Continued from Female Landscape Photographers – Chasing Credibility
Even as a man, I’ve heard my share of condescending comments over the years, so of course, I won’t suggest that every negative or patronizing comment is blatantly misogynistic.
On the other hand, I’ve been stunned by the disrespect I’ve seen directed towards my wife when she was doing her job. She has received nasty emails that target her children – and some comments on her blog and social media ignore her skill as a photographer and instead focus on her as a sexual object.
Once, during a presentation at a National Park, a male photographer from the audience asked a technical question about a complicated photographic technique. Varina started to answer, but he interrupted her, and loudly insisted that the question was for me. I wasn’t even on stage that night – I was in the audience – but Varina was surprised by the vitriol in the voice of the audience member, and stepped back to allow me to answer. Not wanting to cause a scene, I answered the question myself – knowing full well that I was adding insult to injury. We both agree that we handled the incident poorly. Varina says she wishes she had simply suggested that the audience member speak to me after the presentation, and then answered the question anyway so that other members of the audience could benefit. As for me, I should have kept my mouth shut, or simply said, “Varina can answer that.”
“Do male photographers show disrespect towards female photographers?” – Yes, they certainly do – and it’s time we take responsibility for it. I am in no way suggesting that all men are disrespectful towards female photographers all the time, or that we are deliberately pushing them aside. However, we must recognize that we can do better. We must be willing to open our minds and make a change. That’s the first step toward creating a more inclusive work environment.
Here are few things that male photographers can do that will go a long way toward dispelling the notion that women can’t do the same job just as well as we can.
- Take Responsibility – It is hard for us to recognize our own biases and weaknesses. Before I married Varina, it was very hard for me to understand the challenges faced by female photographers. The truth is, over the years, I have shown disrespect towards female photographers. When I became aware of the impact of my actions, I realized it was time to take responsibility, change my behavior, and speak up.
- Break up the “Good Old Boys” Networks – Let’s face it. Female photographers have to fight a whole lot harder than male photographers to be recognized. From 500px to Canon’s Masters of Light, female photographers are under-represented in almost every landscape photography category. If you are in a leadership position, do what you can to foster change by actively reaching out to talented female photographers.
- Act Professionally – Like any other profession, there is no shortage of non-professional behavior towards female landscape photographers. It spans the spectrum from interrupting a female photographer during conversation, to sexual harassment. I’ll say quite bluntly that there is no excuse for acting unprofessionally towards anyone.
I’d be remiss is if I didn’t mention that female photographers are in a tight spot when it comes to asking for respect. Unfortunately, simply demanding respect often leads to the opposite. So, here are few things you can do to to get respect from your male counter parts.
- Earn Respect – Respect needs to be earned. Look for opportunities to engage in conversation, and exchange ideas. Here’s what Athena Carey has to say: “I have run into male photographers who think they know more than me. Some of them do! So, I listen, even if I know already what they are saying. Otherwise I miss the chance to learn something later in the conversation. Most often, it becomes a back and forth exchange of knowledge and experience.”
- Word-choice Matters – A rant on a popular online publication, on your blog, or on social media may get attention – but it probably won’t persuade others to show more respect. Stereotyping is not likely to gain allies for your cause. A comment with a little thought behind it will go a lot further. That’s why I’ve taken the time to write this article. I’ve tried to highlight the problem – while also attempting to offer some solutions.
- Push for Change – Creating change can be difficult and it takes time. It is rarely celebrated. You may not get kudos for your efforts, but the results can produce long-lasting benefits that will extend to the entire community of female landscape photographers.
It is a little know fact that Varina Patel pushed one of our sponsors to create a camera bag designed specifically for women. She started collecting data via her Google+ following, organized the data and shared it with the company, and communicated with the company’s lead designer for two years before they came out with their first women’s bag.
Another great example is Sarah Marino’s efforts to highlight the lack of representation of female photographers on 500px. This effort led to 500px posting articles such as 15 Amazing Female Landscape Photographers You Should Follow Right Now.
It’s going to take a paradigm shift to level the playing field for female landscape photographers. Until that happens, women in landscape photography may feel that the challenges they face are sometimes insurmountable. So what should women do? Elle Bruce sums is it up eloquently,
“I would argue that the best thing to do as a woman in the landscape photography field is to keep doing the work. The very worst thing that we could do would be to give up. By continuing to make stunning landscape images and share them with the world, we are creating and contributing to a body of work by females that hopefully will inspire other women and pave the way for more of them to explore and share their vision of this big beautiful world.”
Please share you own challenges… and your suggestions for dealing with the problem in the comments below.