"Women were photography pioneers yet gender inequality persists in the industry today" is the title of a 2019 article in The Conversation. In this straightforward and insightful piece, Celia Rose Jackson, a Senior Lecturer in Photography & Fashion Promotion at the University of South Wales, lays out some of the main issues faced by women photographers nowadays, highlighting how few opportunities are there for female photographers to sell their work
Another side to these impaired opportunities – or at least a sign of the potential outcomes of a lack of representation – and something that concerns us at Excio Photography Community, has been brought to our attention recently. First, with a query why we support women photographers. Then, with the announcement of the 2021 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year winners - all of whom were men.
By all means, we celebrate the success of the winners - their photographs are highly deserved. Our question is: Why is it that photography remains a male-dominated field? With 6000 entries surely there was a handful of highly deserved photographs by women as well. That said, if the selection was blind, then the question becomes: “Do male judges see themselves reflected in the photographs they are judging?
Unfortunately, this news is not new. The world of photography and, to a large extent, photographs themselves, have been highly influenced - not to say defined - by an androcentric perspective and modus operandi. As this other article stresses, the issue of gender inequality in the photography industry “is not a lack of female photographers who are qualified and capable. Instead, it is pushback and a real choice made by organizations and companies in who they hire and promote.” But just because this has been the status quo for so long it doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted. If anything, it should be taken with a grain of salt.
Indeed, for any activity to flourish, it must embrace diversity; it must keep pace with the people and tendencies that support it. And in the case of the photo industry, this means creating a space for all demographics to have the chance to thrive. One effective and increasingly popular way to do that has been to set up collectives and initiatives such as Excio’s ‘Photography For Women’, that put the work of women in the foreground, giving them not only the chance and confidence to shine, but also allowing for authenticity in photography to be reassessed and redefined.
To circle back to the relevance of the result of this year’s NZ Geographic Awards: By no means should the value of the work of winners – or men in general – be questioned. The true value lies in the work of the photographer, regardless of gender, nationality, race, skin colour... What does require questioning, however, is how far these attributes set predispositions for the work to be acknowledged and appreciated; and, consequently, how these predispositions affect both the industry and the ones that don’t fit the standard. After all, if we want more fairness in the world of photography, we need to see this broad diversity of photographers reflected back in our photographs.
So, the question remains: How well are women represented in the photography industry?
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