Chippewa Valley Equality Initiative
Community Spotlight: Blessing Joseph (Blessing Opeyemi Photography)
*All photos, courtesy of Blessing Opeyemi Photography
Meet Blessing Opeyemi Joseph. A 21 year old student in her final year at UW-Stout majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Graphic Media Print Management.
Freshman year of college, Blessing was required to take a photography course as a requirement for her minor degree. Having never done photography in the past, she was very hesitant and reluctant, as photography was not an interest, and she wanted to continue courses directly related to her minor versus a general photography course.
She never imagined that entering the photography classroom of Keif T. Oss would change her life in such a positive way, and help her learn many things about herself overall. Blessing describes Oss as a man who loved photography and videography, and would encourage the class to take photos every single day. As a part of the course, he started a weekly competition, where students could post a picture, and he would choose a winner for extra credit. The first week, Blessing won the competition. Thus began the inspiration and encouragement to continue exploring her photography journey. With Oss's encouragement, he challenged Blessing to change her mindset towards growth instead of stagnancy. She recalls him saying, "Do what you don't know, because that's how you grow." and states that for those words, she will be forever grateful.
Blessing's newfound passion, inspired her to rent a camera from the library every single week. Taking more and more photos, and learning and growing. When COVID-19 hit, the school library allowed students to keep the cameras for a period of 6 months, versus a week. This allowed Blessing the opportunity to improve even more, and eventually lead her to start her business in June of 2020 - Blessing Joseph Photography.
While there were many people encouraging and supporting Blessing in her journey, her biggest inspiration was her mom. In the beginning, it was easy to get discouraged, when she didn't get the traction of clientele and financial boost she had been hoping for. However, her mother gently reminded her that it was a passion before it was a business. That grounding advice is what kept her going and happy at the end of every single day.
In December of 2020, Blessing made the decision to change the name of her business from Blessing Joseph Photography to Blessing Opeyemi Photography. Opeyemi (her middle name, which she shares with her aunt), pays homage to her Nigerian culture on her mother's side.
Blessing Opeyemi Photography aims to not only capture beauty and character, but to amplify BIPOC voices. To give them a space where they are seen. Blessing notes that the media doesn't represent BIPOC voices unless it is traumatizing, or centered around a white savior. She says, "We need to have a better representation of what BIPOC do and care about." This inspires her to show different people in her work. Different ethnicities, intersectionality's, and people while amplifying BIPOC voices and giving them a platform that isn't racist, and that is meant for them.
There are many different ways that the Chippewa Valley an support BIPOC businesses according to Blessing. Individuals in BIPOC communities do not get the same traction as their white counterparts. This shows the need for more transparency, and individuals taking the time to access how they are supporting BIPOC individuals, businesses, organizations and different intersectionality's.
An important way that people can support BIPOC businesses, is by giving them a platform. Advertising them by telling friends, family and co-workers. Valuing BIPOC work, and paying for it. Sharing work while giving credit, tagging businesses or individuals when someone is searching for a specific good or service, and suggesting a BIPOC business if you have access in an organization or business who needs a specific service.
For Black History Month, Blessing beautifully captured photos through a shoot centered around Black trauma. She states, "People think that Black history started with Black trauma....Black people come from different folds. Different parts of the clock. A mix of so many different cultural backgrounds. Things that are happy and beautiful."
She encourages individuals to recognize the beauty of Black history, and Black people. Acknowledging all the spaces that Black individuals occupy in our society. From writers to lawyers, to doctors, to fast food workers. Taking into account all of the incredible things that Black people have done for our country. This photos shoot aims to inspire individuals to show Black people in beautiful ways instead of demonizing the ways that they cannot grow, or thinking that all they have is trauma.
Support Blessing by liking, following, and booking through the links below: