Working towards equality and being a better ally in the wedding industry with Allie Rinka of Allie and John Photography
Sunday, June 7
We are so honored to have Allie from Allie and John Photography as a guest blogger today to speak with us about how the wedding industry can be more inclusive, support diversity and be better allies. We reached out to Allie last Monday, to start a conversation with her, to see if she would share with us some of her experiences as a black, female, wedding photographer in the hopes that we could help amplify black voices in our industry. We approached Allie knowing this was our work as white women to do and asked her humbly what her thoughts were to help start a conversation. We did not want to assume her knowledge or emotional labor would be free – and have been so humbled by her willingness to be open and educate freely. We realize Allie is tired and we didn’t want to add to her emotional burden this week – especially with some of the questions we asked. To say we are grateful for her patience, guidance, and sharing her experience is an understatement. Some of what Allie has shared with us is utterly heartbreaking and we cannot begin to thank her enough for being so vulnerable. With the marches and protest happening all over the country for racial justice and police reform we have been doing some deep work at Calluna Events – as individuals and as a team. For some of our team, our work as an ally has been going on for years, and for some, it’s a relatively new journey. We are committed to continuing this work toward allyship after the moment has passed.
We will be going live on Instagram on Tuesday at 10am to continue this conversation with Allie and continue to learn from her! We look forward to continuing our conversation with Allie and we hope you can join us!
Tell us about you and your business?
My name is Alicia Rinka owner & lead photographer of Allie & John Photography. We are a team of professionals who love capturing memorable wedding moments. Our team uses both film and digital formats while maintaining a candid approach to our work. Our portfolio exhibits a fine art style with a modern editorial aesthetic using natural light.
What are some tools you can give white wedding professionals for support black wedding professionals?
There are many ways to support a black business owner, but here are just a few.
Donate / our exchange services- Black people / creatives are taking the time to guide and give suggestions about what to change, while having families and daily life. We are also experts about being oppressed & seeing a lack of representation. ” It’s a privilege to learn about oppression rather than experiencing it.”
Supporting on social sites,
Purchase a course or prints they maybe selling
Network- (which is a very great way to get to know someone),
Inviting to have talks in the community (better ways to change the industry)
Inviting to work on a project – (like style shoots, retreats, workshops, and conferences)
What are some ways you think the wedding industry needs to encourage more diversity?
There are different platforms in the wedding industry, like publications, and vendors for instance that have different responsibilities.
I believe that publications have the biggest platform in the industry. We all look to them for guidance on trends, who is the next big vendor, or what to change. To encourage diversity I think sharing more people of color on their feed and social sites is a step, hiring BIPOC to their team (I believe this will provide more perspective to the industry), Showcasing BIPOC work or spotlighting and ensuring dialogue to keep doing better on inclusiveness.
Vendors should have more diversity in their portfolios – I know that it can be hard to because of the demographics in each state/ city. So I encourage creating projects that involve diversity and inclusion. Go out and reach out to models and vendors of color to create an amazing project. When creating conferences, I encourage adding not only models but speakers that have had different experiences than the rest.
Would you feel comfortable sharing some negative or awkward experiences you’ve had when meeting with vendors or couples, how can white vendors or couples work to ensure these experiences don’t happen?
I’m a person who does research before hiring someone. I like to see their work, or who they are and see them in person or on Skype so I can assess if we would be a good fit. I know that not everyone is not going to accept me, so If I’m not a good fit because of the color of my skin. I’m ok with that because I don’t want not being accepted to hinder my ability to do my job or feel fear at an event that celebrates love. I’ve never had a couple tell me flat out that they didn’t accept me but I’ve seen couples have a confused face after seeing me and question me about my last name. Which is Rinka lol.
I’ve had vendors just dismiss me when trying to have a conversation or at weddings barely approach me or talk to me with a stern look.
In reality, I don’t know how to prevent this. It’s something vendors themselves have to work on. Just to be accepting.
Would you feel comfortable sharing some negative or awkward experiences you’ve had at weddings and how can white people work to ensure these experiences don’t happen?
I’ve had a family member at a wedding correct me in front of a group of people, while trying to direct them to step aside. I asked: ” could you guys move over here for me please” and the family member said in front of the group ” you people need to stop saying you guys and use proper words.” That day was pretty hard because I had to compose myself by getting away from the group to take a photograph of a building to show I was doing something and let out a tear. Maybe I was wrong for using those words but I was completely embarrassed and didn’t feel at all comfortable the rest of the day.
Or micro-aggressions like “oh wow you speak so proper”, “you’re pretty for a black girl”, “Are you sure you’re mixed? You look like you’re from Ethiopia”.
This is something else that I don’t know how to ensure that these experiences don’t happen; most times individuals say things when no one else is listening and they do so, so that you won’t have a witness or be able to deny.
I would say that vendors who contract out other vendors so implement in their contracts about discrimination not being tolerated and that “we hire people of different races and backgrounds”. Or something of that sort. I would talk to a lawyer about this.
Just like we have harassment clauses, there should be a statement about the above.
As a black woman, wedding photographer are there things you do to approach your work that might be different – getting ready for a wedding, working a wedding, working with couples?
I do have to mentally prepare myself on wedding days and understand that even though my clients accept me that can be a family member or friend that will not. I use to ask my clients if there was anyone that we should know that could cause trouble for us. Asking that was very awkward for us.
I try to be super helpful, like help the mother of the bride with things she might need assistance with while trying to photograph moments. I basically double the work to my load so I won’t be seen as mean or unapproachable.
Are there things we can change or encourage with our teams or employees to encourage diversity training or inclusivity?
Just understanding that there is a community that is seen differently. The world isn’t going to change overnight and there are people who will not understand. I encourage training and creating a space where employees can ask questions to better understand or bring ideas.
Things we could change in our contracts or websites (wording) to be more inclusive?
Well, I’m not a lawyer but I believe that contracts and websites should have a statement that includes not “tolerating racial discrimination” or that “this company is diverse” and explain that you hire different races, genders and so forth. Just like we have harassment clauses, the above should be implemented.
How can we include more diversity in our work authentically? For Calluna, we want to work with more interracial, black and multicultural couples as well as the LGBTQ community because it’s a business value of ours to work with a wide array of people. But I know some people want to do it tokenize these communities – so how do we do it authentically.
To be authentic you have to show your heart, express to your audience what you believe because if you don’t people will see that they’re being tokenized or just used for money. Yes, create work that represents the communities you want to work with. But actively speak on it and create a dialogue within your community.
Anything else you think would be helpful to share?
When things go to “business as usual” keep being a voice, keep celebrating black creatives, support them – you don’t have to do it every day, but just keep pushing for inclusiveness. If we don’t know where you stand or see representation from now on, we will take our “black dollars” and find others who do accept us.