Polygon’s editors love their black female writers, so we asked them to weigh in on the two genres.
The first article, which features the story of Amy Henningsen, a white woman who writes about black women in the arts, explores the ways black women and their experiences have shaped black male writers and photographers over the years.
The second article, by Emily Crouch, explores how black women are now able to use the medium of photography as a tool to make a difference in the world.
Henningsens essay explores the “tension between white supremacy and black empowerment” and explores how she was able to create a space in which she felt like she could express her thoughts and feelings without fear of backlash.
Hennies essay also features interviews with black women of color who have written about their experiences with racism.
“We are constantly told that our blackness is inherently problematic,” she wrote.
“But, when we take time to write about it, we are able to find a place where we don’t have to fear what the people around us may think of us.
And that is the most valuable thing we can do to break through the silos we are constantly placed in.”
The white men who wrote this piece have made a conscious choice to make their work a “whitewashed, non-exclusivity” project, but it was their writing that inspired Henns essay.
“They wanted to write something that would be honest and that would address issues that are prevalent in the black community,” she said.
“We are not allowed to have these conversations.
They want to do it but they don’t want to talk about it.”
Hennsen’s piece also highlights the fact that black women aren’t alone in their struggles in photography.
The black male writer and photographer Michael Azzopardi has written about the “oppression of black women’s photography” and the “continued oppression of black men’s photography.”
“The idea that we have to keep the gaze fixed on us and the subject of our work is oppressive and it is just the way of thinking of photography in general,” he wrote in a Medium post about his experiences with white privilege.
“There is a lot of space for women and girls to be photographed and for men to be photographers, to be there.
The problem is that when women and women of colour take these opportunities to tell their stories and explore the work they have done, they are often shut out.
There is a lack of visibility for us, as well as an expectation that we are doing the work in order to be admired.””
Black men’s and women’s bodies are never represented as the objectification of bodies,” he added.
“Our bodies are not objects that can be sold and sold as commodities.
When black women have access to these opportunities, we do not feel like our bodies are being used for our own profit.
There are no profits to be made from them.”
Hennesens essay also addresses the idea that black photography is somehow inherently inferior to white photography, saying that while white women “make up the majority of photographers,” they “often struggle to make themselves a part of the conversation.”
The black woman also mentions the way white women are “often asked to take on the burden of white supremacy” when they write about black experiences in the media.
“I have been told to write for ‘Black Women,'” Hennins said.
“I know that it is difficult for a black woman to do so.
I know that I have been asked to write a piece on the importance of black culture and black history without ever reading a single article about black men.
It has been like I am being asked to rewrite history and erase black history from the record of history.
I feel like my story has to be told and I am the only one who can do it.”
This essay is part of a project called “The Invisible Lens.”
The project aims to “re-examine and re-explore the ways that black and brown women are represented in the American media, and explore how those representations are perpetuated and distorted.”
Read more about “The Unofficial White Woman” on Polygon.