Most celebrity obsessives and members of the Beyhive already recognize Raven B. Varona, or Ravie B. as she’s known professionally. Her behind-the-scenes images of stars like Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Big Sean, and more are regularly shared across social media.
Varona’s career behind the camera started off like any other creative career; she hustled, picking up side gigs while balancing a regular nine-to-five, before realizing “I’m dedicating 40 hours a week to a job I don’t love. How about I pick those 40 hours and dedicate it to my passion and see what I can do with it.”
Hard work and manifestation have gotten the photographer where she is today. “I think if you ask anybody around me they would say a lot of things that have happened in my life, I’ve manifested,” the photographer told Essence. “I definitely speak them out aloud. I’ve definitely written them down. I’ve tweeted them into the universe.” Now, Varona is setting her sights on new projects showing the range of her talent.
She’s amped about a new collaboration with Bombay Sapphire’s #FindYourCanvas initiative, a partnership that caught her eye because “I really appreciate how much creative freedom they give to the artists they work with. The brand stressed that it’s about personal expression, bringing out my inner artist and what inspires me creatively. This personal photo project I’m working on is very important to me and where I’m at on my career journey. I appreciate Bombay Sapphire for supporting me.” Varona recently taught an interactive photography class at New York’s The Other Art Fair in collaboration with the brand.
The photographer is working on a personal photo exhibit—her first solo show in New York—which will arrive next year. And, she’s hoping 2020 will be the year she shoots her first magazine cover.
Through her personal work, Varona looks to celebrate the borough she’s from and the people and places that shaped her. “I want to pay homage,” she said. “I grew up in the Bronx my whole life, I still live in the Bronx, and so I want to pay homage to all the places I grew up in.”
Varona’s work also goes beyond celebs, beyond herself, she’s providing representation for other Black women who aspire to do the work she does.
“My first very early gigs doing music stuff and being in the photo pit, I never saw women who looked like me,” she said. “In the pit, it was a bunch of white guys shooting concert photos and it was really frustrating because I always felt like the wrong people were telling our story.”
She continues: “Also, did they care about the subject, you know? For me, at first it felt like I was giving back. I felt like, especially, with music and pop culture, like, ‘Okay, this is the music I love, these are the brands I love, the people I love. This is my way of giving back to these other artists and creatives that are giving something to me.’ And then I started to feel like I had more of a responsibility, as a woman of color to really tell our stories and use the environment I grew up in and all these things I’ve experienced to really document things in a perspective that was unique to us.”
Varona is excited about what’s ahead, not just her own projects, but by the idea that other women will be picking up a camera and joining her in the pit.
“I wake up every day and I’m excited. I’ve taken a lot of time to think about what stories I want to tell, continue to tell, and new stories I want to tell. How I want my perspective to be unique. Especially in this climate and in this time, I think our stories are even more sensitive and special, and we have to protect them and we have to be the ones to tell them visually, creatively. So it is very exciting, I am seeing other Black women photographers and other women and other people that look like me. I definitely do now see a shift where it’s not just white men that are documenting our culture.”