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What is The New Normal? And How is a White Photographer Contributing to Social Inclusivity

When a model & influencer and a photographer come together to organize a photo shoot, but instead create social awareness platform that has taken the Dutch creative community by storm.

The New Normal is an initiative that was created by two mixed-race women, Cuba (@Cubalinaaa) and Arantxa (@Arantxaoosterwolde) who is also queer, which was originally inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM movement weighed in heavily on both of their hearts as both have black heritage and are activists for the movement. They realized there was a gap in society, something was missing, a place for the new generation (generation Y & Z) to come together in a neutral setting, where it didn’t matter if you were black, white, yellow, green, gay, transgender or asexual. A safe space to discuss and brainstorm what the future of the creative sector will look like, how to collectively move forward. They saw that the momentum of the BLM movement was slowing down and questioned how society could return to ‘normal’ after such groundbreaking and soul-shaking events. Leading to them realization that they wanted to create “The New Normal”. They knew that sitting back and doing nothing would get them nowhere so being go-getters they put together the first successful event.

The First Event:

Founders of The New Normal Cuba & Arantxa

The construct of the first event was formed of panel talks, which included the following topics; Workplace Environment, Contribution of Art From and Towards a More Inclusive and Diverse Audience, Modern Day Activism and Health & Self-Care. These were chosen as these are burning topics based on how the current social issues are affecting the creative community. Health & Self-Care was included as a reminder that even during these times, it is important to focus on your mental health as that is what drives you and keeps you going. They choose 2 to 3 inspiring people per theme that they knew could share some wisdom on that topic. Interaction with the audience was promoted in order to create an open dialogue to allow for the various perspectives to be heard, which in turn broadens one’s own perspectives. After the panel talks small groups were formed, a statement was given to each group and they were told to discuss this with each other. The goal of this exercise was to encourage deeper thinking in relation to the topics given and also to urge the necessity of open communication in the creative community.

The Second Event:

The second The New Normal Event began with an icebreaker named “Crossing the Line”. They would say a statement such as “Do I feel like I have missed out on opportunities based on the color of my skin”, if it applied to you, then you would cross the line. The goals of this icebreaker was the show how differently people are treated based on inequality and racism. They wanted to point this out to put more emphasis on the journey creatives need to embark on to create a better world. Their vision for the future is for everyone to be on the same line, no matter your skin color, gender or sexual orientation. This was then followed by two panel talks; Work and The Next Generation. They asked questions such as “How much does representation matter to the psyche of a child? And how can creatives/society contribute to this”. By asking these questions they want to inspire the audience and the panel members to think more deeply, with the intention of looking for solutions. Thereafter, they similarly did the group exercise they did at the first event.

Both events also had food they had either cooked themselves or worked in collaboration with a black owned catering company, Switi Tjaps (@Switi.tjaps). They also felt that as they had this platform with a big audience, they wanted to give a pedestal to a few black owned of POC owned small businesses, such as clothing brand Awakati (@Awakati_) and spiritual store (@Moonfeelsonline).

Zara Founder of Switi Tjaps Serving Food
Isabel with her Girlfriend at a BLM Protest

Everyone involved in this initiative does some sort of modern-day activism or is trying to impact the world to make it more inclusive environment, whether it’s the panel participants, the caterers, the small businesses being presented as well as most of the audience.

The newest team member of The New Normal, Isabel Janssen (@Outsider.i) is photographer that was on one the panel for “Towards a More Inclusive and Diverse Audience”. She is someone that understands her privilege as a white woman and believes that white people need to take more

responsibility the racial issues in The Netherlands, the world and in the creative industry. She is cis-gender and a queer woman and thus understands that she also lacks privileges but with the privilege she has she is adamant on using her work to create change.

Isabel Janssens Work for Awakati

Isabel got into photography due to her interest in the power of visual language and how stories and emotions can be captured without the use of words. She believes that as a white creative it’s important to understand when to speak up and when to create space for other to speak up. She mentioned that she is not afraid to speak her truth and point out injustices occurring in front of her or around her. She also mentioned that she notices how often black photographer mainly reached out to during Black History Month and queer photographers during Pride Month, being seen as exceptions and to make a brand seem more ethical. As long as this is the case, she feels the responsibility as a white creative to work toward change so that there is no long a “Black Photographer” but simply a “Photographer” and that everyone is given the same opportunities.

When asked about how she will use her medium of photography to create a more inclusive society she focused on the power photography has and how it has captured so many soul-moving moments that has led to change. She points out how it allows the viewer to have a glimpse into other places, times and people that we would never come across in our daily life, which can broaden perspectives and lead to change. In her opinion diversity is important understanding the differences between people and appreciating them as we are one human race. Until people are no longer seen as “better than” or “worth more” than others we will not be able to thrive on the full capabilities of humans to lead to a better society.

Captured by Isabel. An Activist at a BLM Protest

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