I have been a professional photographer for fifteen years now. I absolutely love the work I do.
And it can be ridiculously frustrating to work in an industry that frequently promotes men over women on multiple fronts, including job opportunities and sometimes just through every day language, tone and nuance. Even when you excel in your field, you may be dismissed repeatedly in ways that are subtle yet still pervasive.
Nearly every working female photographer I know has dealt with setbacks, or shutdowns, similar to those I’ve experienced over the years: from automatically low expectations of your skills to assumptions of how or why you got “the job” (or who must have helped you get there) – all the way to receiving “overly friendly” overtures or outright inexcusable behavior. And if you speak up about it, you risk hearing that you are either unappreciative or whiny. Or worse.
If there can be so much discontent, why continue to pursue this work?
Because the vast majority of the time it is only you, the work, and how beautifully you can get lost in it.
Because there is always more to create and learn and produce and share.
Because I have made amazing friends who also recognize the issues and support me at every turn, including the community at Nikon USA.
Because this recent uproar is an opportunity, not just for our industry but also for our art.
Things are already changing – just not in all the ways and in every way yet. To that end, I would continue to encourage other photographers to not be complacent when experiencing, or witnessing, the infuriating sting of sexism.
Fortunately, we are in the right field. Photography is an extraordinary medium to utilize when it comes to affecting real change. Through my non-profit orphan care work with Beautiful Together, I have been able to photograph, film, and share multiple ways we can improve the lives of children without families. The return on these efforts has been amazing. To date, we’ve completed ten tangible projects and established four separate funds. All that change sprung from the simple act of taking photographs, telling a story, and asking others to care about something that isn’t fair and needs to change.
Our current project is our most ambitious one yet: Creating an Orphan Prevention Care Center, focused on empowering impoverished women in Ethiopia to dramatically change their lives, and the lives of their families, through education, vocational training, safe child care and long-term, sustainable employment. Being able to use photography to address this, even on a small scale, has been a difficult but effective endeavor. After months of planning and fundraising, we reached our fiscal goal for this effort last month after launching a portrait gallery exhibit in Manhattan, hanging over a hundred photographs I’d shot in Africa, sharing specifics about project work – and then just letting the photographs tell the story.
There are a lot more stories waiting to be told.
Let’s make sure we listen better to ALL the artists telling them.