Rochester organization supports black photographers with studio space


Rochester is synonymous with Eastman Kodak, so it’s no surprise the city is teeming with photographers. Allison McDonald and Jackie McGriff are two local photographers – black women looking to turn their passion into a career.

“I had no idea there were so many black photographers in Rochester,” McGriff said.

Despite strength in numbers, these two black women feel their work is underrepresented and not supported in the same way as their white counterparts.

“I feel like we can often get overlooked in this area,” McDonald said.

In 2022, Adam Eaton and the Rochester Artist Collaborative will shine a light on these artists by giving them resources and platforms through a grant that will allow them access to collaborative studio space.

“If you don’t have the opportunity available, sometimes you have to give yourself that opportunity,” McDonald said. “I feel like that’s what Adam did with the Creators Lab.”

Rochester Artists Collaborative is an emerging arts organization specializing in visual arts, media and design. Adam Eaton founded the organization in 2019 to support individual artists in Rochester.

RAC Creators Lablocated at 250 North Goodman St. in the Arts District, opened during the pandemic with the idea of ​​providing equipment, space and tools for local artists to advance their careers.

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This year, Eaton’s organization launched a black women’s initiative to fill studio space. With funding from local marketing firm Helen & Gertrude, the Creators Lab will provide three scholarships for black women in the visual arts. The scholarships cover a year of access to the studio and all of its technology and equipment, as well as mentorship and small business support.

“Black female artists are the most underrepresented group in Rochester,” Eaton said. “I thought it was important to showcase the amazing black women we have in our community and make sure they have time to shine.”

McDonald, McGriff and Briana Seda-Stringer are the three women who will receive the scholarships in 2022.

“Having the studio space will allow me to grow in my craft,” Briana Seda-Stringer said. “It gives me the opportunity to be creative and help develop my portfolio.”

McGriff and McDonald both work full time while pursuing their dream of making art their primary source of income.

McGriff inherited her love of stills from her grandmother, who had her own darkroom. She now believes she has a professional studio; his subjects will feel relaxed and confident and his work will flourish.

“That’s what I really like,” McGriff said. “Invite someone and let them know they can absolutely let loose with you. It comes through in the picture, I see it every time.”

The space also fosters teamwork among creators, which is good for McDonald’s as she hones her craft.

“You have other black women on your side supporting you instead of competing with you,” McDonald said. “It’s a brotherhood.”

Eaton hopes the program can expand with more funding to offer 15 scholarships instead of three. Eaton thinks Rochester officials should support their local artists so talent doesn’t fly to the big cities with more opportunities.

“We believe these artists have world-class talent,” Eaton said. “These talents are not displayed or showcased in a way that can truly highlight what Rochester’s artistic community has to offer.”

“I love filming in Rochester because of the history,” Briana Seda-Stringer said. “There are so many quaint brands here. There are a lot of hidden gems.

Rochester may not have the same opportunities as New York or Los Angeles, but McDonald’s doesn’t care.

“I love how united Rochester is,” McDonald said. I don’t feel like I need to go to another city to be successful in photography.”

Contact Robert Bell at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @byrobbell & Instagram: @byrobbell

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