Elizabeth filmmaker chosen as U.S. recipient of global creative grant

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ELIZABETH, NJ — IStock, in partnership with Black Women Photographers, a global community and database of black female and nonbinary photographers, recently announced that Elizabeth-based filmmaker Malaika Muindi is one of four artists, and the only one in the United States, chosen to receive its global inaugural Inclusion Grant. The $20,000 grant, awarded to four commercial photographers, videographers and illustrators, is a part of iStock’s commitment to supporting diverse creators showcasing underrepresented communities through their work.

Muindi creates short videos and portraits to connect her audience to people, communities and experiences that may be foreign or familiar. According to a press release detailing this honor, this grant will enable Muindi to continue to share her narratives and create experiences that connect people, as well as expand her audience. The other three other recipients are in the United Kingdom, Colombia and Australia. The grant is part of Getty Images’ wider grants program, which has awarded $1.8 million to photographers and filmmakers worldwide since its inception.

“I have been following Black Women Photographers for a couple of years now and saw the opportunity on their social media pages,” Muindi said on Saturday, Feb. 19. “I was initially hesitant to apply, but the support and encouragement from my friends was the push I needed to take that leap of faith to apply for the grant.”

Muindi said she was contacted by Polly Irungu, the founder of Black Women Photographers, and told that she was a finalist for the opportunity. She said Irungu then scheduled a final interview with Barbara DuMetz, a professional photographer for more than three decades, and Claudia Grimaldi Marks, senior art director at Getty Images. She shared a bit about her past, current and future goals as a photographer and aspiring filmmaker with them, and was subsequently selected as a recipient of the Inclusion Grant.

“Winning this bursary means my team and I now have the opportunity to continue to share narratives and create experiences that connect people to people in (high definition),” Muindi said. “We will also now have the means to evolve our craft through the mentorship of talented and experienced artists. The grant has presented the opportunity to further expand our work and our audience.

“One of the projects I plan on completing with this grant is a web series called ‘Black as Place’ — created, hosted and produced by Isaiah Little of GalleryRetail. In ‘Black as Place,’ Isaiah joins friends and comrades to explore some of the blackest places in the world for a couple of days. In each place both throughout history and today, he unleashes impossible stories of thriving communities through a place, its food and business. The trailer is currently out on YouTube, and we will soon be releasing the first full episode.” To see the trailer, go to https://tinyurl.com/2nx5y3mu.

One of the things that Muindi said excited her most was the opportunity to be mentored by DuMetz, a pioneer in commercial photography, and to have the opportunity to license her work on the iStock website at a 100-percent royalty rate.

“I am beyond grateful and excited being the U.S. recipient of this grant. To be selected and recognized from Black Women Photographers and Getty Images means so much,” Muindi said. “To have gained the opportunity to be mentored by Barbara DuMetz is truly a privilege. I was just on the phone with her for over an hour yesterday. During our conversation, she was generous with her advice. Barbara reminded me of the importance of continuing to create relevant work that engages my peers and my community as I grow my career as a photographer and filmmaker. IStock by Getty Images is one of the best and most well-known stock image platforms. To have my commercial photography work showcased on the site for worldwide use is extremely important to growing my audience and furthering my success as a commercial photographer.

“Inclusion grants that support black creators provide additional resources to a community that oftentimes is overlooked,” Muindi continued. “Black culture has been a major influence to mainstream media and American culture overall, but we do not always get the recognition. Continued support from platforms and organizations with the resources to support the growing community of black creators can set the trend for others to the same.”

“I have been following the work that Polly Irungu has been doing by creating a space to empower and promote the work of black women photographers since she started and have been in awe of what she has accomplished,” Marks said on Saturday, Feb. 19. “So many of the creators she features who are a part of her community are just so talented and amazing. Everyone should know about them and hire them.”

Marks said she worked with Irungu for 2021’s “Getty Images Creative Bursary: Definition Future” grant, and Irungu had approached her about partnering on a grant in some way. Getty Images already offered Inclusion Scholarships to support “emerging editorial talent within underrepresented groups.” When they were developing the Inclusion Grant for creative commercial artists, Marks said she knew right away that she wanted Black Women Photographers to be the U.S. partner.

“Representation matters,” said Marks. “There are so many talented black photographers and filmmakers out there, and it enriches all of us to pay attention and hire them. I believe that we should be using the platform we have here at Getty Images and iStock to uplift, recognize and financially support emerging creators so we can contribute to their success in the industry.”

Getty Images has been awarding grants for almost its entire history, said Marks. To date, she said, they have awarded more than $1.8 million to photographers and filmmakers worldwide. The Inclusion Scholarships were launched in 2020 to support independent photojournalists around the world by providing vital financial resources to ensure they can continue to capture visuals that inform and inspire. She said 2022 is the first year the Inclusion Grants were presented to support emerging talent who create groundbreaking imagery that challenges perceptions about the world and allow them to have the financial freedom to continue that work.

“Malaika’s work is some of the most beautiful and emotional storytelling we’ve seen,” said Marks. “Her imagery is vibrant and uplifting, and we could see that she was a talent that is worth supporting. I hope that we can continue to work with Black Women Photographers and other organizations around the world to offer financial support to underrepresented photographers and filmmakers everywhere, so that, one day, we can change the face of the industry.”

Photos Courtesy of Malaika Muindi