It’s hard to recall a time when this many black female photographers and directors were being hired to work on high profile projects. There’s been directors like Julie Dash, who wrote, directed, and produced Daughters of the Dust, in 1991—it was the first feature film directed by a black woman distributed theatrically in the United States. And there’s photographers like Carrie Mae Weems and Deborah Willis who have documented black life over the past couple decades. They have all helped open doors, but it took a while to get to this place.  

This flourishing time for black photographers has been documented by Antwaun Sargent in his book, The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion. It features essays and photos from black photographers of today. And we wanted to hear more from some of the women who are helping the industry get to a new place. So we brought Dana Scruggs, Flo Ngala, Adrienne Raquel, Arielle Bobb-Willis, and Lacey Duke all together over Zoom.

Dana Scruggs fell into photography. The Chicago native started taking pictures of models wearing vintage clothes for her Etsy shop. She went on to shoot more models in Chicago before moving to New York and creating her own publication, SCRUGGS Magazine. It featured her photography, which focuses on the male form. An editor seeing her work online led her to shooting track runner Tori Bowie for ESPN’s 2018 The Body Issue—she was the first black woman to shoot an athlete for the issue. She went on to become the first black woman to shoot the 2019 edition of the issue when she captured gymnast Katelyn Ohashi for the cover. In 2018 she shot Travis Scott for Rolling Stone's December issue and she became the first black person to shoot a cover in the magazine’s 50 year history.

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