feminism

Talent is irrelevant - women are tired of being disrespected in the field

1. I’m so glad my post (embedded below) resonated with so many people, I’m glad I’ve gotten to express this beyond grumblings to close friends. I am so grateful for all of the comments and messages I’ve received and the fact we’re even talking about this.

2. Allow something to burst that’s been bubbling up for a long time: I am immensely self conscious when I’m in the field and always act with bravado in order to prove myself as a worthy photographer around other primarily older, primarily male photographers, regardless of their ability. 

Take the whole “my lens is bigger than yours” thing - I frequently keep my lens hood (for non-photogs: a debatably useless piece of plastic that extends the lens about 4 inches) on the camera, even in situations where it isn’t necessary, in order to act tough and to try to prove my worth with the physical size of my gear. 

Even then, when my camera looks so laughably oversized that it constantly warrants comments from old men like “my, little lady, your camera is so BIG!!” (to this day I don’t know why they tell me this? Do they think I didn’t notice that very heavy weight on my right shoulder?), amateur male photographers will take pleasure in telling me what shutter speed is.

Non-photogs: you’ve heard of shutter speed. I’ve learned about shutter speed in every “Intro to Photography” class I’ve ever taken since 7th grade.

But it’s not always so blatant. What set me off on this whole tirade was a photographer I encountered shooting a long exposure photo of a ferris wheel with two other older male photogs. 

I started talking to him, with my credentials on and my manfrotto tripod and sizable camera (a tip off, hopefully, that I know what I’m doing!) and start asking him about his shooting. And he shows me his photos on his phone and talks about his work and his suggestions for my shots. Never once asks to see my work or acts interested in what I was doing there. 

Maybe it was an accidental oversight on his part or a disinterest in other photographer’s work. BUT that sort of act has happened to me so frequently in the ten years I’ve pursued shooting, that even if it was a coincidence, it’s so similar to the rest of my encounters that it doesn’t matter. 

Most times I talk to a male photographer, he will impose his work on me and lavish me with his wisdom or suggestions for compositions without showing any interest in my photography. (side note: if you EVER tell me what to photograph and I don’t know you? I will never take that photograph.) 

I can think of a single time recently that I was treated as an equal immediately by a male photographer. It took me by surprise and I am proud to call that photographer a friend because he didn’t write me off. 

We were both covering the same story in the Athens County Courtroom and I leaned over and asked if he was using a mirrorless (non-photogs: a new type of camera) and he said yes and promptly began talking technical to me, trusting me to understand the terminology (which I did). 

THAT IS SO RARE! Usually they use terms like “yeah I have a BIG CAMERA” or I use a “BIG lens” instead of telling me the specs or anything useful. 

When I’m being ignored, yelling “Stop! I’m a good photographer too! I know this!” isn’t really appropriate. So a lot of the time I just nod along and tune out for a bit. 

But I’m tired of doing it and don’t really know how to stand up for myself in these situations. So I’ve decided to talk about it and use my role as president of the OU chapter of the National Press Photographers Association to encourage an open forum about our experiences in the field. (And many other current topics in the photojournalism industry - NPPA members, get excited!)

I sort of knew this was happening to all of the female photogs I knew, even the ones so madly talented that I felt too starstruck to approach. 

But in this case, talent isn’t even relevant, is it? Whether or not you know of our work when you first meet us, why not treat us with respect? 

Part of what kept me quiet at first was self-doubt in my own work, maybe I wasn’t deserving of their respect. But now I know without a doubt that my work is up to par and need no reassurance from others. I’m not asking for you to praise my work because in this case, my work isn’t the issue. 

I just hope this industry wises up to how we, as women photographers, have to be conscious of this dynamic and prove our self-worth daily in order to get the basic respect that most male photographers are familiar with naturally. 

P.S. Like I said in my Facebook comment, this is not about the guy photogs in my life: you guys know I love you. In fact, I love them so much I’m living with four pretty great ones in the fall.