Gillian Wearing, Self Portrait as My Uncle, 2003
On Sexism in Editorial Photography
Disclaimer: I am a white, cis male photographer. I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself or those I’ve been in direct conversation with. In this post I will reflect more broadly and hypothesize, but I can only speak to my own experience. I end up talking a lot about myself in this post because that’s my point of entry into this issue and it’s the only way I know how to talk about it. It’s not total narcissism, it’s just what I know. This post is meant to initiate a broader conversation and nothing would make me happier to have many different types of people call bullshit on the things I’m saying and setting the record straight. So please, reblog, repost, rewrite, respond.
It would seem that the biggest magazines with the most hiring power hire mostly male photographers. This post is meant to begin a discussion on the how’s and why’s of sexism in the commissioned photography world. Note that this is very specifically about editorial/commercial photography, and not the art world or fine art photography world (although those questions and concerns are totally valid and should be addressed!).
It seems that magazines tend to hire more men than women, and I want to reflect on the conditions that support (willingly or unwillingly) this tendency. My perspective on the issue is somewhat limited; I’ve been working in the industry for only five years and most of my friends that do this work are men (by virtue of the fact that I was in a group of friends that were all friends when we started doing this work (Adam, Jake, Joe and TJ initially, and the circle grew over the years with Geordie, Thomas, Ryan and others)). I believe that I am complicit in the inequality precisely because I am friends with mostly men that do this kind of work and we tend to present ourselves as a crew of available freelancers, a tight circle of friends.
I identify as a feminist, and have always felt a strong obligation to inquire about perceived imbalances in my most immediate worlds, this being a major one that I participate in. Not only do I participate in it, but it’s how I make money. This is about a power imbalance made more complicated by its very direct relationship to capital. It’s been weighing heavily on me for awhile and I’ve been talking about it with friends, but when it came up again recently in a conversation with Liz, I decided to reach out to photo editors and magazines to ask for their perspective and insight. I also started a dialog with my core group of photo friends to get their perspective. Here is some of the issues we are working with, and I’d like to open it up to the community at large:
If you’re interested in photography or some of the topics mentioned above, you should read Daniel Shea’s ‘take’ on the industry.