Why I'm Turning Down Styled Shoots in 2019

Shoots are exciting to work on. Being able to flex creative muscles without restriction is every designer’s dream come true. We get to network with amazing suppliers, create art and get new pieces for our portfolios. I’ve been in business since 2015, and in that time, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of dozens of shoots. Dozens. And of these shoots, only three have featured black or BAME models. Three. And of those three, two were planned by me.

Every shoot featured the same type of model: skinny, white, blonde, femme (sometimes they were brunette). Even the black and ethnic minority planners and stylists I worked with were afraid to cast POC models because they knew the struggle of submitting to and being repeatedly rejected by wedding publications for not matching “the aesthetic” (what is the bloody aesthetic?!). And if you look through many of your favourite wedding blogs and wedding related Instagram feeds, you’ll see the glaring lack of diversity in the images showcased. Seriously go look, then let me know how far you have to scroll before you see more than one image of the not-so-typical bride

The beautiful Soolaya with cake by  The Vanilla Pod Bakery . Photo by  Sue Ann Simon Photography

The beautiful Soolaya with cake by The Vanilla Pod Bakery. Photo by Sue Ann Simon Photography

It’s glaring even in the wedding supplier Facebook groups I’m in. Model call outs are nearly always accompanied by photos of skinny, white, blonde, brunette (or if they’re feeling really edgy, redhead) femmes. Inspiration photos, the same. Model request descriptions, the same. Even the one time I saw a supplier specifically request a model of colour, a skinny, white, femme jumped on the thread asking to be considered (that’s a whole other discussion on privilege, but I digress).

You’re probably thinking: no one is stopping models of colour from applying. True, but ask yourself, how inclusive are these spaces really? How welcoming are they to POC? What’s being done… scratch that… what are YOU doing to make the virtual spaces you frequent more inclusive? The sad truth is most wedding suppliers don’t even consider these things. The default when they think “bride” or “wedding” is always white, cis, het, skinny femme.

If you follow me on any of my social media channels, you’ll know that diversity in wedding industry media is something I’m passionate about. Yes I know it’s currently on trend and social media activists are pricking the public conscience, so a few people are starting to make (minimal) effort. But what happens when it’s not trendy anymore? Will the energy remain the same?

I thought about giving up styled shoots altogether but decided to instead put my money where my mouth is by helping to promote diversity in my own small way. I’ve decided to only work on shoots that feature diverse models. I’ m doing this in the hope that the suppliers that reach out to me might actually rethink the messages they’re sending out and consider working outside of their default every now and then.

So if you’re planning a shoot featuring POC, LGBTQ+, differently abled, curvy or older models, please get in touch. Let’s shake up this industry together!

Ofe OyasorComment