“When I'm reading the newspaper or when I see people online, they kinda just focus on one little artsy area of Pittsburgh, and it's something people don't really talk about, but it's something that people talk about,” says Whitfield. “I feel like it would improve if we can kind of be as diverse as we claim that we are as a city, by just including every area of the city, not just that whole Bloomfield/Lawrenceville artsy area that people wanna highlight.”
Whitfield says one of her goals with the show is to highlight how all the photographers have completely different styles, from maternity photos to film portraits. “Everyone's style is completely different in how we're creators ... like the diversity in our shooting styles,” says Whitfield.
The show will include works by Corrine Jasmin, a poet who uses photography to share narratives about identity; B.LaRae, who focuses on portraits of families and children; and sara huny young, whose photos highlight Black women’s style and confidence. There will also be works by The Milton Company Complex, Renzo, Khadijah Yueseff, Raestxxx, Felicia Brown, and Jordyn Ari.
Gallery on Penn opened in November 2018 as part of the small-business incubator program, Catapult: Startup to Storefront, run by nonprofit Circles Greater Pittsburgh. The space aims to give independent, minority-owned businesses the opportunity to grow along with the East Liberty development that has left many behind. The space hosts art shows, food trucks, open-mics, and sells goods by women-owned businesses, like baked goods by CobblerWorld and natural, cruelty-free beauty products from Naptural Beauty Supply. I Luv Ur Work will also include giveaways from some of the businesses.
Another featured photographer, Latrice Phoenix, focuses on nudity and pregnancy as a way to build confidence in her subjects. “I specialize in nude photography, but I use my photography to facilitate discussions about the Black body and Black peoples’ experience in America,” says Phoenix. “Even when I do personal photoshoots, I like to take my client’s flaws and insecurities and just show them to them, but in a way that they can appreciate them, in a way they have never appreciated their bodies before.”
The title of the show, I Luv Ur Work, comes from Whitfield’s love of Mean Girls and the line “Danny DeVito, I love your work” (the poster art is also in the style of the Burn Book), but it also serves to correct the way Black women are often made to compete against each other. “Definitely events that I've done, they kind of put the Black girls together to compete, by either having two Black girls of the same genre, two Black girls of the same style,” she says.
But Whitfield says her event has only fostered support among the artists. “We're like, 'Hey I'm so excited to be able to work with you. I really love your work,' so that's something that we were all really saying when we all came together to do this event.”
Ultimately, the hope is that other galleries and event spaces in the city borrow Whitfield’s idea and feature more photography by Black women.
“We're kinda just shadows in the corner because we take photos. I wanna see more events of people incorporating more Black women female photographers, and just Black women displays in general."