On the 29th of July 2022, Polly Irungu made history for Kenya by becoming the first official photo editor in the office of Vice President Kamala Harris. This was a significant win for her and marked one of many achievements she has acquired during her photography journey.
Polly Irungu was born in Kenya but moved to Kansas with her family at the age of four. She has lived in different parts of the world ever since, from Oregon to Arkansas to Brooklyn, New York and now Washington DC.
Polly discovered her love for photography in high school. In an interview with origins worldwide, she mentioned that she started photography in Oregon to find her creative side. She managed to save up the money she earned while working at Mcdonalds and bought herself all the necessary equipment.
Polly Irungu’s journey started with documenting and capturing everyday people’s stories and the things happening around her. Day in and day out, she would take the time to teach herself all she needed to know about photography.
In 2017, Polly completed a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. After that, she worked as a digital editor at New York Public radio before she ventured into self-employment. Aside from photography, she has also managed to achieve so much in terms of writing. Polly has had her work published by various well-known publications like Buzzfeed, BBC News, The Washington Post, CNN and Global Citizen.
During her photography journey, Polly discovered how hard it was for black women in her field to gain recognition and find employment. This inspired her to start an initiative called Black Women Photographers. A global community of black women and non-binary identifying photographers who help each other to grow.
Polly first entered the spotlight in 2020 when her work was featured on the Nasdaq billboard in the New York Times Square as part of amplifying black women’s voices. She also teamed up with Nikon USA in an initiative to award selected photographers approximately USD 50,000 in grants and cash prizes. This money was meant to help their businesses and inspire other women to pursue their dreams. One of the participants, Wanjiku Gitau, received USD 5,000.
Polly Irungu has worked with reputable media organizations over the years, such as the International Women’s Media Foundation and WeTransfer. She is also part of the IWMF Gwen Ifill Fellow, a programme designed to address the lack of diversity in leadership positions across newsrooms in the United States.
As Polly celebrated her achievement, she also decided to celebrate her mother, Dr Jane Irungu, who landed a new position as Utah State University’s first Vice president of diversity, equity and Inclusion. Her win has made Kenyans proud and inspired women worldwide to work towards their dreams and tell different stories. Polly joins another Kenyan in the white house called Joy Ngugi, who serves in the office of Digital Strategy in Biden’s administration.