Friday, September 9, 2011

The Gender Gap in Photography

A few months ago I realized there is a gap in photography. A gender gap. What started this realization was reading this article on the top 20 most influential photography blogs. I noticed that they were, 19 out 20, men. The one woman was a wedding photographer, a type of photography I did not have much interest in. I was shocked. Where were all the women?

I mean, here in my corner of the internet, I see mostly women. Most of my blog followers and online friends are women. Most of the blogs I read and photographers I look up to are women. I learned most of my photography skills from women teachers. I came to photography from scrapbooking, an overwhelmingly female-dominated craft. In my world-view, photography is dominated by women.

I looked around a little bit after reading that article and realized for the first time, that yes, in fact, photography is dominated by men. I was surprised at first, until I realized that so much of what is written out there about photography doesn't appeal to me, and isn't about what I value. If I visited those blogs before, they didn't capture my interest enough to come back, no matter how well-known they were. Either I don't connect with their writing or their topics. I'm happy that many of these blogs exist, because when I go looking for information on a subject, I can find it. As far as ongoing reading goes, I'm interested in the art of photography. The expression of heart and soul. The connection to other creative people.

I bring this up because I met a new photographer friend for coffee today, and he suggested I look into proposing an article to a magazine he reads. Since I love photography and writing, it's a perfect combination, don't you think? Funnily enough, I found myself quickly rejecting the idea. I immediately thought I would not have something to share with a wider photography audience. I joked with him about how the average guy photographer would react to my Find Your Eye classes. "You mean you want me to journal about photography? You're looking for a connection to my heart? You've got to be kidding." We both chuckled.

Now, there may be some truth to that statement, when speaking about the stereotype. The gender gap, to me, appears real. But I was already rejecting myself before giving the idea serious thought. Why? I have gotten comfortable in this little corner of the internet, and with people who have a similar approach to photography. I'm realizing my view encompasses a very small space in a much, much bigger place.

It seems like a wide chasm out there. I'm wondering how to bridge the gap.


  1. DEFINITELY do the article! I had a quick look at the article you mention and followed some of the links too. For me, one of the key things in the 'male' approach is that it's very how-to, with a big focus on gear and tutorials and getting everything technically correct. That's great and I enjoy this aspect too but I think there is a place (and for me, a bigger place) for instinctive, heart felt, creative photography. Personally, I think writing about the approach you love would be a great start in bridging the gap. You write passionately and beautifully and your photographs are fabulous, go for it! :)

  2. Yes, go for it Kat, I'm not sure if the 'gender gap' can be bridged, but a better understanding, a meeting place would be great. My experience with male photography tutors is mainly about the technical side and reaching perfection. I'm not downing a skills base, but I definitely have a 'right brainer' approach to imaging!

    Thanks for an interesting article.

    Sue x

  3. You know Kat, as I was reading this all I could think about is that I know exactly how you feel and why you would be reluctant to write this article. But then it occurred to me that there is probably a lot of other women out there who probably feel the same way you do and who would love to see somebody 'breaking this cycle' and seeing somebody brave enough to take this step and contribute something from a women's point of view. It can be so overwhelming and discouraging to find ourselves 'competing' with anything that's dominated by a gender (or anything else for that matter), but few brave people like yourself can make a difference, trust me. Go for it Kat, you will get support from your loyal fans who do care about connecting and sharing more than just hints and tips :)

  4. I'd say go for it! What have you got to lose really? It's a man's world anyways, right? If they are going to poo-poo it, they will. But somebody should speak up for the women photographers out there. You are perfect for it because you have a writer's voice and a photographer's voice and a female vantage point. ;)

  5. I am so glad you wrote this post. I, too, am aware of the huge gender gap in the photography world. There are many great women photogs, but yes, we often work from a different viewpoint and a different priority system.

    I exhibit my photography on the art fair circuit -- both in the Midwest in summer and the Southwest in winter. Photography is one of the art categories always well represented. There will be 10 to 15 photographers at each show.

    I make a point of visiting the booths and meeting the other photographers. So far this year, I have done 13 shows. I have met only ONE other woman photographer.

    As for your proposed article, I think it is a great subject. You will find more interest than you think. At the art shows, I give a scheduled "art chat" at my booth. I do not talk gear, technique, no techie stuff. I talk about finding meaning in creating art, about photographing the world around you, about becoming aware and really seeing. The talks are well received.

    You say there is a huge chasm. I agree. You wonder how to bridge the gap. Maybe it is time for that article you proposed. It IS a relevant topic. Women photogs often stand in the shadows while doing excellent work, content to stay on the periphery. We need to come forward and let the light shine upon us and our work.

    I hope you go for it!

  6. I don't know the answer to this dilemma. I went to the article you mentioned and their photography is spectacular. There's no reason more women couldn't be in that list, however.

    Yes, write the article. We need women photographers who are ready to go for it, to do so as often as possible.

  7. I agree with everything that's been said above. Go for it Kat - what the hell if some of the readers don't like the approach; others will! Nothing ventured, nothing gained as the old saying goes.

  8. Hey Kat-
    Well I vote for "go for it" too. I admire and respect what you do with photography and, since I too like to write, I'm finding such a connection with your blog and your classes, and your point of view. When my heart touches my images they are definitely better.
    There was a motivational speaker, Pat Croce, who was involved with the Philly 76ers b-ball team when I lived in the area. A quote he said has since stuck with me. "If you don't ask, the answer is always no". I use it to push myself when I need a little pushing.
    Right now you don't write articles for a photography magazine. If you do write an article and they don't like still don't write articles for a photography magazine. BUT if they do like it, or it does resonate-BAM! Homerun out of the park. You can't lose-you'll be no further behind where you are right now by giving it a go. And all your blog connections will still be right here no matter the outcome. You go girl!!!

  9. Kat, I can't think of anyone better than you to begin building that bridge. I say go for it!

  10. If you want to write it, I encourage you to do so. You are in a unique position to bridge both perspectives, in part because of your career, and you write well. After the weeks of medical problems with the twins, my doctor commented that I was really good at talking to middle age men with graduate degrees and getting them to listen to me about where balls might be getting dropped. (I think we both know where this skill comes from.)

  11. You SHOULD do the article Kat. Most men consider their opinion to be important, why not women? I object to be talked down to by men who think they know it all (particularly in hardware stores), and I value the women who have experience and knowledge and are happy to pass it on.

  12. Oh..this so speaks to me. For me - photography is and has always been a very personal expression and a way in which to connect with myself and the moment. Whenever someone (and they are mostly men) ask me about the technical aspects of what I do..I can't really tell them. It's intuitive. It's from the heart.
    That being said - I think it would be great if some of the more technical photography magazines would print an article from the viewpoint of a woman and how she sees and captures the world thru her lens.

  13. By all means do the article! Photography needs a woman's touch! Most of what guys write is from the guys point of view which seems to be more about technical stuff; light meters and ISO and things. I tend to shoot like I paint, intuitively and I tend to think (tho this is probably a stereotype!)guys are more left brained technical gotta have the best tools and women are more intuitive point and shoot and see what happens. Happy PPF!

  14. You have brought up a very interesting subject Kat! I have noticed how much more I enjoy the female centered photography sites than the male centered ones but never really thought about it in the broader sense. I think you have nailed my feelings about photography as journaling and from the heart as much as it is about the photo...Still I am surprised that there aren't more women photographers out there considered in the top twenty influential...

  15. I think Josh is limited in his search. There is room for more at the moment while the photography craze is still alive. Reading this article made me realize where my insecurities on subject matter originated. Women photographers have certainly helped me through my insecurities of domestic topics. Personally I think women and men can learn a lot from each other. You get out there and be first.

  16. well this is very interesting. If there is a gap, that is the very reason why you must write the article. Ultimately, it may be that a new type of photographic magazine niche exists for serious female artists.

  17. Kat, I'd say go for it. If someone can do it, it's you. It pretty much hits our "fear" discussion we had this morning...
    BTW, the comments of some of the men on the article you mentioned really speak for themselves...

  18. This is a really interesting topic, Kat, and something I've been meaning to write about myself. The gender gap in photography is something I've become more and more aware of as time goes by. I teach photography workshops, and nearly all my students are female - in a class of six, I might expect to see one man; often there are none. There is huge interest in photography among women but they're often put off by the technical issues, as I was myself before I learned that side of things.

    I work some of the time for another organisation that employs both male and female tutors. It's almost always the case that the male tutors seem unable to put themselves in the place of the students in terms of understanding what it's like to feel overwhelmed by the techie bits. They frequently pitch things at too high a level, and use too much jargon. I used to teach IT and found exactly the same thing there. One reason I've had very positive feedback from students is that I keep it as simple as possible and try to relate it to things that people already know about. Despite the fact that I teach and have taught rather techie subjects, I don't find these things particularly easy to learn myself and so I can totally relate to other people finding it difficult. On the other hand, although I've successfully taught quite a few men, I don't think my approach goes down nearly so well with them. I've often wondered if men and women need to be taught in completely different ways.

    My experience is that the technical side tends to come far more easily to men, and they're often more interested in the cameras than in the pictures they take with them. On the whole they're also not very interested in the 'art' or creative side of things unless it involves getting all intellectual about it. Obviously this is a generalisation and there are lots of exceptions.

    One thing I have noticed is that where there are downright nasty comments on a photography thread, it will be someone male who's made them - I rarely see that happen on female dominated sites. To be honest, this has put me off quite a bit in terms of contributing to male-dominated forums and websites - something I have often thought of doing. But not all men are so limited and there are plenty of lovely male photographers out there who respect other points of view and are willing to listen to them.

    I think the bigger problem is that the female viewpoint is devalued by society anyway no matter what it relates to, and I guess the only way this will change is if we challenge it. Tell us where you're writing for, and we can all come along, back you up, and give moral support. I look forward to seeing how it goes, and wish you lots of luck with it.

  19. Hi Kat, I wrote an article like this too and you can visit it here Men Photographer and we have the same dilemma. I even made jokes in that post but it is really the truth. Some blogger friends commented and their answer do make sense but there was no real answer to why?
    Go for it Ms. Kat we will support you!!


What's your view of the world? I love to hear yours too!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.