Digital Content Editor | WNYC
by Mara Serdans
What's your side hustle?
Does launching Black Women Photographers count? Haha, it feels like my second full-time job.
What's the last song you listened to?
Beyoncé - "Bigger"
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
Hmm, it varies from what things I have left to do on my checklist, to should I make a second coffee run, to can I squeeze in a nap?!
What inspires you?
This community that I'm building. I'm so inspired by all of them - I cannot wait until the rest of the world catches up and hears their stories. I'll be releasing an interview series soon that features members of the community.
What's your favorite board game?
Umm, I know how to pay UNO? Lol
What is your mantra? One day at a time. If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it is literally that we can't know what the future holds and we should just take it one day at a time.
Polly Irungu on Resilience, Change and Creating an Inclusive Industry
July 7 marks a special day for Polly Irungu. Not only is it her birthday but it also represents the birth of her directory and industry resource Black Women Photographers. At the ripe age of 26, Polly has created a fulfilling side-gig in tandem with her blossoming career as multimedia journalist, digital editor and photographer.
By day, Polly is a Digital Content Editor at New York Public Radio (WNYC), where she is responsible for managing social media and pitching news and feature stories for “The Takeaway,” a national NPR show with over 2 million listeners.
When she’s done navigating news and critical conversations with Takeaway hosts Tanzia Vega and Amy Walter, she focuses on building her empire of Black Women Photographers.
Just over two months old, Black Women Photographers is a global community and digital database created to increase the visibility of black women and non-binary photographers. It aims to encourage more inclusiveness in the photo industry, empower Black women to get hired, help them gain recognition for their talents, and provide resources to further their careers.
BWP stemmed from a Covid-19 relief fund (#BWPReliefFund) that Polly created to lend support to Black women and non-binary photographers during the pandemic.
“My goal was to raise $7K. I quickly reached that amount and doubled it to raise over $14K on GoFundMe.”
Polly has helped many photographers in need thanks to this fund and is actively raising additional funds for those on the waiting list. In the meantime, she has also been building the BWP directory to new heights.
Polly receives interest on a daily basis from photographers worldwide and the database has grown quickly to include nearly 400 artists. BWP is searchable by name and region, and each photographer’s profile includes her specialty, website, social media handle, and fun fact. Polly is also interviewing the photographers to learn more about their stories and achievements which she plans to share in a future release of BWP.
The photographers feel inspired by each other’s work, appreciate the community vibe, and actively engage over BWP’s social media channels. The community recently celebrated a couple big wins after Red Bull and The Washington Post recently hired two BWP photographers to shoot original content.
But it doesn’t stop there. Polly wants to continue building the momentum and extend the platform to make it beneficial to photographers in other ways.
“I want my directory to be a resource that people bookmark and use often. I don’t want this to feel like old news.”
Polly recently began hosting a series of Twitter talks via the hashtag #BWPTalks. The series includes industry guests who answer questions and give advice on a range of topics while helping build awareness to BWP.
#BWPTalks began after New York Magazine published its June 8-21, 2020 issue titled, “George Floyd’s America.”
“I called out their cover on Twitter because it was photographed by one of their go-to white male photographers at a Black Lives Matter protest in Los Angeles. It went viral and the Magazine responded saying, ‘we hear you.’ So I asked if we could talk more and I interviewed Jody Quon, the Magazine’s Director of Photography.”
Other recent interviews include Nikon Ambassador, Audrey Woulard and Kenna Klosterman, travel photographer and host of CreativeLive TV.
BWP also hosted its first public event “Capturing the Uprising” in collaboration with Adobe Lightroom on August 27. The roundtable included some of her favorite photographers who shared their unique experiences capturing protests in their hometowns of Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Portland, DC and Austin.
“My job as a digital content editor and photographer has helped me understand how I can help other photographers. I know what it takes to get a story published or on air and understand how quickly people move on because of my news background. I’m always thinking how I can keep the momentum going and how these photographers can get seen and hired.”
BWP may have been born out of recent protests but during this short time it has quickly grown to become a multi-dimensional resource for industry gatekeepers.
“I’m really looking for more allies who understand why this industry should be diverse. Hopefully next time we talk it’s about all the Black photographers who got hired…and we’re not just applauding that a magazine hired its first black photographer. I know it takes time and there are a lot of initiatives pushing for that change, and I’ll do my part to push for that change in the photo industry.”
Polly is also an accomplished photographer in her own right and has been published in several publications including Refinery29, NPR, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, HuffPost and more. Most recently, her work was featured in Times Square as part of Nasdaq’s campaign “Amplifying Black Voices,” a multi-media retrospective featuring works of art photography documenting Black life. A profile of each artist is also featured on Nasdaq.com to spread awareness about their work.
To learn more about how Polly is helping Black Women Photographers be seen, heard, and get hired for jobs, check out the website. Combining vision with action is what turns a dream into a changed world and we’re excited to see more of what Polly has to offer.