Tips for Allies: Diversifying Your Portfolio
Let's face it, in a time where there is an active shift to represent the underrepresented, those who consider themselves allies to the cause find themselves in a tough spot. They want to make sure that they are being inclusive - even if they have to force it, because they just aren't getting the clients they need to show they are actually diverse - without offending the very people they are trying to reach. I admit, that as a POC, I have an huge advantage in this area because those who look like me hire me mainly because of that fact and those who don't look like me hire me because of my skill, so my portfolio is actually quite diverse.
A question that I receive time and time again from our allies is
"What's the best way to go about doing a model call that enables me to represent POC?"
It's a delicate subject for sure, so I wanted to take a little bit of time to give my insight on what I feel are options for you to decide which fits you and your brand more.
This is obviously the go-to thought for most allies. I mean, it works when you need it to right? Except you're often met with a bunch of people who look like you wanting to be a model and it defeats the purpose when you're trying to diversify.
So how do you specify without hurting feelings or offending people that you are looking to diversify your portfolio? Maybe try saying something like:
"Here at [your business name] we strive for diversity and inclusivity. Upon reviewing my own portfolio, I've noticed a vast disparity in what I believe in my heart and what is shown on my site and feeds. I want to make a conscious effort to change that and I'm doing a model call to diversify my portfolio so that it may reflect my belief that #representationmatters and that every one - no matter their race, orientation, or beliefs - deserves to not only see their birth story told, but also see and be inspired by people they can relate to through my photos. I'm currently looking for WOC who are due [insert date range here] to allow me to photograph their birth at my portfolio building price. If you or someone you know is expecting and is delivering in the [your location] area, please email me at [your email address] for more details."
To me, as a WOC, I would find this model call to be very respectful and enlightening. It shows me that the photographer acknowledges that their portfolio lacks diversity and is wanting to make the changes that is necessary to change that and has the right intentions. Also note that my suggestion did not contain words that may seem like you are tokenizing POC, like "dark-skinned, curly hair, asian, etc." I highly recommend NOT using descriptive words like that when doing your model call.
To be honest, giving away a session can seem overtly racist if addressed the wrong way. It could imply that you don't think POC can afford your services so you have to give it to us.
Obviously, if worded correctly and not like a charity case, you would be more likely to receive a better response. An angle that may work, while implementing similar wording as the model call above, would be to gift with products or add-on services that aren't usually included. Have the incentives be what you're giving away.
Donating Your Services
There's a VERY specific way I recommend donating your services. I feel like it must be done more low-key than the other options and it would involve your network. Get together with your favorite birth workers or friends and tell them your heart and your desires. Be sincere. Use that person as a "middle man" and have them recommend the perfect people for your portfolio and then have THEM pitch you to their client/friend and pass on your information for a complimentary session. People are much more likely to listen to someone they know and trust over a stranger.
What do you do with these new diverse photos once you have them?
Make sure that they are amongst the first things people see when they go to your website or social media accounts. Once we see that you photograph us, too, we will be more inclined to consider actually hiring you.
My words here only barely scratch the surface of diversity and inclusivity in your portfolio. There's an amazing blog post over at Catalyst Wedding Co. that dives a lot deeper into what it truly means to be diverse and inclusive and is SO worth the read.