Me and my husband, Brian, at Skógafoss in Iceland earlier this year.
Note: Recently Sarah Morino, a fantastic landscape photographer based in the US, put together a list of over 200 women landscape photographers. She did not post this to share a “best of” list, but to create a go-to resource for companies and brands to realize that there are, in fact, a large amount of professional female landscape photographers in the world (and that list is still growing). I’ve had this article (below) in my queue for a few weeks, and after reading Sarah’s article I was motivated to dust it off and finally publish it. Here are my thoughts:
My husband, Brian Matiash, and I are both full-time self-employed photographers (or, to be more accurate, photo-educators). Yet we have completely separate businesses, separate websites, and we do a lot of our own individual travel. In fact, I’m certain that many people don’t even realize that we are married. I’ll be honest, that is intentional, more so on my part. I am very proud to be married to Brian, and it is not my intention to try and hide the fact that we are together. However it has always been important to me that I maintain my own unique business presence and social identity. We are both very different photographers, writers, and designers, each with our own brand and style. My biggest fear is that I would be overlooked or “lumped together” with my husband, and thus become the “invisible” partner.
The reason that I overthink all of this is because I am a woman, and in our industry there seem to be a lot more men in the spotlight. But should the fact that I am female really matter in the world of photography? I would like to think that it should not, but the older and more experienced I become in this field, the more sensitive I become to how women are portrayed. I never considered myself to be ultra-feminist or a women’s rights activist by any means, and throughout my career thus far I have always felt that I had the same opportunities (if not more so) than my male counterparts. I also have rarely (but not never) experienced others treating me as less of as a professional because of my gender. And I hope that people are interested (or not interested) in my work because of me and my photography, not because I am a woman.
When I look at events that cater to high-profile photographers, such as conferences and expos, or sponsors for a particular brand of photography equipment, there seems to be a definite gender bias towards men. The off-balance ratio of women-to-men is likely not intentional, but the numbers don’t lie. Here is a short list of a some of the ambassador programs, along with a few conferences and their instructor/speaker ratio (as of August 2015):
- Nikon Ambassadors:
- August 2015: 24% women (6 women, 19 men)
- January 2017: 29% women (7 women, 17 men)
- Canon Explorers of Light:
- August 2015: 14% women (5 women, 29 men)
- January 2017: 17% women (7 women, 34 men)
- Sony Artisans (USA):
- August 2015: 20% women (6 women, 24 men)
- January 2017: 13% women (6 women, 42 men)
- Fujifilm X Photographers:
- August 2015 (Worldwide): 7% (27 women, 375 men)
- January 2017 (Canada): 7% women (2 women, 28 men)
- January 2017 (USA): 18% women (4 women, 18 men)
- Olympus Visionaries:
- August 2015: 25% women (3 women, 9 men)
- January 2017: 25% women (3 women, 9 men)
- f-stop (Global Icon):
- August 2015: 10% women (3 women, 28 men)
- January 2017: 17% women (7 women, 35 men)
- f-stop (Local Hero):
- August 2015: 4% women (6 women, 158 men)
- Lowepro Professionals:
- August 2015: 25% women (2 women, 6 men)
- January 2017: 33% women (4 women, 8 men)
- G-Technology (G-Team):
- August 2015: 13% women (3 women, 20 men)
- January 2017: 17% (5 women, 24 men)
- Photoshop World Instructors:
- August 2015: 13% women (6 women, 41 men)
- January 2017: 16% women (5 women, 26 men)
- Gulf Photo Plus Speakers:
- August 2015: 21% women (3 women, 11 men)
- January 2017: 27% women (3 women, 8 men)
- WPPI 2016 Speakers:
- August 2015: 38% women (66 women, 109 men)
- January 2017:
- Great Smokey Mountain Photography Summit (2015):
- August 2015: 0% women (0 women, 13 men)
- Team Induro:
- August 2015: 13% women (1 woman, 8 men)
- January 2017: 13% women (1 woman, 7 men)
- Formatt-Hitech Featured Photographers:
- January 2017:
- Signature Edition Artists: 0% Women (0 women, 4 men)
- Featured Artists: 9% women (4 women, 41 men)
- January 2017:
It seems to me that there must be more women photographers in the world than what are represented above. And yes, I do realize that it’s not a full list (and I did my very best deciphering the genders of some foreign names that did not have a bio image of the photographer!). It would be great to put together a comprehensive database of all of the conferences and photography-related ambassador programs. If you have any you would like me to add to the list above, please let me know!
Not all companies are doing a poor job of representing women in photography. There are in fact organizations that cater to women, such as Click’n’Moms (an online community and conference catered to, but not exclusively for, women), and WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) was also more well-balanced than the rest. But it seems too often that if you’re not a part of the “good ‘ole boys club” with most other groups then it’s easy to get swept aside or unnoticed.
So why are things so out of balance? Do men, in general, have more confidence or larger egos than women, so they find themselves in the spotlight more often? Do companies prefer to work with men instead of women? Do more women photographers choose to have children and raise a family, pulling them away from other opportunities (such as travel or full-time gigs)? What the heck is it!?!
Look, I’m not advocating for a forced gender balance. I don’t believe that photographers should be included, excluded, or given an advantage or opportunity because of their gender. In fact, I would be very interested to see actual statistics and job info on the ratio of men-to-women in this field, and maybe that information is out there somewhere.
I don’t think that there is an easy way to make things more balanced. There are just too many variables involved to really come to a conclusion or a solution, if there even is such a thing. But these imbalances do affect women. My long rant about camera bags sheds light on one issue in regards to gear, and soon after I wrote that article, forward-thinking companies like fstop announced a female version of their wonderful adventure photography packs. It’s an uphill battle, and I suspect it might take a few more generations of photographers before the playing field is finally leveled.