Polly Irungu founded Black Women Photographers (BWP) to empower, and inspire Black women and non-binary photographers to create.
Launched in 2020, Black Women Photographers (BWP) was founded as a global community with over a thousand active members, dedicated to providing resources to Black women and non-binary photographers, who are typically gatekept out of the industry.
This year BWP worked with Nikon to grant $10,000 worth of gear and $40,000 cash to recipients from all across the world.
This year’s grant was judged by incredibly extinguished and experienced photographers in the community, including celebrity photographer Jessy J, Director of Photography and videography at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Danese Kenon, and Nikon Ambassador Audrey Woulard.
Many of these creative recipients will use their cash-based grants, to fund projects to elevate communities and uplift those who need it. Others will use their grants towards their photo-related business cost.
Nikon has also rewarded four mirrorless cameras to other entries.
$10,000 BWP Grant Recipient – Project Based
Tiffany Sutton, St. Louis, (@tiffanyjoy1955) – Missouri
Coming out at the number one spot, Tiffany Suton is a digital and film photographer based in St. Louis. As the art director of Washington University’s, The Spectacle, she is elevating BIPOC in the art world.
Sutton works with Black women exclusively, as a way to reconnect with herself and discuss social movements. Sutton will be using the grant to fund a month-long project in June.
This project is a film and portrait series capturing Black women and their everyday life there.
$5,000 BWP Grant Recipients – Project Based
Toni Shaw, Greensboro, (@theshawphotographygroup) – North Carolina
Shaw is the principal photographer and owner of Shaw Photography Group. Her specialty includes dance portraits and wedding photography. That doesn’t stop her from exploring other genres of photography.
With her experience and vision, she develops a signature style that sets her apart from others. Shaw will be using her grant to focus on empowering youth and autistic children with free project sessions.
Wanjiku Gitau, (@afrocanqueenphotography) – Nairobi, Kenya
Raised in Nairobi, Gitau is a self-taught photographer, who moved to London in 2017 where she began freelancing. According to her website, for Gitau, “photography is all about life; it is a mixture of colors and themes.”
Working to uplift those similar to her, Gitau will use her grant to help educate and mentor the next generation of women photographers in Nairobi, by teaching the youth basics and giving them the equipment to capture their stories.
Zhané GayByrd, (@vibrance_bw) – Oakland, California
Zhané is a Photographer from the Bay Area, who focuses on capturing the essence of reliance, beauty, and versatility of Black women and nonbinary people.
Her works explore the many ways Black women choose to heal by capturing true, raw emotions. Zhané will be using her grant to focus on helping Black women in the Bay Area with their own mental health journey, by offering them a therapy.
Clara Watt, Geneva, (@clarawatt) – Switzerland
Watt is a Canadian and Senegalese photographer based in London and Geneva. Featured in multiple outlets, Watt explores belonging through, social, cultural, and gender identity.
Watt will help Black women who were sexually assaulted or harassed reclaim those spaces with portraits, film, and give them access to therapy.
$3,000 BWP Grant Recipients – Non-Project based
Nicky Quamina-Woo (@nickywoophoto) – New York and Southeast Asia
Woo tells worldwide compelling stories with her photographs. Her work focuses on human unrest and social justice with projects that put the harsh realities of western colonization.
Woo examines the changes that come with the aftermath of trauma caused to her, adaptation is survival.
DeLovie Kwagala (@deloviephotography) – Kampala, Uganda
Kwangala explores the narrative surrounding identity, belonging, social injustices, and Gender-Sexuality with the intent to not sexualize, fetish or stigmatize. With an endless list of achievements, Kwangala aspires to educate and narrate with their images.
Ornelle Chimi (@ornelle.c) – Washington, DC
Chimi brings her own style to fashion photography. As a fashion and portrait photographer. She’s been working endlessly, learning everything she needs to stand out. Chimi has been featured in Vogue Italia, Nylon, and New York Magazine.
Melissa Bunni Ellen (@hellobunni)- New York, New York
Ellen is a storyteller and visionary making an impact. Ellens images capture humanity. Her portrait works are beautifully composed and reflect the genuine emotions of her subjects. She will be speaking with other storytellers this year at Storytelling for Change Summit hosted by Photographers Without Borders.
Karene Jean-Baptiste (@kareneisabelle) – Montreal, Canada
Baptiste was an engineer, before becoming a photographer. Today she captures the world around her, looking for moments of magic which she says “can appear and disappear in an instant within a scene or a human face.”
Her pictures give viewers an immersive experience.
Who’s about to level up with that Nikon gear hookup tho?
Rukie Jumah, (@rukiejumah) – Abuja Nigeria
Inari Briana, (@inaribriana) – Atlanta Georgia
Ramona Hernandez, (@radiantramona) – Atlanta, Georgia
Can’t forget to mention Jamie Walker from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Congratulations to all the winners of the Black Women Photographers and Nikon grant! We cant wait to see your progress and future works.