St. Louis Creative Who Photographed Kamala Harris and Janelle Monáe Honors the Stories of BIPOC Women Who Paved the Way

Mar 15, 2024 | People Make the Place, Stories

Professional photographer Myrina Renaissance is equal parts hustle and humble, and she’s hungry to nurture a network of Black women creatives. When she’s not at her day job taking strikingly creative portraits of clients and documenting events, Renaissance is bringing to life an ambitious and meaningful multimedia exhibition series, Her Eminent Reign. To date this year, the award-winning project has received over 7.5 million views, including during the exhibition’s run at the St. Louis International Lambert Airport.

Her Eminent Reign is a BIPOC, multi-women led visual arts production and art experience, which includes audio and performance, honoring BIPOC women from the past whose stories may have been forgotten,” Renaissance said.

It was fitting when, in September 2023, Renaissance was selected to document the show of iconic singer, songwriter and actor, Janelle Monáe, when she came to St. Louis during The Age of Pleasure tour.

Renaissance recalls hearing about the opportunity and submitting an application through the Black Women Photographers’ website to be considered as the official photographer for the show. A busy mother of six, she had practical concerns about her schedule when – less than a week out from the performance – she hadn’t heard back. As is often the case, Renaissance took her fate into her own hands.

“The show was on a Wednesday night. I needed a babysitter and needed to know! Okay, let me put a little gas on this thing,” Renaissance said with a laugh. She took to Instagram, calling upon her community to tag Black Women Photographers. The next day, they reached out to her. Her mother-in-law had already put a tentative hold on her calendar to watch the kids.

Networking with Monáe’s team after the success of the St. Louis gig, Renaissance was asked to document shows in Atlanta and Phoenix.

At 7:00 p.m. the night before the October 6 concert in Atlanta, Renaissance received a vague DM on Instagram. Details were thin, but she was told there was a “high-profile person” coming to St. Louis in need of a local photographer. Skeptical, Renaissance took a call from them, which came from a Washington D.C. phone number. The person in question was Vice President Kamala Harris, who was coming into town during the Democratic National Committee’s 2023 fall meeting.

And so, 10:00 a.m. the next day, Renaissance photographed the Vice President and, promptly afterwards, caught a plane to Atlanta. She is quick to thank photographers and videographers Dana Christian, Church Productions and the rest of her supportive network of creatives who stepped up to help out during this busy, career-elevating time.

While all of this sounds impressive – and it certainly is – it’s important to highlight how grounded and real Renaissance is as she talks about these milestone moments. It’s a valuable perspective she’s gained throughout her professional journey and one that propels her work forward.

“I can’t say I always know the answer, but I try to push past uncertainties,” Renaissance said. “Learning to constantly adapt on set and be willing to learn something new – those are the things that have been my saving grace.” She adds that being overwhelmed can be a barrier to even getting started, so perseverance is an important lesson.

Renaissance first picked up a camera alongside her late father around 10 years old. He was known as “the picture man.” It was common to see him in clubs taking photos of patrons in front of a branded backdrop or photographing weddings and other gigs. Renaissance admits, at the time, it wasn’t her favorite thing to do. Fast forward to her corporate career, Renaissance spoke candidly about how the higher on the corporate ladder she climbed, the more scrutiny she received.

“I no longer fit the mold of corporate America,” Renaissance noted. “I needed to be independent. I wanted my hair and clothing to be more in line with my culture. I wanted to be a part of changing the often negative, narrow narrative of how the public views us as a culture and a people.”

Renaissance picked her camera back up with a sharp focus on portraiture of Black women and families – getting more stylistic and creative as she grew her portfolio.

Whether it’s empowering women to get outside of their comfort zones and tap into their true selves during a portrait session, inspiring women to embrace their existing and future leadership roles, or delving deep into research for Her Eminent Reign, Renaissance is on a mission to ensure women creatives can co-collaborate in spaces that cultivate sisterhood and pave the way for more authentic and professional opportunities.

“We usually have around four Black women on set; it’s a full show and super dope production at an affordable rate. Every woman deserves that,” Renaissance said. “We hire project managers, set designers, makeup and hair, custom jewelry makers, stylists sewing and creating from scratch. It’s all about supporting creatives and telling a story.”

The story of Renaissance and the community of creatives around her continues Sunday, March 24 during She Believed, a benefit concert and art experience with live performances featuring Be.Be the Neo Soul, Latoya Sharen and nationally-known soul violinist, Bell Darris. The event, which will take place in historic Ferguson, Missouri, marks the official kickoff to Her Eminent Reign’s campaign year, with proceeds supporting the She Believed documentary, which is set to premier in March 2025.

Those who wish to support Renaissance’s campaign and mission to support BIPOC women creatives can make a tax-deductible gift at this link.

Photography provided by Myrina Renaissance. Header image by ModernDojo Designs during the 2023 The Armor of HER event.