ArtFilm / TVGear
Views From A Different Eye: Here’s Why We Need More Black Women As DOPs in Hollywood.
By Thembela Ngayi
March 21, 2023
The film industry has historically been dominated by white men, which has led to a lack of representation and opportunities for women and people of color in various roles, including Director of Photography (DOP).
There are several reasons why it can be challenging to find Black women who are DOPs. One major factor is that there are relatively few Black women working in the film industry in general, which limits the pool of potential candidates for DOP positions. Additionally, DOP roles often require extensive training, experience, and connections in the industry, which can be challenging for underrepresented groups to acquire.
To open up the industry to women of color who are not represented as DOPs, Hollywood can take several steps. First, they can actively seek out and hire more women of color for DOP positions, which can help to increase representation and create more opportunities for aspiring DOPs. Second, they can invest in training and mentorship programs to help underrepresented groups gain the skills and experience needed to excel in the industry. Finally, Hollywood can create more inclusive and diverse work environments that support and promote diversity at all levels of the industry. This can include implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, supporting employee resource groups, and ensuring that hiring and promotion practices are equitable and transparent.
By having more Black women DOPs in Hollywood, there is an opportunity to increase representation both on-screen and behind the scenes. It can provide a platform for these women to share their unique perspectives and experiences, which can help diversify the industry. With more Black women DOPs, there is an opportunity to introduce new creative ideas and techniques that can help enhance the overall quality of the film. This can help to create a pipeline of diverse talent and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive industry in the long term.
Let’s look at some of the Black women killing it behind the lens today.
Kira Kelly: Known for her prolific work on the documentary 13th, Kira Kelly is the first black woman to be nominated for an Emmy as a DOP. With an extensive and impressive career, Kelly has earned film and TV credits which include a versatile mix of documentary and narrative projects. Even though her work speak for itself, her invitation to be part of the American Society of Cinematographers only came recently in 2020, making her the first Black woman to be part of this institution, a testament that there’s still a lot of work to be done in Hollywood in recognising Black women. In a conversation with Jacquiline B.Frost for Filmmaker Magazine, Kelly exclaimed “Every time I go into a new city or I have a new job come up and I’m working with a new crew, I always have to tell myself, ‘Just give it till lunch,’ because the whole first part of the day is spent with everybody doubting that I actually know what I’m doing. But by lunch, they see that I do.”
Gaopie Kabe: The award winning South African born DOP, Gaopie Kabe has managed to create a path for herself in an industry that historically has been a boys’ club. She’s worked her way up in the industry holding different positions from being a loader, camera assistant, to camera operator and now an award winning DOP. Her work on the thrilling South African series set in a women’s jail, Lockdown, has made her a household name and sought after talent and we can’t wait to see what she has next.
Cybel Martin: Named after the 1963 film, Sundays on Cybel, Cybel Martin is an award winning DOP who’s worked on feature films, commercials and TV series. Her impressive track record includes work on hit shows such as American Horror Stories, All Rise, The Rookie and she’s shot commercials for global brands such as Reebok. Cybel has worked alongside revered Directors such as Spike Lee, Michael Goi, Dee Rees and many more. In 2020 she was named as one of Rising Stars of American Cinematographers to watch.
Alexxiss Jackson: Alexxiss fell in love with the art of storytelling from a young age and by the time she was 8 years old, she was making films using camcorder and any other resources at her disposal. During her teen years she was shooting music videos and as a result enrolled at the University of Michigan. Like many other Black women in her field, she’s faced with the constant challenge of having to prove her talent as a DOP. As a DOP she’s been instrumental in putting efforts for women of color to be recognised in the industry and has established her name in Atlanta. Her work includes SPIN, Champion, Together, Yogurt Raisin and many other works which have been award nominated.
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