Meet the photographer empowering women of color with her gorgeous portraits.

10 years ago, Sasha Matthews was pregnant and felt so alone.

Matthews was pregnant and had little support. She spent most of her pregnancy talking to other pregnant women online. In fact, Matthews only has one or two pictures of herself from those 40 weeks. One doesn't even have her face in it.

"My whole life dynamic changed," she says. "I felt very shamed and hidden away and didn't feel very important."


So when she transitioned from her career in mental and behavioral health to photography, she knew she wanted to support and empower women, especially women of color.

Today, Matthews, founder of Green Tangerine Photography, takes absolutely stunning photos that showcase women of color during the seasons of their lives.

All photos by Sasha Matthews/Green Tangerine Photography, used with permission.

She's best known for her maternity photographs. With stunning gowns, compelling poses, and happy, confident mamas, Matthews' beautiful work celebrates black motherhood the way it deserves to be celebrated.

"I knew — particularly with women of color who are often shamed for the number of kids they have or how they have their children or how their motherhood is constantly in question — that I wanted to show the side of 'Look at these gorgeous mamas!'" she says.

Matthews encourages her clients to rock fabulous dresses, makeup, or anything else that makes them feel beautiful.

A firm believer that you can never be overdressed for a portrait, Matthews even keeps racks of gowns in multiple sizes in her studio for women who can't afford to spend the money on something new to wear.

She also researches poses and styling to make sure women of every size feel elegant and powerful in their photographs.

"Taking pictures is hard for me even," she says. "If you look better, then you'll feel more confident."

She's had the privilege of watching families bloom and grow seemingly right in front of her eyes.

From engagement photos and maternity photos to newborn and family photos, Matthews' work is never done. And that's exactly how she likes it.

Many clients even become friends. Matthews babysits, attends birthday parties, and sends flowers if a relative passes. It's much more than a business transaction; it's community-building.

"It's really that personal for me," she says. "I am documenting monumental parts of people's lives."

Since telling her story and sharing her work, Matthews discovered the unique power of the words, "me too."

Though Matthew's son is now 10, many people are hearing her story for the first time. Some reached out to share similar feelings of shame or loneliness during pregnancy. For them, her story is hopeful: If she can get through it, they can too.

"I think people want to know they're not the only person who's being shamed. They're not the only person who's not being supported," Matthews says. "And I tell people all the time, there's so much power in the words, 'me too.'"

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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