Getty Images has announced the launch of the Black History & Culture Collection (BHCC), which consists of over 30,000 historical images of the African/Black Diaspora that are free for non-commercial usage.
On the homepage of the collection, Getty Images acknowledges that photography archives have been grounded in white supremacy and that the history of the Black experience in America has often been seen through the eyes of white journalists. By making this collection available to all content creators, Getty Images is allowing new voices to highlight untold stories from the past.
I was curious about the quality of imagery I would find in the collection, so I searched for photographs of my idol, Malcolm X. I was pleased to discover quite a large number of images, including some that I had not seen before. In just a few minutes, I was able to assemble several photographs that, together, help show the complexity of Malcolm. One image shows Malcolm speaking with a slight smile on his face. This photograph presents him as a public figure but doesn’t portray him as an angry hate monger, as he was often mislabeled.
I also downloaded an iconic studio portrait of Malcolm from his later years. Typically, a unique photograph like this commands higher usage fees from Getty Images. This photograph, however, can now be used non-commercially at no cost.
Another remarkable image shows Malcolm teaching inside Temple #7 in Harlem from his time as a spokesperson for the Nation of Islam. His lesson about the origins of the term “Negro” is visible on a chalkboard at his side.
Finally, I downloaded a photograph of Malcolm talking to a group of women inside the NOI restaurant in Harlem. It is a candid, taken from a distance, that shows an intimate moment between Malcolm and his followers.
It will be interesting to see how creators and educators utilize these images in the months and years to come.