Redefining stereotypes by showcasing positive Black and Ethnic Minorities contributions, and empowering and inspiring the next generation.

EDITION FIVE – 2019

Jemella “Mellz” Binns

I am…Jemella, I am a Woman, I am a Business Owner, I am passionate about my family and making my dreams a reality….

Who are you?

I am Jemella, I am a Woman, I am a Business Owner, I am passionate about my family and making my dreams a reality.

What is your present role?

My present role is a photographer whose passion and dream is to document our existence through photography to last for generations. I am also the founder and organiser of UK Black Female Photographers. It is a community where we can learn from each other support each other and have fun meetups.

Tell us about your life journey so far. What has brought you to your current role?

I grew up in a household were mum constantly had the video camera out recording all family events or had her 35mm film camera out snapping away, so it was only right that when I came of age that I begin to mimic what my mum would do and I loved it but I never thought of it as a job.

At the age of 17 after studying health and social care, I found out I had dyspraxia which explained my difficulty in reading and writing and I thought I am not smart enough to go to university and be a social worker as I will fail, so I decided to go and study photography as I am a visual learner.

I tried to go and study A level in photography but I was told I had too many GCSE’s so I got advised to study a foundation diploma in Art and Design in Croydon College as it will cover photography and that year changed my life. My tutors were able to bring out the best in me with both using photography as an art as well as giving me the confidence to even apply for Kingston University.

When attending the university that was where my passion for photographing families began and I made up my mind that I wanted to become a family photographer and contribute to their future existence with actually printing photographs, rather them just being on our phones and computers.

My university journey was not easy with my Dyspraxia, I would have panic attacks just going into the library and I had many nights of crying and ready to quit, but I had the most amazing dyslexia support tutor who taught me how to read and break words down, every year my essay grade would go up and in the end I graduated with a 1st Class honours in Photography.

In Your field of work what has been your observation or experience of white privilege, discrimination and prejudices? 

I got told once that ‘oh your work is so good I thought you were white’. Why do I need to white to be classed as worthy enough?

 
For the last 6 years I have been attending photography conventions and every year you can count the number of black people there on one hand, then I noticed I would never see any black female photographers.

So in December 2018 I decided to change that and I put out a search of UK Black Female photographs and I have gone from knowing 4 to now having a Facebook Private community group of over 90 ladies.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were younger?

Nothing… life is full of experiences to make you who you are today. Without the experiences, you can’t find your purpose, passion and your why.

What song, quote, statement or image do you find most encouraging?

Images that encourage me the most are photographs of my loved ones. I am also an Affirmation lover so ‘Making my dreams a Reality’ is my most encouraging one as it keeps me going on my bad days.

How are you redefining a stereotype?

In the photography industry it is dominated by men, so often when I am on bookings, people will often make statements especially when I am photographing a wedding and they see me and my male team member. They are so surprised I am the main photographer. Shock fills their face and keeps telling me well done. We are going to redefine that female photographers can do it too! 

What advice or top tip would you give to the next generation of BAME individuals?

It’s hard when we live in a world of social media and we are constantly comparing our lives with everyone. So my advice to BAME individuals would be to be your own person, don’t follow the crowd, remember your WHY and make your dreams a reality.

Instagram: @Mellzphotographyltd

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