UKBFTOG Presents We Are Here at Blank Canvas

Grimmy West Photography Tianna J Williams in front of her exhibit

“We Are Here” is the first UK black female photographers exhibition. It launched in Walsall near Birmingham, exhibiting the work of 20 emerging and established black female photographers. 

The exhibition covered a variety of photography genres from portraiture, maternity, fashion, documentary, landscape, conceptual and beauty photography. This allowed the viewers to see the world through the black female perspective. 

It started on 25th to 27th September at Blank Canvas in the heart of Walsall with plans to tour it nationally. It has already gained huge recognition being featured in the Guardian, on BBC Midlands and radio and has attracted photographers and guests from all over the UK.

The main exhibition was sponsored by one of the main camera manufacturers Nikon, as their event sponsor, who said they wanted to get involved in more initiatives like this. 

Now the first physical exhibition has ended the event will now have a digital element for others to experience it online, this is being sponsored by MPB who said they were really happy to be involved with such an initiative.

ukbftog we are here day three by Lensi Photography guests taking in Tianna J Williams exhibit
We Are Here UK Black Female Photographers Exhibition in Walsall UK by Lensi Photography

There will also be micro formations of the We Are Here exhibition featuring less artists and pieces springing up at venues around the country. Until the whole exhibit is shown again next year.

The next will be at the Medicine Bakery and Gallery on New Street in Birmingham during October 2020. Dates will be released in the new year for touring dates and venues 

One of the younger members of the group for whom this is her first exhibition said

“A year ago I started taking pictures seriously as a way to look after my mental health. I wanted to connect with black people and create stories, letting people know they’re important. Our skin, our history and culture is scrutinised and then can be internalised. It takes a while to realise there was nothing wrong with you, it’s society with problems NOT you.

Black is beautiful, our mental health is important, we have so much to share and do. The generations before us pushed us forward so that we may shine brightly and change this world, so that the generations after us can do the same. 

We are here and we’re not going anywhere.”

“This weekend has honestly been the best one of my life @ukbftog has made such a beautiful and massive impact on our lives. Giving black women the space to create legacies and share their stories, freaking powerful!”- 

Dami of Visuals by J.O.D, member of the UK Black Female photographer & Exhibitor  

ukbftog-94 by Grimmy West Photography guest speaker Dr Vanley Burke opening the exhibition
Guest speaker Dr Vanley Burke opening the exhibition

The UK Black Female Photographers community was created by the founder Jemella Binns owner of Mellz Photography LTD. Jemella felt isolated in the photography industry knowing only 3 other uk black female photographers. She put a call out on social media looking for other creators in a quest to find others and UKBFTOG was born.

December will mark 3 years since the community was created and it has grown to over 300 UK black female photographers.

Jemella said “we always had an exhibition on the horizon, so when this opportunity came along we couldn’t not do something, we put this together in 6 weeks and the response has been phenomenal, even during these difficult times.  We have shown the talent that is within our community. 

When I set this up three years ago I could not have dreamed of where we would be now, sponsorship for our first exhibition from major brands, and national interest in the tour of “We Are Here.” People are asking us to lecture at their events or for their groups and shown there is an appetite for the lenses of black and female perspectives.

We will be looking for sponsors for the next stages of the physical exhibition, and hope to bring this to a number of cities in the UK.”

Denise Maxwell of Lensi Photography is a Senior Officer for the UKBFTOG community, having been a full time photographer for 11 years she said “I was overwhelmed on the launch, I am not an emotional person but it suddenly hit me that I was now in a position to be extending the ladder to those behind me.”

As a result of what Jemella created in forming the group and what we have produced in this exhibition, a group of women can now add accolades to their name such as ‘published in the Guardian’ ‘featured on the BBC’ and exhibited nationally. Our youngest exhibitor is 16 years old, this is an amazing way to be beginning your career. 

You always see leaders in the field as being someone else, on the launch it hit me that one of those leaders was now me.”

The UKBFTOG community can be contacted on Instagram @UKBFTOG and via their website on www.ukbftog.com. The digital aspect of the exhibition will be available from November.

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