September 16, 2008

"It's a Man's World", by Lin Bee

" I did some research and what I found astonished me : apparently 90% of photographers are men, and a paltry 10% are women. And what is even more interesting is that this 90/10 split applies to ALL areas of photography, not just photographing images of people." Lin Bee

"It's a Man's World" by Lin Bee

from :

Sabine Schönberger
"Der Liebling des Saison"

" Last weekend we went to a Hogwarts Schmooze-up where parents were able to meet and greet the top professors and the eminent school governors. They were very interested in meeting Rich in particular. The fact that he was an internet entrepreneur and a photographer highly impressed them and they were very keen to give him their business cards.

It was noticeable that no-one at any time asked me what I did for a living, no-one offered me a business card, and although they were happy to talk to me about the kids, I was treated as a wife who was there merely as an extension of my husband.

Lordy, I thought such sexist stereotyping went out with the ark, but apparently not. I’ve never been a trophy wife before, so this was an entirely new experience for me.

Clearly careers are for men not women, and I should just stay home and knit.

Calliope's Room
"Watchful of Grace"

And then I got to thinking.

Does such sexual career stereotyping extend into the photographic world ?

Now I’m not talking about modelling here, I’m talking about the artists who create the images. So I did some research and what I found astonished me.

Apparently 90% of photographers are men, and a paltry 10% are women. And what is even more interesting is that this 90/10 split applies to ALL areas of photography, not just photographing images of people.

The evidence is unanimous, female photographers are always in the minority, regardless of photographic genre.

Landscapes, fine-art, travel, glamour, fetish, fashion, whatever, it’s a man’s world. Even readerships of photographic magazines (excluding women’s magazines and fashion) show a clear 80% male/20% female divide.

How so ?

Katerina Belkina
"For Picasso"

To me it’s a mystery.

Why are there more male photographers than female ?

Sophie Delaporte

I don’t believe for one moment it’s because magazines are sexist when choosing photographic submissions. The majority of editors I’ve come across are strictly equal opportunity motivated, and they are genuinely delighted to receive submissions from women. So why aren’t there more Annie Leibovitz’s out there ? Yes we all know the famous names such as Diane Arbus and Tina Modotti, to name but two, and there are thousands more talented published female photographers of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are in the minority. Maureen Gallagher of Lenswork observed that although MFA programs show a 50/50 split between men and women, once the Masters degree is done very few female graduates stay the course end and up doing photography for a living.

What is happening to these young women photographers after they earn their degree and enter the photographic industry ?

Do the majority quit to raise a family, or maybe they become teachers instead ? Or do these young female photographers become so quickly disillusioned with “the biz” that they then decide on a different career path ?

Gallagher wondered if this was due to the fault of the university courses themselves ? Maybe they lack the proper marketing-based training to enable these women to make it in “the real world” as successful photographers ? Or perhaps the problem is that the industry is too competitive and male orientated.
I know from personal experience just how difficult it is to succeed in a male orientated profession and you have to demonstrate a certain type of ruthlessness and aggression to get ahead and become “one of the boys.” Perhaps female artists are more sensitive than balshy accountants like myself, and thus are not able to be emotionally hard enough to make the necessary personality adjustments in order to compete.

Is female nature the main reason for why these women abandon the photographic profession ?

Diana Luganski

I do believe there’s some truth in the psychological gender stereotyping argument.

Perhaps the reason why so many landscape photographers are men, for example, is due to the fact that men are thought to be inherently more anti-social and find it easier to be alone.
Biologically human females are hard-wired to be more sociable in groups, so is this the reason that female photographers decide to teach photography and/or prefer to shoot mainly portraits, still life and culturally orientated themes ?

Obviously this genre classification is not exclusive, and no-one should take offence here. I’m not trying to be sexist, I’m just trying to find some answers. I’m analysing statistics, generalising wildly and there are always exceptions to every rule, the more the merrier – indeed, let’s challenge stereotyping whenever possible because how else can you bring about change ?

Mimi Nikolova
"Yellow Rose"

Lastly there’s the important matter of market forces to consider. Of course the vast majority of photographic models are women because the industry is driven by consumer demand. Most glamour and nude photographs are looked at by men, so it follows that most models are women and most photographers are men. The industry is simply responding to heterosexual stereotyping.

People like to photograph what they find attractive and beautiful, and thus is follows that there are more male photographers photographing chix than women. Again, this is the essence of human nature.
Glamour, fetish and nude photographers love women and being with them, otherwise they wouldn’t do what they do, but how much of that is because the models are obviously attractive and sexy and how much of it is because they genuinely find it easier to relate to being with women rather than men ?

In the end, it always seems to come back to human physiology and psychology before anything else.

So that’s it then. Whether or not you become a working photographer is all down to different hard-wiring between men and women. You only spend your life as a photographer if it’s in your nature to do so, and what genre you choose depends on your gender and sexual orientation.

Is it really that simple ? And if so, how can we change the 90/10 split and should we even try ?"

Tanya Rudenko

Elena Vasilieva

Have a look !


David Cupp said...

I found this post a fascinating read. I know that I have had some trouble in my photographic life being a man - the local portrait photographers in my area are nearly all women and even when I look for assisting jobs I have often been explicitly told that really only women do well with photographing people. In my nude work, I have more trouble finding male models because they only want to work with women. Overall, I think that while you're right that in the photographic world taken as a whole, things are geared towards men - there are many individual experiences on both sides of the gender divide that contradict the general rule.

Chris St James said...

Fine thoughts ! Another approach I like ! Thanks for your comment. Lin will read it.