As a young photographer growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn was deeply influenced by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s book “Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers.” The 1986 book took a historical look at female photographers from the 1800s to the present day and left her eager to see more.
“I’ve always been waiting for an update,” Ms. Barrayn said. Had she left it to others, she’d still be keeping vigil. Tired of waiting, she and several colleagues finally decided to self-publish “Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora,” the first of a planned series of biannual journals, which features images by 100 women photographers from around the world. The journal is named in memory of Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essien, a young black photographer who died from breast cancer in 2001, one day before her show “The Amazon’s New Clothes” was to open at the Brooklyn Museum.
“I feel black women are very underrepresented in the field of photojournalism and fine art photography,” said Ms. Barrayn, who published the journal with her friends Adama Delphine Fawundu, a visual artist, and Crystal Whaley, an Emmy-winning producer. She explained that while there are photography books that feature black men and women photographers, nothing is solely devoted to black women.
Ms. Barrayn was seven when she got her first camera as a gift from her father. Ten years later, she got professional gear and would embark on a career covering arts and culture for local papers and magazines like Vibe. She now travels the world and juggles documentary and fine art photography.
She had actually tried…