It’s no secret that the photo industry has a long way to go when it comes to equal representation for non-male, non-white photographers. Late last year, Nikon was widely criticized for failing to include a single women in the 32 photographers they enlisted to promote a new camera. Just this week, a hard-hitting Columbia Journalism Review investigation revealed alarming trends of harassment in the world of photojournalism, and also cited some damning stats about the industry; notably that a recent internal Associated Press report revealed that only 14 percent of the organization’s photographers are female. And recent initiatives such as Diversify.Photo have formed to call out and remedy the dismal lack of diversity in photography.
The recently founded Authority Collective is a United States-based collective of women, trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people of color frustrated by the inequality in photography and film. Authority shares Diversify.Photo’s goal of empowering marginalized photographers, and the groups have joined forces to launch the Lit List. The List is a new photo award that recognizes the work of photographers who all too often get overlooked by major industry awards: photographers “who are womxn, femmes, trans, non-binary people of color, or otherwise marginalized artists.”
“This project was born out of frustration with the photo award scene,” photographer and Lit List lead Oriana Koren tells Format Magazine via email. “It’s disheartening to see the same 20 to 30 usual suspects receive accolades for their work when there are so many talents flying under the radar in lens-based industries.”
Authority Collective sourced a diverse jury, made up of leading industry professionals such as photographer Zora Murff, California Sunday photo editor Paloma Shutes, Wired photo editor Sara Urbaez, and New Yorker photo editor Siobhán Bohnacker. The jury narrowed down the Lit List from more than 200 nominations sent in by industry members including other photographers, editors, and creative directors. The short list has just been announced this week, and the final 30 award winners will be announced in August.
The idea for the Lit List first came about through an Instagram DM chat between Oriana Koren and fellow photographers Tony Luong, Elias Williams, and Laylah Barrayn, who suggested the name. The goal of the Lit List, says Koren, is to challenge the notion of who can be a gatekeeper of talent and accolades in the photo industry, and ultimately broaden access to the resources and mentorships that emerging photographers need to succeed.
“There are so many hungry, green talents who don’t know how to prepare for a meeting, or how to create an editor-friendly web portfolio, or how to handle moments of micro or macro aggressions while on assignment,” Koren says. “It’s really firing us up in terms of the sort of educational programming we can build for marginalized artists, and we’re really excited to start reaching out to allies to see if they will show up as co-conspirators for us by providing knowledge and resources and access.”
The Lit List team shared some of their favorite work from a few of the shortlisted photographers with us below. The final 30 photographers will be showing work at New York photo festival Photoville this September. In the meantime, you can find out more about the Lit List and see the full short list of photographers at their website, built using Format.
Cover image: Tavish Timothy.