa and Mastercard pulled their services from Backpage, a site where sex workers would frequently post personal advertisements.

Consequently, cryptocurrencies became the only remaining form of viable payment. So, sex workers built comprehensive guides to ensure all sex workers could continue to earn their wages.

SpankChain is one of the most successful cryptocurrency sites out there. (image via Coindesk)

And the porn industry is now one of the most engaged with this technology. Majorly. due to the fact of the scale and efficiency with which sex workers mobilized behind Cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrencies like Verge allow customers and clients to retain higher levels of privacy in each interaction. Industry support has also made it easier for sex workers to have greater control over their money.

The first blockchain campsite, SpankChain, was launched in 2018. And they already had the feature of cryptocurrency in mind.

Because receiving payment in the form of cryptocurrency is harder for clients or government agents to siphon off wages from sex workers. SpankChain aims to support and safeguard this movement using their token, Spank.

Ameen Soleimani is SpankChain’s CEO and founder. She is hopeful that this will allow performers to keep their finances secure. Hopefully, this will allow women to have greater direct control over their money.

Brenna Sparks, a performer, and longtime Bitcoin user, also thinks that cryptocurrency will help to ensure workers get paid. In an industry where stigma makes contract negotiations difficult, Spank is helping to streamline the payment process for sex workers.

Uplifting crypto justice for the next generation

As cryptocurrency rockets, their users come into greater financial gains. Forums for ways to use Blockchain technology to give back also become more necessary.

Connie Gallippi, founder of BitGive
Connie Gallippi, founder of BitGive. (Image via Forbes.)

Connie Gallippi is the founder of BitGive. She is the first to set up just such a philanthropic foundation using cryptocurrency. She has partnered with internationally renowned relief efforts over the past few years. And has been successful in various communities.

She had recognized that people making bank off Bitcoin needed to have easily accessible means through which to redistribute that fortune.

Students at the Shisango Girls School in Kenya, surrounding a well that BitGive funded. Image via BitGive.

The organization is involved in sending aid to those in urgent need. And, they uplifting communities that are shaping the future of technology, like the Black Girls Code.

Gallippi intends for BitGive to support women and girls directly, and work with organizations that work to provide women with basic care and economic independence.

This also looks like hiring and promoting more women from within the male-dominated cryptocurrency industry.

5 film collectives focused on ensuring equal pay, opportunities for women

Women and non-binary workers in the film industry experience discrimination across the board. Thus, film collectives that push for equal rights for women are of paramount importance in today’s climate.

In fact, women with behind-the-scenes roles are commonly discriminated against in their pay. Between the highest-paid actors and actresses in 2017, women made an average of $21.8 million.

While, on the other hand, men made $57.4 million. As a result, top female actors are earning only 38 percent as much as their male counterparts.

woman film collectives
Jessie Maple (left) and co-worker via Ebony Magazine 1976

In more general statistics, women make 82 cents for every dollar men are paid. In fact, Black women make 62 cents, Native American women 57 cents, and Latinx women earn 54 cents. That’s close to a million dollars lost over the course of one career for women of color.

Consequently, women in minority and underrepresented groups suffer even bigger consequences. With the clear inequality in the film industry, let’s focus on women collectives that are fighting to make a difference.

woman film collectives
The second panel of the Pay Equity Summit (via Reel Equity)

Pro Quote Film

But, fair play in the film industry also has to do with being hired more frequently. Not to mention, feeling safe at work.

Thus, inclusion and equity are the twin axes of equal pay. Plus, a handful of culture-shifting institutions are taking a firm stand. 

Pro Quote Film is one such organization. This German non-profit is among the most engaged in direct action against the wage gap in film.

Members at a Pro Quote Film event, via FilmLoewin

Founded by an association of women directors, the organization cites the presence of women in key creative industry roles. Their main motive is for waging a labor dispute.

In their commitment to “fair participation” they’re demanding equal and diverse hiring practices. This is done, in part, by introducing quotas into hiring at all levels – from set work to funding committees.

Pro Quote Film has found success in partnering with Germany’s national Film Funding Agency, as well as the German Cultural Council. Through them, Pro Quote Film is advocating for direct action through gender monitoring.

Gender monitoring mandates the regular publication of gender distribution reports surrounding hiring practices.

woman film collectives
Women for #ShareYourPower via Pro Quote Film

The organization also seeks to treat the problem at the source. Intervening on the hyper-sexualized or demeaning depictions of women in media content helps mitigate violent stereotypes about women.

Reasonably, supporting the creative endeavors of female directors who seek to reclaim their own narratives also aids in this project.

Women in Film

A resource for film creatives themselves, Women in Film is a champion of diversity and inclusion efforts in the industry.

The organization’s commitment to uplifting women is manifest in a variety of programs that have cultural change at their core.

Members at a Women in Film even in Hollywood, via Women in Film

Together, they target industry hiring practices with initiatives like “Hire Her Back” which seeks to remedy the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the employment of women and people of color by highlighting the work of extraordinarily talented individuals.

Moreover, ReFrame is a collaborative project between Women in Film and Sundance Institute, engaging with senior decision-makers at over 50 companies.

And, in an effort to mitigate bias in creative decision-making and hiring processes, the ReFrame initiative provides companies with a practical framework to consult on how individuals in these powerful seats can enact change.

And it is one of several film collectives focusing on providing a woman with the same opportunities that men get.

woman film collectives
Directors working on a program via Women in Film

Women in Film is one of the film collectives providing opportunities for women in the film industry. It also seeks to provide filmmakers through their WIF Writing Labs, and INSIGHT programs. The labs equip filmmakers with the knowledge they need to effectively grow and sustain their careers.

INSIGHT specifically aims to help women of color get a foothold in an industry that is often hostile towards them. Thus, this is intended to expand the pipeline of access to filmmakers with intersectional identities.

Time’s Up

Perhaps the most celebrated in the media is Time’s Up, founded by more than 300 women in entertainment to curtail harassment and discrimination directed towards women in film.

Actresses at Cannes Film Festival stand to commemorate Time’s Up movement anniversary via CNN

“Times Up, Pay Up,” seeks to inform the national conversation on hiring practices by encourages companies to take direct action.

The project tackles the three main factors of explicit discrimination, overrepresentation in low-wage jobs, and the greater burden of caregiving responsibilities. According to their research, Black women are particularly vulnerable to unsafe environments.

One in four Black women reported someone at work saying or implying that they don’t work as hard because of their gender, race, or caregiving responsibilities.

Universal Filmed Entertainment Group was the first studio to pledge the 4 Percent Challenge after Tessa Thompson voices public support (Image via Pajiba)

In the “4 Percent Challenge,” Time’s Up encourages industry members to commit to a feature film project with female directors.

This came after research by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only four percent of the top 1,200 studio films from 2007-2018 were directed by women.

Since the “4 Percent Challenge” has taken off, women produced more than twice as many top 100 films than in the previous year, higher than ever recorded. 

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film is unique on this list for its contributions as a research facility.

Founded by Dr. Lauzen over 20 years ago, the institution was among the first to conduct any serious research on women’s employment and representation at a time when the public discourse on the matter was limited to niche events or articles.

Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film via San Diego State University

The Center is the longest-running and most comprehensive research institution on the matter of women’s representation in the industry.

The Celluloid Ceiling is entering its 21st year of data collection on women working on the top 100 to 500 grossing films. It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World, presents data about women in film reviewing within an industry where men outnumber them 2:1.

Studies by the Center frequently appear in publications like Variety and Time, helping the research shift cultural consciousness.

Most recently, studies on the record number of female directors in big Hollywood films, or the rise of Latina speaking roles while representation of women across the board dips, have made headlines in the media.

Activist art by the Guerilla Girls in partnership with the Center, via Variety

In the past, the Center has also engaged in advocacy efforts with the Guerilla Girls. An art collective that famously calls attention to gender inequity in every field, Guerilla Girls focused in on women in film.

The campaign included factual, comical, and arresting visuals in the form of stickers and later billboards that called attention to women in the film industry specifically. 

Reel Equity

Reel Equity by Local871 made waves when it penned an open letter to the film industry calling for action.

woman film collectives
Women at a Local871 Rally via Twitter

A filmmakers union, Local871 demanded equitable pay after a 2018 study on its members revealed incredible disparity across gender lines.

The study concluded that extensive histories of gender segregation and stereotyping affect available work opportunities.

Even when hired, positions filled by women are paid thousands of dollars less a week than their male counterparts. Holding the industry to California and federal law, the initiative pushed for those in power to assume responsibility for correcting inequities.

The letter also notes that the economic insecurity of women makes it harder for them to leave toxic work environments.

Reel Equity suggests industry officials commit to a comprehensive study of gender disparity in wages and apply an Equity Yardstick.

Talent and directors are encouraged to use their privileged positions on set to request Equity Riders that commit productions to pay equity. 

Collectives for women in film do more than fight for equality

Though the film industry has a long way to go, these initiatives have moved us closer towards equity in the last few years than ever before.

These film collectives not only focus on fair pay and opportunities for women, but also on reshaping the discourse around gender in film.

As women continue to carve out space for themselves in film and TV, audiences can support them through collectives like those listed above.

The Cartel Project: Journalists risking their lives for the truth

Mexican cartels and the violence that consumes them have long overshadowed the vibrancy of regions like Tijuana and Michoacán. The Cartel Project, a global network of journalists covering Mexican drug cartels and their political connections, is dedicated to ensuring the safety of journalists and their stories.

Organized crime undermines political infrastructure, and economic instability is at an all-time high. Thus, Mexico has earned the grim title of being the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

cartel project
Mexico’s drug cartel moves through encrypted radio, via Wired

In fact, since 2000, 119 journalists have been killed in Mexico alone. Yet, these media heroes have persevered despite the lack of hostility of the environments they work in.

After years of being exposed to crime and violence, these are their stories.

What are “fixers?”

Because of the risk journalists run, while accounting for projects on cartels, they’ve developed a few strategies to ensure that they and the story can get out safely. 

For example, journalists looking to report on stories unfolding in Mexico go through a “fixer.”

A fixer is a journalist from the local area being reported that helps the foreign journalist with the whereabouts of the place. They are the most effective way for a foreign journalist to get local news without causing too much attention.

cartel project
Tijuana “fixer” Jorge Nieto. San Diego Union Tribune

Basically, they are looking for someone with good contacts who understands the unwritten rules of the city — like which neighborhoods are safe to go to, how to speak with drug dealers or human smugglers, those types of things.

Jorge Nieto, a Tijuana-based independent journalist who also works as a fixer. San Diego Union Tribune, 2019

These “fixers” can be from anywhere and make between $300 to $450 a day (more than local journalists in Mexico make in a week).

However, this is not risk-diminishing but, instead, risk-shifting. Fixers often receive the brunt of journalist’s most naive power plays.

A study conducted by Harvard on the relationship between journalists and fixers revealed that more than 70 percent of journalists say they never placed a fixer in immediate danger, while 56 percent of fixers stated that they were always or often in danger.

Yet, more often than not, these media heroes rarely receive the light or the credit that they deserve.

Deborah Bonello

Deborah Bonello is one of the figures helping to shed light on the drug and sex trafficking crimes unfolding across Latin America.

Currently the senior editor for Latin America at VICE world news, she boasts an expansive background working for the LA Times, the Financial Times, and also InSight Crime.

Deborah Bonello for

Their requests are like a wish list to Santa Claus.

Gaby Martinez, Tijuana-based fixer and journalist, speaking of publications reaching out to her as a fixer. San Diego Union Tribune 2019

An award-winning producer and videographer, Bonello continues to do the important work of bringing attention to crime in Latin America. She recently founded the Mexican Reporter, where she archives her work on the matter. 

Her most recent work investigates the context for a video in which gang members can be seen parading weapons. Bonello illuminates how this visual display of weaponry is likely directed towards local authorities just to make them feel vulnerable.

Moreover, another one of her works investigates cartel shootings of drug rehabilitation centers. Martinez connected the dots and revealed local cartel chapters warring over the monopoly of the region’s drug market. These chapters had been inflicting violence to ensure consumer’s loyalty.

Undeniably, Bonello is doing the heavy lifting job concerning the international stage for cartel projects. Not to mention, she is also a heroic fixer, helping other journalists report on Mexico’s criminal activity as well. 

And, while local journalists hold it down on the front lines of violence, the international press community has banded together in order to protect their contributors.

Forbidden Stories team in Paris via Forbidden Stories

The Cartel Project

The Cartel Project is a global network of journalists covering Mexican drug cartels and their political connections.

Members of The Cartel Project are attempting to deter hostility towards journalists by coordinating a publication of investigations on the cartel across 25 different major media outlets.

Therefore, even if a single journalist is targeted, they will be backed by 25 institutions that are set to release their story at the same time. It all leads to an essential truth.

Killing the journalist won’t kill the story.

The Cartel Project mission statement

The project is coordinated by Forbidden Stories. And, it comes after the death of journalist Regina Martinez, who was murdered in her own home.

Regina Martinez

Regina Martinez was a trailblazing journalist during the ’90s. She embarked on dangerous missions to reveal corruption and violence in Veracruz, Mexico.

Martinez was also a journalist known for working around the clock to investigate shady crimes in Veracruz. She had passion and dedication to her work.

Portrait of Regina Martínez in 1991, in Xalapa, Veracruz. Alberto Morales / Agencia multigráfica

Martinez was really interested in social issues, human rights violations. She was close to the people. That was her superpower.

Journalist Norma Trujillo, for Forbidden Stories

At the time, Veracruz was filled with drug trafficking and covert travel due to its geography.

The place had isolated footpaths in the mountainous forests, making it ideal for drug traffickers to hide out, extort migrants, and go undetected. Plus, long coastlines and international ports made it easy to import and export illegal products.

Martinez spent her life reporting on the real body count from shootouts that were underreported by authorities. And at the same time, she was investigating the extent to which the people in political power were affiliated with organized crime.

Thus, when Martinez discovered the story that would cost her her life, she knew it was the most dangerous investigation of her career.

Martinez’s death was the inspiration of The Cartel Project, intended to safeguard the life of the journalists who are risking their lives to get to the truth.

Regina Martínez interviews the current Mexican president, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador during his march for democracy in 1992, Mexico City. Alberto Morales / Agencia multigráfica

Martinez’s case

Martinez was brutally strangled and beaten to death in her own home. Still, her death was written off as a robbery gone wrong, and her case was underinvestigated. The Cartel Project, nonetheless, later took over what was left of the investigation to discover the following.

If a journalist like Regina, who worked for a national media outlet, could be killed, it could happen to anyone.

Journalist Andres Timoteo for Forbidden Stories.

By the time the federal investigator, Laura Borbolla, arrived at the crime scene, the police had already destroyed the fingerprints.

They claimed it was a robbery, despite the fact that everything in the house was untouched. Borbolla recounts that the crime scene was grossly mishandled.

cartel project
Laura Borbolla, attorney for FEADLE (2012-2015) in Mexico City, 2020. Forbidden Stories

But, Forbidden Stories was granted access to Martinez’s research after her death. They discovered that Martinez figured out where the thousands of people gone missing from Veracruz had gone. And, she had been quietly crafting a huge story.

What’s more, she even found out where some of the individuals were being buried. Martinez had followed up with gravediggers, and calculated that the number of people being buried in these mass grave sites had gone up by 1000% between 2000 and 2012.

She had gleaned knowledge of the fact that the last two political leaders of Mexico were complicit in this.

During this time, she had been quietly crafting a huge story that was about to be released right before her murder. 

The Cartel Project: A tribute to Regina Martinez’s legacy

The commitment to truthful journalism that Regina Martinez demonstrated is a fire that lights the torches of a new generation of investigators.

And, it motivated The Cartel Project to create initiatives that would create awarness and raise security concerns over the well-being of its media heroes.

Journalists and fixers risk their lives in an effort to bring justice to Mexico, enact change in the regionm, and inspire others with their bravery. All in the memory of Regina Martinez.

Authority Collective is uplifting and highlighting non-binary creatives

Authority Collective is a visual media community of over 200 women, non-binary, and gender-expansive people of color. The collective has come together in response to both, the lack of representation and appropriation in media culture.

Founded by a team of nine female and non-binary photographers, the collective seeks to do more than gather BIPOC creatives and editors into a comprehensive list.

It seeks to reclaim authority over their narrative. 

The mediated culture

As the lens-based creative content returns to commercial markets, the demand for diversity and representation increases. And so does efforts to shine a light on historically underrepresented communities out of the outskirts of mainstream media.

However, as these narratives are becoming increasingly sought after, issues of appropriation of stories by members outside these communities arise.

authority collective
Photo by Makeda Sanford, a finalist on the Lit List 2020

How to balance this issues for mediated culture to continue to expand in the most effective and efficient way?

The Authority Collective’s mission

The Authority Collective believes that ally-ship in visual media industries is more than merely recognizing privilege and voicing support. It’s about harnessing that privilege to elevate underrepresented storytellers with direct action and funding.

Authority Collective

The community provides members with a wealth of resources, ranging from job opportunities to mentorship.

It also makes information available to industry members outside the community. They provide guides on diversifying hiring practices and databases that list female/non-binary creatives of color.

These resources are developed, not as mere tools, but in efforts towards shifting the mentality surrounding diversifying the visual media industry. 

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The Authority Collectives current Board of Directors, image courtesy of Authority Collective

How did Authority Collective begin?

The Authority collective was founded by nine women and non-binary creatives.

After a symposium hosted by the Las Fotos Project in 2017, the photographer’s associated wanted databases of BIPOC women and non-binary photographers. They felt frustrated by the limitations of becoming just another name on a data set.

And, not only does that leave the crucial work of diversifying up to hiring managers that are often predisposed to enact the bare minimum voice of allied support, it does little to uplift these creatives from within the community itself. 

I’d be on assignment for a magazine shooting a five-star restaurant, and I’d have all of this camera equipment on me, and inevitably, somebody would treat me like I was the help and push a wine glass into my hand or ask me to go get them something

Oriana Koren for Artsy

Yet, the lack of representation in visual media industries is a pervasive issue. And, unfortunately, it is has gone largely unacknowledged. Partially owing to the absence of these kinds of networks of support preceding the Authority Collective.

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Image by Elaine Cromie, one of the founding members of the Authority Collective. Image courtesy of the New York Times.

Efforts to diversify the industry

Tara Pixley, one of the Authority Collective’s founding members, readily recounts years that she worked as the only Black woman in the photo departments. She remembers being regularly mistreated and assuming she was the only one.

On the other hand, Ms. Ramses, one of the first black women to work under the title “director of photography,” states: “I literally know every Black woman photojournalist in the United States, and I can count them on both hands”

Thus, The Authority Collective also addresses the fact that diversifying visual media isn’t as simple as hiring more people of color.

The misrepresentation and exploitative voyeurism of visual media reflects a larger, industry-wide issue in its relationship to marginalized communities. 

Photo by Nadiya Nacorda, a finalist on the Lit List 2020

But, photo companies and visual media agencies continue to highlight the work of white cis-gendered men. And, the success of those photographers often comes at the expense of perpetuating harmful narratives about communities they are not a part of.

In response, the Authority Collective is embarking on a mission to uplift communities of BIPOC female and non-binary creatives. This, by taking direct action against the platform of larger industry names. 

Our communities have been either erased completely or misrepresented or underrepresented. It’s no longer acceptable that media outlets continue to push forward those dangerous narratives. You almost have to have a photo of starving or dying or war-torn Black or brown bodies to win.

Tara Pixley for the New York Times

The Lit List and what it does

Not to mention, the Authority Collective teamed up with Diversify. Together they created The Lit List, featuring 30 photographers “of marginalized identities.” The Lit List also celebrates diversity in storytelling.

Photo by Khadija M Farah, finalist on the Lit List 2020

The list is partially followed in the traditional process of industry of visual media creators. Plus, it hosted an open call for anyone to apply online.

Jurors were encouraged to be considerate of the circumstances surrounding each photographers’ career. Among them were senior photo editor Siobhan Bohnacker from The New Yorker, and photo editor Sara Urbaez from Wired, and others.

Hence, this meant the candidates were judged on potential rather than demonstrations of attained success. This is a process that could have been stunted by any number of factors. For example, a lack of monetary support or the inaccessibility of formal training. 

Photo by Giancarlo Valentine, finalist on the Lit List 2020

The Authority Collective and women

In another form, the Authority Collective also participates in what is referred to as an “intervention,” in which participants trace where different organizations get their financial support.

And, in one of their larger-scale efforts, the Authority Collective joined with Natives Photograph and Women Photograph. This was to stage an intervention in March of 2018.

Furthermore, the subject of their intervention was The Magenta Foundation. This is a Canadian charitable arts publishing house that was receiving funding from TD Bank, an associate in the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline, image courtesy of Medium

And, following the interventions, the adoption of this practice inspired photographers to examine their own biases.

Inclusive guides

Another initiative led by the Authority Collective was The Photographer’s Guide to Inclusive Photography.

The project was published recently, as a guide that reflects the Authority Collective’s commitment to serving as a resource to everyone in the visual media industry.

The guide was created in partnership with leading visual asset management company PhotoShelter. It includes historical context on issues related to photographing race, gender, and the global south.

Plus, it addresses how photographers can engage mindfully with communities that are not their own. Most importantly, it teaches what kinds of questions they can ask themselves in order to increase intentionality. 

Photo by Isabel Okoro, finalist on the Lit List 2020

People understand now that their audiences have changed, and are craving media that reflect their life experiences. If you’ve always looked to your prestigious college or workshop’s alumni network to find fresh new talent, and those networks are financially or otherwise inaccessible to people of color, then you need to find new ways to source talent. That’s where we come in.

Andrea wise, co-founder of diversify photo, for Artsy

Not only is the collective actively engaged in the process of diversifying, but it’s also entirely volunteer-based. Every member of the board working full time as a visual media content creator outside their efforts towards the collective. 

Hence, in an ever-evolving industry, the Authority Collective is spearheading actionable diversifying practices. They’re more than a reflection of our future visual media industry. They are manifesting it for us now.