Polly Irungu on creating Black Women Photographers

The platform Black Women Photographers was set up in 2020 to create a community that empowers Black women and non-binary photographers. Here Irungu discusses her motivations and the journey she’s been on

Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Polly Irungu moved to the US when she was around four years old. In her final years of high school she was living in Eugene, Oregon, and she bought her first camera with the money she was earning at her part-time job at McDonald’s. Taking pictures became a creative outlet and she enjoyed getting to know people and telling their stories. 

Staying close by for college, Irungu attended the University of Oregon with a scholarship where she majored in journalism. Since then she has weaved her passions in photography, storytelling and social media into all areas of her work, and she is currently digital content editor at New York Public Radio (WYNC). 

Top: Sabrina Sellers, Abobe: Esther Sweeney. All images from the Black Women Photographers community

The last year has also seen Irungu run Black Women Photographers, a global database and community that was kickstarted by a Covid-19 relief fund that raised over $14,000 to provide financial support to Black women and non-binary photographers during the pandemic. The fund was launched on Juneteenth 2020 – a holiday on 19th June celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States – and the Black Women Photographers community followed on July 7. Initially there were around 100 photographers as part of the database, but that’s now grown to over 600 people.