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Joy McKinney was born in Montgomery, Alabama. She received her undergraduate degree from the Atlanta College of Art and her MFA in photography from Parsons The New School of Design, New York.

McKinney uses photography and video to explore contemporary social and cultural attitudes towards gender and race. Her work is rooted in social awareness and each of her projects is a deep exploration of one of its many facets.

 In her work, Joy McKinney transcends social norms and is not afraid to put herself in unconventional social positions in order to create a strong connection with her subjects and capture the strength and intensity of their emotions. With her experimental approach, she is able to challenge the socially accepted boundaries between people and connect with strangers in a real and meaningful way, in a bid to break down social barriers and social norms.

 Using photography as a deep spiritual practice, Joy McKinney is able to use her energy to draw the viewers into the photograph and show them something that can transcend and transform our beliefs about one another.

 Her work has been presented in various venues in Europe and the United States. Recipient of several awards, Joy McKinney was invited as guest speaker at the Design Indaba World Conference and guest lecturer at Parsons School of Design. Some of the publications that featured her artwork include Vogue, The Guardian, LensCulture, Peta Pixel, Core 77, The Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and Reframing Photography.