Lola Conrich never sought out to be a photographer, but she just couldn’t find the images she wanted to use to represent her business. Over time, she started to become more and more frustrated, and decided to address this dearth. In order to get the ball rolling and test out her idea, she sought out the help of a business photographer friend, and together they held their first photo shoot.
“The response was eye opening!” Conrich tells The Voix with excitement. “I honestly thought I was the only one feeling this way. So many encouraging emails flooded my inbox and I knew I had to carry on with it no matter how long it would take me to get it off the ground.”
Her perseverance led to the creation of 50 Shades of Black Stock, a stock photo membership website that creates images representing diversity and women of color. Her ultimate goal is to be able to represent as many skin tones across the board “As a black woman, we come in so many different skin tones, sometimes it can be hard to find images to represent us”, she says.
The born entrepreneur’s experience growing up and living as a woman of color in Europe, lends itself to what 50 Shades truly represents. “I have experienced first-hand what it feels like to be singled out because of the color of your skin. I struggled to find work in Italy because of this and I also know we’re completely underrepresented in the media!”
For Conrich, the biggest motivator for pushing her company forward continues to be the people she helps with her products — business women of color. “I think a lot of women of color are sometimes afraid to show too much of who they are so as not to chase potential clients away who are not people of color”, she says. “This is partly the media’s fault because most of what we’re bombarded with on a daily basis makes having blonde hair and blue eyes more desirable.”
I have experienced first hand what it feels like to be singled out because of the color of your skin, I struggled to find work in Italy because of this and I also know we’re completely under represented in the media!
According to her, this sort of ‘dangerous’ mentality is what makes women of color feel like a shadow in the background; unimportant and unable to achieve their dreams because there are not enough role models or visual encouragement available for them. She concludes that at the end of the day, change starts with being more accepting of others and our differences as well as celebrating those differences because together, they strengthen us as a team of people in whatever we choose to do.
“If the majority of your friends are only of one ethnic background and skin color, then you’re part of the problem”, she emphasizes. “It’s up to each and every one of us to step outside of our comfort zones and get to know and understand ‘the other side’. At the end of the day, we’re all just people who have a different perspective on life, and so we can each teach other things that will deeply enrich and enliven us.”
So what’s next for 50 Shades?
“Right now, I’m looking to recruit a team of four core photographers spread across Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania and the Americas, so that I can bring in more variety and diversity into our stock photo library.”
Image credit: Courtesy Lola Conrich
The Voix is a creative platform that empowers the voices of global storytellers. For more information, visit: Thevoix.com.