Women Photograph aims to reshape the makeup of the photojournalism community, ensuring “…the industry’s chief storytellers are as diverse as the communities they hope to represent.”
Established in 2017 Women Photograph is a non-profit created to elevate the voices of women & non-binary photographers. My thanks to Women Photograph founder Daniella Zalcman for inviting me to join and support this important group of 1000 female photojournalists, representing 100 countries.
Every day the Women Photograph team records the lead photo bylines from the front pages of eight major international newspapers, including The New York Times, Le Monde and TheGuardian. Here are the stats from the most recent quarter:
MANY THANKS TO ANOTHER PRODUCTION FOR THIS INTERVIEW I MADE WITH THEM, IN RESPONSE TO THEIR MENTORSHIP PROGRAMME FOR FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHY GRADUATES
How long have you worked as a photographer, and what is your particular area of expertise?
– I set up my business at the beginning of the nineties so, wow, thirty years, something to celebrate!
– I am known for photographing people, and this crosses over multi genres.
What assumptions (if any) have you had to deal with in your career?
– I began my career working for teen magazines where I received countless commissions (including many international assignments) mainly from female fashion & beauty editors. They had no assumptions and gave me equal opportunity.
– In the past, assumptions were generally made by businesses that had a predominantly male workforce. e.g. Traditional photographic suppliers often made the assumption I was an assistant photographer, purchasing on behalf of a male photographer.
Do you feel in the minority as a female photographer?
– No, but there are still many occasions when someone onset will say “oh, it’s an all female team today,” or “hey, girlpower” or whatever. But I’ve spent most of my career on all female teams, and that seems usual to me. So the fact it seems unusual to others shows that women photographers are still in the minority.
Do you think much has changed for women in the industry since you started?
– When I first started there were very few women working as commercial photographers. Apparently female photographers now make up about 25% of commercial photographers, which is great! However recent research shows that female photographers aren’t being commissioned as often as male photographers. There is a worrying statistic that female photographers only receive 2% of advertising commissions! If this is true, then most advertising is seen through the #malegaze which is a massive problem.
Do you feel you’ve had the opportunity to use your full potential?
Hmm, that’s an interesting question.
– If women photographers aren’t being offered as many commissions as male photographers, then maybe this question should be posed to the commissioners : Do commissioners feel they have given women photographers opportunity to use their full potential? Do commissioners feel they have had opportunity to respond to the consumer using the full potential of the #femalegaze?
Have you had a Mentor? Do you think there is value in mentorship?
– As a photographer’s assistant I had a full-time job for three years with a highly regarded photographer, so I guess everyday I was being mentored. Not just on the technical side of photography, but also the business of photography, the actual practice of being on set, problem solving, managing teams, and understanding light; and once I began producing my own test shots I would look to my ‘mentor’ to critique my photography.
– Recently I have become a mentor to student photographers. It’s something I really enjoy and find hugely rewarding.
How do you feel about the future for female photographers?
– Women generally have to work harder to get noticed in most industries and photography is no exception. If you have learnt your trade, if you are technically competent, have creative ideas, and can problem solve under pressure, then the future is yours.
What’s your dream gig? Have you landed it yet?
– I have had some great and crazy experiences throughout my career. I’ve been sent on assignments from India to Iceland, Bali to Brazil. On my first trip to LA I arrived in the middle of the infamous Rodney King Riots and escaped curfew to photograph Angelina Jolie dancing against the infinite horizons of the Mojave Desert. After a rocky start to a job in Rio, where I’d been let down by local assistants, I went on to photograph the statue of Christ the Redeemer from a helicopter – the pilot gave me an extra harness then removed the cabin door so I could get a better shot! An inspiring career highlight in so many ways.
– So you can’t plan for your dream gig, it just happens. It’s when all the elements come together in a perfect storm and you know in that split second you have something special and you know how to use your camera to capture the story, the emotion. That’s when the magic of photography happens.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself if you were just starting out?
– Take time to pause and check on the direction your career is taking you.
– Listen to advice, but know what is worthy of action.
– Critique your work regularly and aim to produce a new folio each year.
– Create an efficient filing system from the word go – know how to easily access any of your images.
– Take care of your archive, your past can also become your future.
Do you have any confidence tips to share with students questioning whether or not they are cut out to pursue a career in the industry?
– I’ve mentioned this before, but you can’t go wrong with this check list – perseverance, preparation, process, productivity, passion. You could also include projects and professionalism.
– Ask yourself, do you want to be a photographer, or do you want to create work using photography? Photography and picture making come first, you can’t call yourself a photographer without doing the work.
– Working for yourself requires dedication, self-discipline, and when starting out you need to be able to support yourself financially. How are you going to make money? Do the maths.
– Do you have strong ideas, do you have stories you want to tell, messages you want to get across? Do you have the passion to create new photography?
– Then take photographs everyday, discover what you like, what you are good at.
– Make it happen!
In light of Covid, what insights or advice could you give for those starting out and looking to establish themselves under these circumstances?
– Get to know as much about the industry as possible.
– Know who you are – photographer or assistant – and pitch yourself correctly and accurately.
– Join a professional organisation like the Association of Photographers(AOP). They have been incredibly supportive to their members throughout the pandemic, and have recently formed f22– women photographers at the AOP.
– Establish your work and name by entering photography awards, attending online workshops and seminars.
– Establish your online presence. Keep your Instagram account up to date and invest in a decent practical website. LinkedIn is also very good for business networking.
– Connectivity is really important. Don’t be alone.
– Keep taking pictures. Keep thinking, planning and creating.
And building on our belief in women supporting women, are there any female photographers whose work you think we/people should see?
It would be unfair of me to create a list – there are so many excellent female photographers, do check them out at Equal Lens, f22, HundredHeroines and WOMEN PHOTOGRAPH. But I would like to mention Kirsty Mackay and Suki Dhanda. Both these women assisted me back in the nineties, and have since gone on to forge successful careers in their own unique photographic styles. My heartfelt thanks to them, and all the women I have worked with over the years. Mentoring is a two way exchange.