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Stock photography company breaks barriers by showcasing diverse people

Posted at 4:05 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 18:05:55-04

Nathan Moore is ready to show the world he’s finally comfortable in his skin.

"I'm currently 18 years old, I have a huge passion for arts, and I identify as a transgender male. So I was born female, and now I identify and transitioned to a male," Moore said.

Moore made the transition two years ago. He said he’s happy to identify as how he’s always felt, but sometimes it can be a little lonely.

"It is a hard process being out there and finding people to connect with because you don’t know if you want to put yourself out there because you don’t want to risk the dangers of people turning against you, or being weirded out that you’re trans,” Moore said.

Moore is taking that leap of faith and choosing to be genuine to his true self. He hopes to be a role model for others who can relate, and is finding that opportunity through TONL.

“TONL was birthed from actually realizing that there were a lot of stories that were being misrepresented or untold about marginalized groups,” co-founder Karen Okonkwo said.

Together, Okonkwo and Joshua Kissi founded a diverse stock photography business. They realized most stock photography out there only showcased one type of person, which they say can subconsciously impact someone’s view of the world, or themselves. Growing up, Okonkwo said she was rarely able to identify herself with the people depicted in mainstream media.

"Most of the mainstream media like 90210, Friends, Full House -- those were all depictions of white families, white people in general, white love," Okonkwo said.

So now, Okonkwo and Kissi are hoping they can help all types of people feel included in society.

“Most importantly, I want people to look at the image and be like ‘that’s me, I feel comfortable, I feel like that represents me,'” Kissi said.

It’s a chance to celebrate our differences and break down any barriers that separate us.

“To include marginalized people does not mean that we’re excluding white people at all. It’s just amplifying those voices that have otherwise been nonexistent or suppressed for decades,” Okonkwo said.

The team believes exposure to new cultures and kinds of people helps others to be less judgmental, and more understanding.

“When you know people’s stories, you get through those layers and naturally build empathy toward others,” Okonkwo said.

They say it’s more than just a stock photography business. It’s a way to positively impact people’s lives.

“In Nathan’s case today, it was something that was really special because he’s coming into his own, so to celebrate where’s he’s at now in this stage of life as transitioning… it’s really really special to do that,” Kissi said.

Kissi said showcasing Moore’s story proves its significance. And Moore said he plans to continue shining a light on his community, so the world can accept them as they are.

“The more and more I feel like I speak out, the better chance I have of spreading that progress and that message around,” Moore said.