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Saturday, 23 September 2017


"This is the best of all possible worlds!"

Finally, a statement both the optimists and the pessimists can agree on.


Thank you for writing this: it's important, especially in the context of the last few years.

I recently read an interview with a musician (I wish I could remember who) who said something very insightful when asked if he (it was a he, I know that much) had any intention of retiring: he said that musicians are not athletes, and they can happily carry on into old age. Photographers are not athletes either, and this means that not only can they carry on into old age (this is good news at the age of 54), but also they don't rely on any special physical qualities: male photographers don't get to be better than female ones because they are stronger or taller, and still less do white photographers get to be better than black ones. It's the images you find or make that matter, not some accident of your genetic history.

And thank you for your 'it's not for me to judge' comment: this is something I, as a white, male, british, well-off person have to remember: I don't know, and can't really know what it's like to be female or black or poor, and I should have the decency to trust the reports of those who are: it's not for me to judge.

And not to forget... Lee Miller!

Two words. Eva Rubinstein.

Well done, Mike! This is precisely the subtle thing that needs to happen more. Not a "THIS WEEK WE FEATURE WOMEN" but simply doing it, with no fuss. It's perfectly normal. I had not even noticed the pattern, it simply was there in the weave and weft of your work.

I have recently become overwhelmed at the insanely unwelcoming atmosphere offered to female photographers, and took some small steps myself (letters to vendors who advertise on web sites haboring misogynist users/atmospheres and so on).

More than simply being represented, there has hardly been a year of the last 150 in which there isn't a strong female candidate for "best photographer working in such and such a year", and I point to the recent winners of the Luminous Endowment grants over at the late Michael Reichmann's enterprise -- 8 of 10 winners were female, and to my eye, justly so.

Full disclosure, I have written a piece on this exact subject for LuLa, currently queued for publication

And yet we see at the "bottom levels", those places a newcomer might go for a little help with her new camera, atmosphere's running the full gamut from "mildly toxic" to "viciously poisonous" toward women. It's quite disheartening.

It can't be much fun to carry so much guilt for being a white American male... having to qualify and explain every choice without lapsing into mansplaining.

[Guilt? I have no guilt about this. --Mike]

I have failed to feign my surprised face upon learning Nikon eschewed selecting a single excellent female photographer for their marketing campaign.

The non-technical areas of Nikon's business have failed miserably in a variety of ways. This particular display of incompetence is just another example of a Nikon's underperforming, non-technical business groups.

At the same time excluding Ashton Kutcher from the list shows Nikon's marketing efforts are slowly headed in the right direction

It may be that the majority of photographers are men, but women are certainly in the majority of people being photographed.

Odd how some people look at such things. I guess we all have our perceptions. At 53 I have worked in typically male occupations. Combat engineer, welder, mechanic and machinists. All of which have woman participants and have for many years now. But I have always thought of them as a mans job because that was what they were in my formative years.

However Photography was never in my mind delineated by sex, Since those early Instamatic images from one of grand moms hand me down Kodak's back in circa 1972 to the present day I have never given a conscious thought until this article about this subject. everyone took pictures...everyone.
Woman and men were always photographers of equal standing in my mind.

Are Nikons actions disturbing to me?... no

Are they out of place to an American in today's all inclusive environment...Absolutely

It does strike me as odd and perhaps even not well thought out. However given that I know nothing about the said test market, perhaps it is normal. A subject for others with more knowledge to judge.

Photography is indeed accessible to everyone today! And it's practiced by virtually everyone today. Furthermore it's a "gateway" activity. Taking casual pictures can actually draw you deeper into your subjects or into the art and craft of taking pictures.

The Nikon dust-up is relevant only to Nikon's p.r. group and to professional outragists. It was stupid but who cares? Photography today dwarfs Nikon and every other camera brand.

First post here after a few years reading!
I thought I would chime in on a simple point: The vast majority of people wouldn't have even noticed the photographers were all men. There is a simple issue with counting how many men were displayed in the pictures, it demands equality of outcome, not opportunity.

If Nikon reached out to 15 men,and 15 women, stating this was a first come first serve opportunity and all the men reply first... should they bend their rules? Should they leave 15 spots open for women and keep contacting photographers to fill a quota?

Once we start pointing out sex, race etc. We force others to notice, to count, to take issue. For years we have been asking people to ignore the sex, race or disability... Now we want people to notice, and even worse, to act on those superficial qualities.

It wont end well, in fact the divisiveness and sensitivity around these subjects is steadily creeping up in an age where there is more equality of opportunity than ever. Doesn't seem right.

@Abraham: How do you know that "the vast majority of people wouldn't have even noticed the photographers were all men"?

Also, please consider the possibility that in the past, the people harmed by such imbalances had little public voice, and what appears to you as "sensitivity ... creeping up" is simply that you can hear them now.

Years ago I worked for some big world wide operating corporations. To emphasize the international character we always showed a mixture of races and gender. But we always had to show a majority of men and white skin. And mind you, never a woman standing next to a sitting male person! I even remember a case where we hired a woman photographer for the job. No problem. Except for the picture of the board of directors we were asked to come up with a male one.

Once we start pointing out sex, race etc. We force others to notice, to count, to take issue. For years we have been asking people to ignore the sex, race or disability... Now we want people to notice, and even worse, to act on those superficial qualities.

This is an excellent point, but one I would make in reverse. For years we have been asking people to ignore their differences and have seen only halting progress in terms of equality.

If we assume that gender (or racial) skews are due only to the forces of meritocracy at work then, given the size of the population, it is logical to assume that men (particularly white men) are blessed with the genes of good ability. Yet we know that's not true.

Once we start pointing out sex, race etc, we force others to notice — not just who is included, but who isn't in the room. We notice whose voices are missing from the conversation. What makes someone turn away from this art or fail to pursue their first flicker of interest in it? What happens when someone who struggles to find a voice, validation, mentor or role model is invisible? When selection panels choose (as we are all biased to do) work that resonates with their own experiences and values, bias is perpetuated and we are all poorer for it.

If we believe, as we do, that ability is not influenced by sex or race (et cetera) then the issue of representation for its own sake goes away: the talent is there, but remains undiscovered. Why? Because we must work harder to uncover it, encourage it and develop it.

Our standards should be as high as ever (higher even!). Lowering the standard of admissible work isn't inclusion, it's laziness in overcoming the cultural, social, structural and institutional biases that keep inequity entrenched.

Hand ups, not hand outs as they say.

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