Throughout her career in photojournalism, documentary photographer and filmmaker Tara Pixley has often found herself “the lone woman and the only black person in a newsroom or in the cadre of mostly white male editors choosing which images will make that day’s web or print publication.” That dearth of diversity among photojournalists and photo editors, she writes, means that “the dominant point of view through which the entire world continues to see and understand itself is that of Western men.” (HT @Humans_of_STL)
This “singular visual perspective—male, Western and white,” often means that, “Instead of being a tool for social change…[photojournalism] becomes a tool of oppression, perpetuating clichés and crippling stereotypes like the ‘violent and dangerous’ Latin America, the ‘flies-in-the-eye malnourished child’ in Africa,” says Ecuadorean photojournalist Emilia Lloret.
And as if to remind people of the gender bias in the photography industry, when Nikon launched a promotion of its new D850 camera, they assembled a team of 32 professional photographers from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to “embark on an astounding photographic journey across Japan” with the new camera.
All 32 of the photographers selected were men.
“When building a list of 32 photographers, you basically have to go out of your way to not include a single woman,” writes photographer Jason Vinson on Fstoppers. “The problem here though is not just with Nikon, but instead with the entire photo industry. Brand ambassadors are filled with mostly men and entire conferences are filled with only male speakers.” (HT @jennsilverberg)
To counter the “I’d love to hire photographers of color but don’t know any” excuse, Brent Lewis, photo editor for ESPN’s The Undefeated, has led the launch this week of Diversify Photo, a curated database of 340 experienced photographers of color to “equip Art Buyers, Creative Directors, and Photo Directors with resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments and commissions.”
To counter the “I’d love to hire women photographers but don’t know any” excuse, London-based photojournalist Daniella Zalcman earlier this year created Women Photograph, whose database of women photographers includes 650 women in 87 countries — including 115 from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
In other words, there really are no excuses.
But the decision about who to hire still falls on photo editors, and as Pixley writes, “there are few people of color and even fewer women of color in news photo editor roles. A 2016 American Society of News Editors survey reported that only 13 percent of newsroom leaders were minorities and that black and Latina women represented 2.2 percent and 1.45 percent of news leadership, respectively.”
The tech and finance industries have been heavily criticized recently for their poor records of diversity and inclusion. But as this story so vividly illustrates, you can find lack of diversity and limited inclusion in nearly every industry — and wherever those issues exist, they inevitably have an impact that goes well beyond the people who work in that industry.
If you think your industry doesn’t have an issue with diversity and inclusion, dig deeper. Ask someone whose background or life experience is different from yours how they find life in your industry. If they share struggles that surprise you, don’t get defensive or try to explain their story away. Listen, and learn — and then keep talking to people who have traveled different paths. Commit to seeing the full picture, and not having a ‘singular visual perspective.’ If you are in a position of influence, keep listening — and speak up. Entrenched cultures don’t change magically, or on their own. They change when those with influence insist on change.
And if you already know your industry has an issue with diversity and inclusion, know that you’re not alone — and remember to look beyond your industry for ways to challenge and change the status quo. Today, thanks to the Internet, you have access to insightful parallels and thoughtful voices in industries across the globe.
This originally appeared in The Mouse and the Elephant Weekly. Read the full email, explore other resources, and subscribe at https://tinyletter.com/mouseandelephant/.