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John Perriment

Women wanted!

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Why are there so few women photographers? At all levels. I was prompted to consider this question by a very amusing article (more of a rant, actually) by Ann Toon in the latest issue of Outdoor Photography magazine. Ann is a very successful nature photographer in her own right (in her own right...see, I'm only on the fourth sentence and already I'm being patronising, if unintentionally) and one half of a photographic partnership with her husband Steve.

She recounts how it is often assumed that Steve, being male, is the photographer and that she is merely keeping him company. Often she is asked the question, “Do you take photos too?” which is guaranteed to make her blood boil. I can see her point, but it is an inescapable fact that, with a few exceptions, photography is a male dominated activity, be it a hobby or a profession. Why is that?

I can understand why occupations such as coal mining, oil rigging or cattle rustling might be male dominated, simply because they are hard, physical jobs to which men (real men, not wimps like myself) are better suited. But photography is more artistic, creative and intuitive and, at the risk of sounding patronising again, probably better suited to women than men.

I suspect it's the technical stuff, the “boy's toys” syndrome which puts women off. Get any group of male togs together, especially amateurs, and the conversation invariably revolves around such issues as noise performance, pixel pitch, autofocus speed, chromatic abberation, next generation sensors and the anticipated/rumoured flagship upgrade. No mention of pictures! No wonder any hapless woman who might summon the courage to approach them is invariably disappointed. If that's what photography is really all about, maybe it is meant for the boys. If you're not sure what I mean, just look at some of the threads on this forum!

This is a shame, because photography at all levels is the poorer for not appealing to, and embracing the creative talent of approximately 50% of the population. Earlier I alluded to women being generally (and I know I shouldn't generalize, but in this instance I will) more creative, artistic and intuitive than men. Visit any art group and you'll find a much higher ratio of females than in a camera club! The few women we have on this forum and E-System Group consistently prove they are at least the equal of men in terms of photographic vision and ability.

My wife, Debbie, is a good example. She is a very accomplished artist working in a range of different media but, although she enjoys taking pictures, she doesn't consider herself a photographer. She can't be bothered with all the technical stuff and asks me just to set up her camera on program. When she does take photographs she is very good. Her “eye” for a good image is very well developed and comes naturally. She may not know anything about photography but she knows how to take a good picture. Unlike some men who have all the latest gear (aka male jewellery) and know everything about photography, but can't take a decent picture! We need to attract more women to photography.

Here's a few of Debbie's pictures:-







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  1. Nick Temple-Fry's Avatar
    John is of course far too nice in his approach to achieve his objectives. Consider all the spheres in which female involvement has grown - driving, management, visual arts and of course the armed forces. All have one thing in common and that is the participation of women was opposed by both the establishment and the general (male) population.

    So let's have a few starting points to get things going

    1) RPS membership only to be granted to males, although females will be allowed an 'appreciator' membership and be able to look, under supervision, at selected photographs.

    2) Camera manufacturers will point out that using a camera successfully requires high levels of dexterity, decisiveness in wielding the shutter, and is just too damn difficult for any gender not mainlining on testosterone.

    3) Fashion commentators to point out that carrying a camera will make any girl totally unappealing to men, and probably cause an irreversible stoop.

    A few years of this and we will be gloriously overrun with female photographers.

    Nick
  2. John Perriment's Avatar
    I like the physcology, Nick. To make the hobby more attractive to women we need to try to ban them from it!
  3. robminchin's Avatar
    I'm sure I've seen reports that m4/3 is selling much better to women than traditional DSLRs. This might be partly due to advertising, but there's definitely something macho about the huge full-frame DSLR that's (still) associated with professional photography. There's possibly a tendency for DSLR users to forget, but for most of the camera-buying public the E-620 is a big camera, and that can be off-putting.
  4. shirley's Avatar
    I have asked this question many times since I started taking my hobby seriously. Our camera club only has about half a dozen women who attend on a regular basis. However I have met several women who are very good and an inspiration, I just wish there were more, in the meantime I will just have to manage in the male dominated environment that is photography
  5. hschnee's Avatar
    I belong to two local photography clubs, and the membership of both is nearly 50% women. I'm not sure what it is that makes these clubs different than the worldwide norm, but it at least shows that there are women who are very interested in photography.

    I will note a few things that agree with your comments and experience, John. First, the women in these clubs tend to be less interested/well-versed in the technological side of photography. And second, men tend to dominate the meetings by being more assertive. Also, one of the clubs has several married couples, and in all the ones I can think of at the moment, the woman takes much better pictures than the man.

    I don't know what can be done to attract more women to photography. For better or worse, our hobby is very equipment-dependent, much moreso than most other fine arts. And while it's true that our society has definite gender biases and has oppressed women for a very long time, I am absolutely convinced that there are biological differences between men and women (shocking, isn't it?) that make men generally more interested in tech-toys than women. This is perfectly natural, and I don't think it does a service to anyone--men or women--to fight against it. Yes, make the 'playing field' as even as possible, and welcome anyone onto the field, but don't push any women into a game that they're not very interested in playing. Accept that men and women are different, and appreciate what each--and each individual--brings to photography and to the world.

    - Hal -