Getty Images has launched the Black History & Culture Collection, a not-for-profit initiative that provides free, non-commercial access to historical and cultural images of the African and Black Diaspora in the US and UK dating back to the 19th century until the present day. The collection provides improved access to rarely-seen images to educators, academics, researchers, content creators and more, hopefully enabling new stories surrounding Black culture to be shared.
‘Getty Images is committed to making this historical content accessible to ensure a more authentic representation of world history and drive more meaningful dialogue,’ said Cassandra Illidge, Vice President of Partnerships at Getty Images. ‘This collection was curated in partnership with a roster of prestigious historians and educators with the goal of providing unfettered access to historical and contemporary imagery which will help content creators who have been seeking an inclusive visualization of history.’
The Black History & Culture Collection is a carefully created collection of images owned by Getty Images. Getty has partnered with internationally recognized researchers, historians, and educators, including Dr. Deborah Willis of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Jina DuVernay of Clark Atlanta University, Dr. Tukufu Zuberi of the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Mark Sealy MBE and Renée Mussai from the British-based photographic arts agency Autograph. This group provided feedback, expertise and insight into the creation of the collection, its images, and its future. The collection focuses on people, places, and events and contains nearly 30,000 images.
Dr. Deborah Willis said, ‘To be involved with the Black History & Culture Collection and work so closely with reframing access to these images made a tremendous impact on me personally and professionally. It offered me ways in which to guide my students’ research projects and to show how the Black History & Culture Collection is an active/useful archive that can be used by artists, scholars, families, politicians, and students to recontextualize the past and give new meaning to images that have been largely unknown or underused.’
‘Getty Images visual archive can provide a unique look into the past and bring untold stories to the present,’ said Ken Mainardis, SVP of Content at Getty Images. ‘With the launch of the Black History & Culture Collection, we are proud to be able to unearth and open-up access to content previously unavailable or hard to find, facilitating the better telling and understanding of Black history through our visual content.’
The Black History & Culture Collection follows up prior Getty efforts toward improved inclusion. In 2021, Getty established the Getty Images Photo Archive Grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This initiative supports digitizing archival photos from Historically Black College and Universities.
Getty Images says initiatives like these are important to overcome Getty’s and the photography industry’s lack of historical inclusion. Getty writes, ‘For too long, the historically dominant cultural structures that have built the photography industry and archives have been grounded in white supremacy dating back to the 19th Century and beyond.’ The new collection is a work in progress. Getty recognizes that there remain content gaps due in part to not wholly owning some content, and the company is working to address the gaps. Getty works with more than 300 content partners and more than 450,000 contributors, and Getty will work with these partners to include additional images in the Black History & Culture Collection.
Kwame Asiedu manages the collection. Asiedu told The Guardian, ‘The inception of this began in trying to respond to George Floyd’s murder. This project is really important because it’s about access and education and empowerment. For so long, those three words – regardless of whether it’s an image collection – have been missing from a lot of black communities around the world.’
You can preview some of the photographs without, but for full access to the collection, you must submit a request and agree to the terms. Your request can take up to two weeks to be approved. Getty writes, ‘Projects who request donated content from the collection must be non‑commercial and support learning about and reflecting on the histories and cultures of the African/Black Diaspora. Projects must be created and available pro‑bono; i.e., media, creative resources, etc., are all being donated free of charge and are not charging advertising against the finished content.’ Once a project becomes commercial, the content must be licensed. For more information, visit Getty Images.