Read an excerpt from the book, MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora
The term ‘passion project’ doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to discussing MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. The recently released book has been in the mind’s eye of its editors, Layla Amatullah Barrayn and Adama Delphine Fawundu, for over a decade and is the result of their dedication to not only celebrating black female photographers around the world but also address the glaring under representation of their work in the publishing and public eye.
Both award-winning photographers themselves, the Brooklyn-based duo’s curation pays homage to Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s seismic 1986 survey, Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers, and is named in memory of their dearly departed contemporary Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essien (1967 – 2001). It takes in 100 talents from the past, present and next generation of photography – those sung, unsung and barely just begun - ranging from 13-year-old Fanta Diop to 91-year-old Mildred Harris Jackson. Those in between include Jenevieve Aken, Samantha Box, Ayana V. Jackson, Idil Ibrahim, Bee Walker, Yodith Dammlash, Delphine Diallo and Émilie Régnier.
Personal commentry, interviews and essays by such voices as Dr. Deborah Willis, Catherine McKinley, La Tanya S. Autry and Fayemi Shakur contribute to the conversation around the significance of these artists and their contribution to documentary, fashion, fine art and reportage photography. The independently published project was originally supported by Brooklyn Arts Council and will now become a biannual journal, ensuring it won’t be another 30 years before a book of this importance rolls around again.
Read this exclusive excerpt – the book’s preface by Niama Safia Sandy:
Love Ex Camera
Black women - our eyes, our voices, our fingers, our feet - capture re, sound, color, the blues in the face of all the love, and rage, and pain in the world. All so abundant, so searing that nothing but our collective creative gift for synthesizing joy from thin air and grief could ever assuage it. That is grace immaculate, grace incarnate, grace supermundae. This trove of indomitable grace is at the core of the work in MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. These women use their lenses as extensions of inertia, cultivating images of faces, places and states heretofore less-seen. These women and their images simultaneously level and lift the elds of vision and of play for Black women in a world that loves nothing more than to tell them they are invisible and unworthy of fairness.
The photograph as we know it entered the popular consciousness for the rst time in the late-1820’s and 1830’s through Nicéphore Niépce’s experiments with heliography and Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s invention of the daguerreotype, respectively. From the very beginning it was the province of white men, typically used to portray the world as they knew it. The mid-19th century saw the globe dyed red in the pursuit of white colonial conquest across large swaths of the world. It should not be left out that the vast majority of the capital used to fund European life - aesthetic, military and otherwise - was and is directly tied to the enslavement, forced migration, and subsequent stolen resources and labor of black and brown bodies. What does it mean for this medium to now be in the hands of women who are the descendants of both those who were stolen and those who were left behind in the wake of centuries of rarely relenting whiteness and its systematic violence?
It means this work is positioning toward a reclamation of the many histories, people and places that have been erased from the record. It means that we are powerful because we can witness without having to de ne the entirety of a subject’s existence outside of the frame of a photograph. It is proof positive that love - and we as women of the African Diaspora - can bear, bare and breakthrough all things including time, violence and continue toward creating safe spaces - literal, metaphorical and metaphysical.
As you gaze through the pages of this book, take note of the images as they affirm joy, pain, triumph, loss, and, ultimately, the simple acts and facts of Black humanity.
Niama Safia Sandy
anthropologist, curator, strategist, writer