Last night I had to go out of my comfort zone and do a talk. Actually more a speech for the Melbourne Camera Club. They asked me to do a talk on Women and photography. Many of you know how passionate I am about that topic.
Part of the reason for the evening was to also open an exhibition they were holding for women’s photography, and if you would like more information about the exhibition, click here.
So for International Women’s Day, I thought I would let you read my speech.
2019 International Women’s Day
Hello, thank you so much for inviting me to speak tonight.
As most of you know tomorrow is International Women’s Day. It is an important day to remember that women matter and what we do is very important.
I need to find my soapbox right now. My friends will tell you it is something I stand on a lot when I am discussing women and photography. It is a topic I’m really passionate about. I have to say thank you so much the Melbourne Camera Club for giving me a soapbox, or a high horse, one of those, so I can tell you what I think about women and photography.
I know I’m not alone with my thoughts on this, and tonight I thought in light of it being International Women’s Day tomorrow I could share those thoughts with you.
It is so easy to think that most of the photographers out in the world are men. Well, except maybe for portrait and wedding categories. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that women only do that kind of photography.
Take a look at many of the photography companies and look at who they showcase the work of. The landscape photographers are nearly always men, the same with architectural photography. Wedding, portrait and photojournalism seem to showcase both, and perhaps the same can be said for fine art photography, well as long it is portrait based it seems.
But come on, everyone in here knows that women are also very good landscape and architectural photographers. So why is it that men seem to get all the spotlight for that?
It is not a question that I can really answer. I have theories and I will share some of them with you, but let’s remember they are just that, theories.
I’m sure most remember the incident that happened with Nikon Asia when the D850 was released. They gave the camera to 50 photographers to test and try out. All 50 were men. When asked why didn’t they give them to women as well the company said they had tried to get women but they were either unavailable or not interested. I know most of us were fairly upset about this. It couldn’t be true. Especially, if the furor that was all over Facebook and other social media sites was any indication.
Sadly, this story isn’t isolated. Take a look at Nikon Australia and their ambassadors. There are no women, and it has been this way for quite some time. Does this mean they don’t think there are any women photographers in Australia worth supporting? You can’t help thinking that women are fine to sell to, but not good enough to support in any other way.
I just want to share one more example. How many of you know about Creative Live on the internet? It is a great place to learn photography. If you don’t know it, check it out.
When you follow it for a while you find that same sort of thing. They have a lot of female presenters, or women photographers, but they tend to do the more typical types of courses that they think women are interested in. Mainly portrait types of photography. When they do the “real stuff” like landscapes, the presenters are always men. I’ve seen it so many times.
There is no denying that there are some women out there making progress, but the ratio of women to men is still really large.
On another note if you look at Facebook and how many people have photography as a hobby, it is staggering to see that around 60% are women. I kid you not. According to FB in countries like Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK, more women are taking photos than men. I’ve heard from others in the industry that women are buying more cameras than men.
This leaves me wondering then why are they so anti women?
Again, it goes back to that question, happy for us to buy their gear, but really only want to support and favour men. And again, I don’t know if that is the reason, but from where I’m standing that’s how it looks.
Of course, one of the biggest problems I have is that I am a woman in my 50’s and apparently I’m invisible. So I hope you can all see me and I’m not just a voice.
I wish I could say it is just me, but from the countless women I’ve spoken to of the same age, it seems we all experience the same thing. We are no longer valuable to society, except when it comes to our wallets, they want what is inside it, but with little effort on their side. I know that sounds depressing, but it also feels like the reality of many of us.
I have to tell you a story about an experience I had last year. It was one that got me into a bit of trouble, but oh well, there you go.
I went into a camera store here in Melbourne, a well known one. I won’t say which. I wanted to know about mirrorless cameras. Those of you that know or follow me, know I have a fairly decent following and I am often asked for advice from people wanting to know which camera they should buy. I really knew very little about mirrorless, I still don’t, but I’m learning. It seemed time to find out why so many people were going that way. Also, so when giving people advice I would have all the facts.
Well, there I was in this store and the guy couldn’t have been and looked more bored if he tried. I kept trying to ask questions and he just gave me one word answers. He just wouldn’t engage with me. I was so angry. He didn’t know if I would be a future customer or not. He didn’t ask me anything, he just pointed at the cabinet and said, “there they are”.
It wasn’t an isolated incident for me and I’d experienced the same thing on previous visits when I had purchased things.
It was horrible.
I went home and put it up on FB and did a blog post about my experience. I was flooded with stories from women all over the country with similar experiences. We were all around the same age, and apparently all invisible.
Our invisibility cloaks have been placed on us by the industry and society. It is so sad really, when you consider that often we have the money, the time and the interest for this. Our children have grown up, earning their own money and we don’t need to spend the time looking after them anymore. I know I have far more time, and far more money to spend on photography than I did 25 years ago when I first got into this. I don’t know how many times I see photography workshops around the city and the majority of the students are middle aged women. It was the same for me when I was doing them.
If I look at this myself, I have to say I’m tired and the struggle to get somewhere has been too frustrating. I have often wondered if I were a man with over 25 years of experience in the industry, had a Fine Arts degree from one of the most prestigious places in Australia and a fairly decent following would I be struggling as much as I have been. I don’t know the answer to that one. It has got me to wonder if it is time for me to give up the fight, I’ve burned so many bridges trying to make a difference for myself and women.
However, like all stories there is another side to this as well. One that has to be addressed.
Women are often their own worst enemies. I have tried so many things over the years to encourage women in their photography and got nowhere. I have often wondered if they like to bitch about the situation but really aren’t invested in making changes.
Yes, I’ve wondered to myself so many times how the hell women got together to fight for the right to vote because it seems to be a thing where we like to complain, but we won’t go out there and try and bring about change.
Some of you are aware that I look after the Instagram page for Formatt Hitech. I use their filters for my long exposure work and I’m one of their signature artists. It has been an incredibly interesting experience. Not just because I get to see the most amazing long exposure work that other photographers are doing, but I also get some insight into who is using the products and who is tagging us.
The sad fact seems to be that women don’t tag us. They don’t ask to be ambassadors.
We have to wonder why this is.
I used to think it was because all these companies were misogynists and weren’t interested in representing women. I even had it out with one company and they said it was because women only do portraits and weddings. Yeah, I saw red. It was so demeaning.
However, after looking and talking to the people at Formatt Hitech I’ve realised that women just aren’t putting themselves out there. Not sure exactly why, but, once again, I have some theories.
If there is a job advertised, and there are 10 requirements for it, if a man only has 5 of them he will still apply and try to talk his way into getting the job. If a woman doesn’t have all 10, she won’t apply.
This is something I see so many times. I’ve even seen it with myself. If I’m not confident, I don’t apply or try to do whatever it is.
You can’t wait for companies to come to you. That happens so rarely. They don’t need to, they have lots of people throwing themselves at them.
Confidence is a problem for many women. It is something we need to overcome. We can’t do it on our own and we all need to commit to changing the way the world sees us.
You should approach companies. If you wait until you feel you are good enough it will never happen, because we never think we are good enough.
What’s the worst that will happen? They won’t respond to your emails. I have had that happen to me so many times.
Rejection is never easy, but we have to get past that.
I know rejection. My story isn’t that dissimilar to any of you. I’ve tried putting myself out there and I get how hard it is. It is made that much harder as well because I feel alone in my quest. I’ve burned so many bridges trying to make a difference, but I can’t do it on my own. We all have to start doing it. We have to stand up to these companies and tell them we matter. Force them to make women more of a priority.
Though, having said that, remember that some companies are waiting for women to contact them, it just isn’t happening. If you have products that you like, consider contacting them. See if you can work together. Don’t be afraid.
Finally, I want to say that one voice really doesn’t make much of a different, but many do. We need to band together with as many voices as can.
Let’s make a difference together.