In the 1980s, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe an American photographer, wanted to document the contributions of black female photographers in the United States. She dug through US Census reports and business directories to track down women like Jennie Louise Van Der Zee Welcome, who photographed the Harlem renaissance, or Elizabeth “Tex” Williams, the first black photographer in the Women’s Army Corp during World War II. Moutoussamy-Ashe finally published Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers in 1986, updating it in 1993. Since then there has been no other comprehensive compilation of the work of black women photographers.
More than 30 years later, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, a photographerbased in Brooklyn, is publishing an anthology of work by black women photographers descent, Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. Barrayn’s book, funded by a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council as well as a crowdfunding campaign, features 100 female photographers of the African diaspora, including those based in the US, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. It’s named after Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essien, a young Nigerian-American photographer who passed away in 2001.
The book is the beginning of what will be an annual publication. Barrayn and her partners will also be offering a grant later this year to a woman photographer of African descent. Quartz spoke to Barrayn about Mfon, which will be available later this month.
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