SNAPSHOTS: Project X
Photo-based artists, academics and longtime friends Laylah Amatullah
Barrayn and Adama Delphine Fawundu noticed a gap in the photo world:
there were no publications dedicated to highlighting and contextualizing
the work of female photographers of African descent.
Both influenced and inspired in their early careers by Jeanne
Moutoussamy-Ashe’s Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers, a survey of
black female photographers from the late 19th century to the mid-1980s,
the pair set out to make an artistic and contemporary response.
This was a decade ago. At the time they found it difficult to get a book
deal, so they turned to their own artistic projects instead, independently
traveling and making work inspired by the African diaspora.
But the call for more diverse voices within photography grew louder
and, two years ago, they endeavored to make their original idea a reality.
The pair founded MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, a
biannual journal and organization dedicated to showcasing and creating an
intellectual dialogue around work made by black women.
Titled after visionary Nigerian-American photographer Mmekutmfon
“Mfon” Essien, who died from breast cancer the day before her series,
“The Amazon’s New Clothes,” premiered at the Brooklyn Museum of Art
in 2001, MFON has launched as a book featuring the work of 100 female
photographers with essays, interviews and critical writings.
“[MFON] serves as a historical document within the history of
photography,” Fawundu says. “It is also serves as a global contemporary
voice of women of different generations
According to Fawundu, the first issue
deals with timely themes of identity,
resistance and activism, place, spirituality
and culture. Their goal is to have a traveling
exhibition accompany the inaugural issue. This year they also plan to award
the first MFON Legacy Grant, in the amount of $1,000, which will be open to
photographers at various stages of their careers.
Fawundu says they plan to accept submissions but that they also
encourage photographers to follow along on their social media accounts
(@mfonfoto). “We are very interested in including as many talented
photographers as we can,” she says. Emerging photographers can also get
involved with the organization through internships.
MFON is already gaining attention—Fawundu and Barrayn were able to
kick off the organization and inaugural issue with a grant from the Brooklyn
Arts Council and a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $18,000, far
surpassing their $13,000 goal. The project debuted with an event at New
York City’s ICP Museum this past November, co-sponsored by the Magnum
Foundation as well as New York University’s department of photography.
The goals of the MFON team reach far beyond the pages of the journal.
Fawundu says: “We’re hoping this project will help our audience broaden
their perspective on humanity and their worldview.” EDU
The launch of MFON, a contemporary record of photographers of the African diaspora.
by LINDSAY COMSTOCK
THIS PAGE: From a series
about LALA, an organic
urban farm at Los Angeles
Leadership Academy High
School, photographed by