Advance notice—we're having a photo contest.
One of my ambitions for TOP at the outset was for it to be significantly female-friendly. This was at the suggestion of several female photographer friends who had limited patience with the persnickety gearheadedness and status disputation of many male-dominated forums*. It's an ambition that makes sense, because photography itself—if you define it as the act of making photographs—is remarkably non-sexist, and was that way even when that went directly against the grain of society and culture. There have been great women photographers at every level of accomplishment in virtually every era of the history of photography.
Just to say "you're never forgotten here." Announcement in April. Watch this space....
*Not ours of course. All readers of TOP are more enlightened, and smarter, as well as much better looking than the norm.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Lesley: "I'm a long time reader, and female, but have commented only a couple of times during the years I've been reading TOP. I think this contest is a cool idea and, depending on the details, there is a pretty good chance that I'll make the effort to toss an entry into the contest. So thanks, I appreciate both what you are doing and your motivation for doing it; it may encourage me to comment more often."
Mike replies: I hope you will.
Jayson Merryfield: "I went and shared this with a small photography group I'm a part of, which includes more than a few female photographers. Maybe one or two will become regulars? Who's to say? :-) Great idea."
William Schneider: "When I started teaching in the mid-'80s, the overwhelming majority of photojournalists and commercial photographers in classes were men. There might have been one woman in an entire class back then. Times have changed. I just ran a quick count on our current students:
- Photojournalism—69% female vs. 31% male
- Commercial Photo—86% female vs. 14% male
"Men appear to write most of the posts on gear-based websites, but it's clear that the next generation of professional photographers will be predominantly female."
Chuck: "Call me a knuckle dragger if you want. This is discrimination. If you had a contest for men only it would be discrimination and a bunch of folks would be screaming about it. What is the deal. Is it because males are stronger and can carry heavier cameras so they can only shot from behind the men's tee?"
Mike replies: That doesn't even make sense....
Heather S: "In order to prove that some of your readers are indeed female, I am happy to post my first comment. I have been reading TOP for years; it is the only photography blog which is bookmarked at the top of my browser window. I read it because it is erudite and opinionated, yet civil and kind. I read it because it balances well the 'gearhead' topics with the concerns of photography as art. I read it because it is not ridiculously stubborn about full-frame, physically bloated DSLRs as the end-all-be-all. (I say this as a woman who often shoots with a classic 5D, but whose small, aching hands lust for an OM-D.) I hope Mr. Tanaka is wrong—I hope that I am part of more than a small percentage of your readership. But if I am not, please know that at least this woman quite likes your blog. Cheers!"
Mike replies: I am indeed cheered! :-) How about a GX7, would that be almost as good?
John Craig: "How do you know if I am really female?"
Mike replies: I take your word for it. Perhaps I give greater weight to the idea of honor than is currently fashionable, but I start with the assumption that TOP readers can be taken at their word. I've been interacting with my readers in a variety of ways for a significant number of years now, and that has overwhelmingly been my experience.
gnd: "David Cobb at Photo Cascadia recently wrote about female landscape photographers who inspire him."
MargaretR: "As a female reader of this blog, and enthusiastic amateur photographer (albeit one who's never posted), I applaud your efforts to be female-friendly and non-sexist. I greatly enjoy the breadth of articles I find here, even some of the 'gear' ones (although I don't always 'get' them! It's a camera…it does what every other camera does…get over it! :-) )
"But a competition for women only? Really? Part of me finds that a teeny bit sexist in itself. I've had the good fortune to grow up in a era where male-female equality is taken for granted (at least it has been in my life and career), and I've never felt the need for positive discrimination such as this. In fact, I've always been against it.
"Great images are great images, no matter who or which gender they're taken by. There's no reason women can't or don't take as great images as men, as a matter of course. I grant there are probably still fewer women in the field, but as noted above, and as in many other disciplines, that's changing.
"Encourage your women readers by being as inclusive and thoughtful as you like in your posts—that's great. But segregating us out as something 'separate but equal'? I appreciate the good intent, but noooooo, thanks. Let us just be who we are, and take on the world (or not, as we choose) right alongside the male readers. We're all just photographers, after all. Good, bad and indifferent. To paraphrase Tina Turner, what's gender got to do with it….?"
Mike replies: Or, as another (female) photographer put it to me privately, "most people today, male or female, don't like the genders being split out." I get that.
I would just point out, to you and her, without meaning to be, or trying to be, contentious, that just because you're a woman reader doesn't necessarily mean this contest is for you. You can still pick and choose what you want to participate in here with perfect freedom. You can always sit it out if you don't like the parameters.
But in your comment, aren't you starting from the base assumption that all contests are supposed to be for all readers, fairly and equally?
That's not empirically my take on contests. My sense is that they're usually manipulative to some degree, and they have some (often cynical) purpose behind them.
For example, there was a contest held by a children's clothing company many years ago asking for amateur pictures of children dressed in the company's clothing. The catch was that entrants had to sign over all rights to every entry to the company in perpetuity. The company then used all the contest entries as private stock photography for several years afterwards, using the pictures in ads (including national print advertising campaigns) and all manner of corporate publications with no further compensation to the photographers.
We're not that bad, of course—I wouldn't be, as I object to exploitation of photographers—but what if I held a contest for view camera pictures because I was receiving complaints that the site is not friendly enough to large format photographers? Would people who have never shot a single picture with a view camera complain of discrimination? Maybe they would—but too bad. The purpose of the contest in that case would be to send a message to large format photographers that we're not ignoring them. And—cyncial self-interest coming up—that they shouldn't ignore us either. The contest would naturally get some attention at the LFF and other LF sites, and draw some new eyes here that might not know about TOP.
The bottom line (Cynic Dept.) is that if I put up $1k worth of prizes, more or less, it's because I want something in return. And what I'm aiming for here is to adjust the proportions, because my sense is that the proportion of women readers here has gotten too small. The problem is not "how to get good photographs as submissions" (that's easy—just ask), the problem is "how to entice more women photographers to come discover the site." To look, and maybe like what they see and stick around. Does that have a cynical and manipulative—even crass—aspect? Okay, it does; but most contests do.
Of course, a secondary motive is to send a message to existing women photographer TOP readers (such as you) that their presence is appreciated, and if the contest serves to alienate you to any significant degree, then it has backfired. Right? And I definitely do not want that....
Edie Howe: "Thanks, Mike! A fine effort to include us XX types. I'll be entering, of course. Do you have a theme in mind?"
Mike replies: I don't. I'm leaning towards making it completely open, with no limitations whatsoever, as that seems to reflect what women photographers can be into. I know people like guidance and direction generally in contests (all people, not just women), and I considered making it a requirement that all the pictures had to include at least one human being...just to give the entries as a whole a slight bit of consistency and coherence.
Then gnd's comment (above) came in, with that amazing link...! That was the end of that idea.
Thorsten: "Being male, I'm receiving here a message that my presence is being taken for granted."
alessandra: "I'm a long time reader and female. I also bought photographs at least three times during your print offers; but for several reasons I usually do not post comments. This is an exception, I just want to let you know that I really enjoy your blog."
Mike replies: Thanks!