Ruby Melton, creator of Brown Girl With A Camera (Photo courtesy of R. Melton)
Raised in a household where it made more sense to study accounting than art, Ruby Melton left a career in finance for creative exploration.
“Photography is looked at as a hobby where you don’t make a lot of money or you can’t sustain yourself, but you really can sustain yourself if you have the determination and the passion,” said Melton, owner of Ruby Ella Photography.
During the summer of 2014, Melton was a photographer and chaperone in Costa Rica with the non-profit Girls Going Global. When she came home to the District, she had rolls of film, but nowhere to display them. “When I saw that there isn’t a medium just for us, I thought it would be really cool to create one where we can just shine a light on ourselves and our work, network and inspire each other,” said Melton, who created the platform Brown Girl With A Camera in August 2014.
A self-proclaimed “Instagram head,” Melton launched the platform on the popular social media site where she gained the most inspiration. Posting portraits, black-and-white photos, landscapes and more from fellow photographers, she has galvanized a loyal troop of over 1,000 brown girl photographers and those who love them.
Ultimately, she said, she would like to see more women of color in mainstream markets. “We know what we’re doing and we’re educated in knowing how to work a camera, but I feel like in more editorials, magazines and advertising, we don’t have much of a presence,” she said. “I see a lot of us doing portraits which is great, but we don’t tend to spread further than that, from what I can see and I’m not sure if it’s because we don’t have the opportunities or we’re just not acknowledged or looked to.”
In the meantime, Melton has taken the virtual concept to the streets, uniting women from across the globe through meetups in Washington, D.C., New York and Johannesburg, South Africa. “I’ve come to know a lot of really cool photographers who are truly making staples, creating brands and have great eyes,” she said. “They’re really inspirational for me in my own personal photography so it’s really cool being able to connect.”
Melton’s interest in photography dates back to childhood. “My family kept several huge photo albums of the family and I would always look at the pictures and say I would love to document my life in that way. So, whenever we would go on family vacations, I would always take pictures. Even at middle school, I would always bring my camera to take pictures just because, so it’s always been kind of instilled in me; and the more I traveled, the more I wanted to capture each place I went.”
Down the line, she hopes to guide other young women of color down her path. “I always want to do something in non-profit and help brown girls with an interest in photography but have no clue where to start – who don’t even have a camera,” she said. “I would love to do some mentoring – that’s what I see for Brown Girl With A Camera in the years to come.”
For more information, visit www.rubyella.com.