eikona said: This is tremendously insightful, I never knew this existed in the industry. Hopefully more females will join your example and speak out, there needs to be some sort of affirmative action implemented whereby female photographers get 50% of the work. Agree?
No no no no no no no no no no! No. The discussion is important but hiring just based on gender and not the work would be a huge slippery slope and damaging to the industry. It would undermine all of the progress female photographers have made up to now. I am not sure of the solution, but some sort of affirmative action is definitely not it. Alerting those in hiring positions to their tendencies, even if they are subconscious, is a great start.
I would like to note that I can already see that the female responses across the internet are being taken as whiny (I make the mistake of reading comments). That is why it was so great of Daniel to start the discussion; had it just begun with a female perspective, it would have stayed swirling around womens’ blogs and would not have gained the traction it did. Like Emily Shur said, ”I would even venture to say that perhaps this topic doesn’t get brought up that often in public amongst female photographers because we can’t ever risk being perceived as weak and whiney, bitchy, overly emotional girls.”
Regardless, I have a few things to say on the matter and it doesn’t just extend to editorial photography.
When I first started out in photography, I didn’t think there would be any issues with my being female. I looked up to female editorial and commercial photographers who were older than me and it seemed like they were killing it and I naively didn’t even think about gender being a factor. In fact, I don’t think it ever really has been an issue for me until recently, when the stakes have been higher. Sometimes I will bid on a commercial job that involves a lot of travel. I will always lose to the male I’m up against. Obviously someone in charge thinks a guy can handle travel better. It’s something I’ve gotten used to. The best way to fight it is to just nail every shoot that comes along and build a solid reputation. The prejudice will always be there; it probably isn’t worth screaming and having a tantrum about. Just win small battles.
I’ve also noticed that on these bigger jobs, personality comes into play and as a female, you have to really watch yourself. I am really outgoing, try to have fun on set, yet I make sure the shots are made and things get done right. I also look really, really young. I am 31 years old. I am often mistaken for being in my mid-twenties. Ageism plus sexism is a double whammy of a wall to have to push up against. It catches people off-guard that someone small, young-looking, and female is going around running the show. And the Catch-22 is that it is your job to do so. So it’s a balance of being a little passive and being on top of your shit. It’s kind of a no-win situation. It’s hard to even think about those two dumb issues when you just want to be yourself. I forget that I look young all the time until I lose a job because the art buyer thought I was a kid. Maybe that’s coupled with being female, as well. Who knows? The Nicki Minaj quote that Daniel included in his original post is absolutely spot on. For reference: “When you’re a girl, you have to be everything. You have to be dope at what you do, but you have to be super sweet, and you have to be sexy, and you have to be this and you have to be that and you have to be nice, and you have to — it’s like, I can’t be all of those things at once. I’m a human being.”
Most art buyers and photo editors are female; they’re doing the hiring. Why this is, I don’t know, nor will I speculate. It is insulting to start mentioning things like “they couldn’t be photographers themselves so they became editors.” I went to London in March to meet with art buyers and met two males (practically the only ones in Europe!) who joked about having a protest to get more male art buyers into the profession. Yet females in the workplace don’t often get along. There are a lot of subtle power struggles, subconscious jealousy, and sometimes females just plain don’t like each other. A lot of this begins in junior high. Anyone who has survived junior high can attest to this. There are a few “female photographer” photo groups out there, but is there any female group that in any way compares to the supergroup of the good-looking editorial guys in their 20s and 30s who shoot everything? (You know who I’m talking about.) No. We don’t band together in the same way. And that’s fine. It’s just worth noting. In a way, I can understand why female photo editors are hiring men—there’s that playfulness in your interactions which you can pull off with someone of the opposite sex. It’s human nature. I have way more guy friends than female friends. Most of my photo assistants on big jobs are men. Why am I not hiring women either? It’s a good question. Does any of this mean I don’t get a sting when my all the cute local guy photographers 8 years younger than me are now shooting for the publications I shot for a few months ago? Or when I see the list of photographers in an issue and it’s literally all dudes? Of course not. All of these issues should be aired out and made plain, and hiring decisions should of course ultimately come from the work. But it’s naive to think that there isn’t a social dynamic that is a huge factor.
One thing that really bothers me is the double standard about behavior. I sometimes feel like I have to curtail my strong nature on the internet and on shoots. I am pretty outspoken about things (nerdy things like RAW file processing for example). Sometimes I’ll get an anonymous message on my Tumblr saying “what you said makes you not sound very nice.” Would a male photographer EVER get a comment like that? If you’re female and not being “nice,” you’re a bitch because you have opinions. If you’re complaining about being called a bitch, you’re being whiny. To take it to an extreme: would a female photographer be a successful millionaire like Terry Richardson if she went around doing the abhorrent things he does? Of course not. But he’ll shoot your next GQ cover, and many more hence. I get really sweet messages from female photographers all the time saying that they respect that I speaking my mind on my blog and elsewhere. They are often too scared about their reputations to do so. I just think that it is so crazy that this is an anomaly.
Huge thanks to Daniel and everyone else for their awesome contributions to this discussion.
I wasn’t expecting to be quoted there. I wish I had been asked some more questions directly. The response I posted on my blog was rushed, not written well, and didn’t include every point I wanted to make. I wrote a much longer one and sent it to Daniel who will be publishing it alongside some other responses next week.
Please join us for the ADC Young Guns 11 Jury Panel, a moderated discussions meant to give future Young Guns insight on how some of the jury members themselves became Young Guns and the types of things they will be looking for as jurors. ADC Young Guns 11 Call For Entries closes on June 16.