Lifting All Boats: Embracing Our Differences Within a Creative Community

“Why Fit In When You are Born to Stand Out”
Dr. Seuss

If you have been on social media in the last 48 hours, you know that Queen Bee, the royal highness herself, Beyoncé, is expecting twins with her husband, Jay-Z. What an amazing feeling it is to be a mom and carry life; there is truly no greater feeling. And what better way to announce that you’re expecting by releasing a one of a kind image of you kneeling showing off your baby bump.

Image Source: Beyoncé Maternity Photos | Photographer: Awol Erizku
Image Source: Beyoncé | Photographer: Awol Erizku

Within a matter of moments, social media blew up with news of the announcement. Creatives everywhere were left questioning the thematic symbolism and critiquing the technical aspects of the image. Was it properly lit? What can we interpret from the picture? Is she in mourning? Why so many artificial flowers? The most repetitive and resounding opinions came from creatives stating how awful the image was and requesting clients not ask them to recreate something so “horrendous.”

But isn’t that the entire benefit of being an artist? We each have the creative freedom to construct our own version of beauty outside of society’s boundaries and standards. The photographer of the iconic photos, Awol Erizku, a Yale University graduate of Fine Arts, gave us all something to aspire to: to push the envelope and create your own boundaries as an artist. Often we find inspiration from other creatives, but I also think that it’s important to allow the universe to inspire us and to have the courage to beat to our own drum.

Image Source: Beyoncé | Photographer: Awol Erizku

We get stuck and remain afraid to step out and color outside of the lines. Erizku is a perfect example of standing your ground, being just who you are, and embracing differences. His “classical art works to include models of color in order to emphasize, and draw attention to the lack of racial diversity represented in art history.”- The Huffington Post

His work includes symbolic pieces such as roses, sculptures, and blending art with music. I imagine that’s why he was selected as the photographer – because he was different.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.

As a creative community, we sometimes shun those that are different from us or whom we simply don’t understand, or we sometimes shun those whose vision or work is not like our own. We must work not to see the glass as half empty, but rather as its own one of a kind masterpiece.

“The models I choose to work with are not professional
models, but possess an undeniable, striking beauty.”
— Awol Erizku

Even in our creative communities, we must embrace our differences. We are all human and deserve love and acceptance.

When I first saw the image, I too was shocked and tried to make the photograph fit into what I thought maternity photos should look like. However, I kept coming back to the quote “beauty from ashes.”  Sometimes we see things only on the surface and never look past the outer appearance. I was guilty. Guilty of judging without looking past the artificial florals and mismatched lingerie. Guilty of criticizing the artist’s creative vision because it wasn’t my own. Guilty of getting caught up in the Facebook chatter. Guilty of not even saying, “Congratulations!” And guilty of not treating someone else how I would have wanted to be treated as a creative and as a person.

I encourage you to not be guilty like I was when you see something new, unexplainable, unfamiliar, or that doesn’t fit your ideology or preconceived definition of beauty. Take the opportunity to research and to understand other cultures and races, show love and compassion towards people who are different, and savor every opportunity to learn more about others that are around us.

 

The Challenge:

Today, I ask you to challenge the status quo and playing it safe but to try something new and different on your next shoot, event, or design and to embrace diversity and work to understand others that are not the same religion, race, sexual orientation, or are outside of our comfort zone.

Together we can lift all boats, not just the ones in which we are familiar with.

 


 

“There are a vast array of backgrounds and experiences that write our individual narratives, which in turn make up our collective voice as a community. In creative industries, we will inevitably have different aesthetic preferences tied to our experiences, our convictions, and our traditions. There is a space where community, culture, and creativity meet – it is where our influences drive us to create. As a painter, I know not everyone will love my work, but I do hope viewers move beyond that to appreciate the process, the influences, and the statements inherently present in my work. This is worth celebrating, not criticizing. To put it simply, inclusivity is absolutely necessary in a community on both the collective and individual levels.”
 Kait Masters, Painter + Rising Tide Society Community Support Manager

 


 

“Together we can move forward by acknowledging the limitations of our own world views and empathetically exploring the perspectives that exist beyond our current understanding. We, as creatives and compassionate human beings, must bravely step beyond our comfort zones in order to celebrate diversity, fight for inclusivity, and champion camaraderie. I believe that our unique perspectives, when woven together into a tapestry of community, is the most beautiful form of art that humanity has to offer.”
—Natalie Franke, Rising Tide Society Co-Founder


 

 

 

Tomayia Colvin

Tomayia Colvin, is an international wedding and senior portrait photographer, best-selling children’s book author, and photography educator in Houston, Texas. She is the Leader of the Northeast Houston Tuesday Together Group and drives to make community a place of where everyone is welcome. She is on a mission to celebrate diversity and work with conferences and workshop organizers to bridge the color division and to include voices that are missing from the photography industry. She’s the mom of two dynamic little people and is often busy shuffling kids from basketball practice to Cub Scouts. She lives for the car rider line, Dr. Pepper, and making blue jeans, Converse, and t-shirts the new business casual.

4 comments

  1. This! I definitely agree with everything you wrote here. There are so many expectations on what art + photography should and shouldn’t look like, but art is really all about finding your own voice and not being afraid to go against the grain and step outside the box!

    Reply
  2. Powerful article. Thank you for challenging us to think outside of the box and not be so critical of what other people may see as beautiful.

    Reply
  3. What a wonderful post! Thank you for posting such a heartfelt article, it encourages me to set aside my self-doubts and gives me the push to go ahead and take action the ideas brewing within me. Thank you!!

    Reply

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