POC in the Industry: Coreen Simpson

As a person of color (POC) in an industry that used to and still kind of is dominated by white males, I would love to take the time to recognize great fashion photographers, models and more that contribute to the art. This will be an ongoing section on the blog so if you know of any POC’s doing great things for fashion photography then let me know in the comments below, Facebook me, tweet me or email me at aspen@aspencierraphotography.com .

Coreen Simpson
Courtesy of Essence Communications


First up in this, hopefully never-ending, series on POC’s in the industry is a badass lady that I found on a cool British site I follow called gal-dem, named Coreen Simpson. She was a photographer and jewelry designer. She attended top-tier fashion colleges Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design in New York City. She gained her start in the 1980s, shooting political events and artists, entertainers and athletes of the time. Her background in fashion then moved her into regularly shooting fashion work for The Village Voice, The New York Amsterdam News, as well as Vogue, Essence, Ms. Magazine and even more publications. Some of Simpson’s other work includes beautiful self-portraits and street-style photography in the streets of New York City.


When popularity of cameo-style jewelry started to go through the mainstream fashion circuit, Coreen Simpson was inspired to make jewelry inspired by the faces and features of black women, who were so often disenfranchised and left out of beauty culture at the time. In an interview with The Fader, they magazine asked Simpson what made her want to design jewelry since she came from a background in photography. She replied, “I’ve always loved jewelry since I was a child. And when I was working as a freelance photographer there was a transition period and I started selling things on the street with a friend of mine in the East Village. I took design courses at Parsons too—the more I took the more my jewels sold. Then I went to Madison and 57th Street—it was a hard time though because of the police. But one day I made so much money on 57th street I couldn’t believe it. Carolina Herrera, who still has a studio on 57th street, saw my things and invited me to her studio. She bought 11 of my necklaces for her resort collection.” Her line launched in 1990 and was all the rage among high profile people of color such as Oprah Winfrey and Debbie Allen.

Designer, Coreen Simpson with Civil Rights Icon, Rosa Parks. Courtesy of The Black Cameo Collection


Some of Coreen Simpson’s beautiful work and her jewelry collection can be found at The Black Cameo Collection.