If you keep up with Daniel Shea’s blog, you will have read his post On Sexism in Editorial Photography. Its a fantastic piece on one of the very obvious issues in the editorial photography world – why are there so few women photographers being hired in the editorial world? Especially when a majority of photo editors and are female. So I was thinking it through and trying to answer some of Daniel’s questions and thoughts that he put out there into the world and then an amazing (female) photographer friend of mine asked me for my thoughts on the subject and I responded in long rambling nonsense bits and pieces. Anyway, she wrote a much better response to the post, here, which you should absolutely read.
I was raised by a strong woman. If you look up the meaning of Feminism, well, my sister and I were raised by one through and through. Not only a feminist but a single mom and a painter (not in that order). She exposed us to female photographers, painters, sculptures, dancers, installation artists. She brought us to protests against rape in Bosnia, in New York, against job inequality, against galleries who showed only men’s work. All this is to say that I was raised to look for them – the women – and seek them out. Like highlighted words in a borrowed book that you can’t ignore when reading the page, when I started photo editing their names beamed up at me – Deborah, Erin, Melissa, Nadia, Mackenzie, Gabriela, Annie, Brigitte, Robyn, Elinor, Nicole, Julia, Lynsey, Emily and the list goes on. So much so that when my first boss asked me to compile a list of every worthy photographer in every state, I made a secret list copying all of the females so that I could make sure that I threw their names into the mix. As a newbie in the magazine business, I would often get asked why I should hire (insert female name here) over (insert male name here) and I would try to make some elaborate story about why they would be better, wouldn’t a man feel more comfortable with a woman? Wasn’t she so fun in our meeting? Why not just because she is a woman, I would ask. Looking back, I am embarrassed of myself for some of the things that I said. But that was my secret mission – aside from learning everything that I could, it was to hire women, to be the photo editor that supported women. To learn from them and to be nurturing and foster their art. Because my mom taught me that we need to look out for each other. And we do.
Fast forward a few years later and I am publishing my own magazine. And I can hire anyone I want. I look at the list of photographers who I want to include, because I love their work and the magazine is about personal projects and they have been sending me some amazing shit and I want to show it and print it and nurture it. And I notice the lack of women. Only a few. Out of the twelve photographers in both issues of This Is That, only three are women. My superpower of female names sticking out to me had vanished. I looked at a lot of work, but really, I looked at what was seeking me out. I had gotten more emails, more promos, made more connections with male photographers. I didn’t do this on purpose. But it happened. So I am guilty of the very thing Mr. Shea so wisely notes. In a magazine where I had all of the ‘hiring power,’ I didn’t listen to my mom.
There is no answer here. Only my experience. Only that even when I do try to make a conscious effort to seek out females – in hiring, on this blog – sometimes I fail. Often I fail. Because it takes a bit more effort. Not because there aren’t women photographers – some of the best photographers are absolutely women – but because their names need to be highlighted in the borrowed book. They aren’t, so we must. That being said, I support male photographers, they are some of the best, too. I wish I was sex-blind and color-blind and all things held equal and perfectly zen. But most of us are not, most of us need to make an effort to see equally. I so needed the reminder.