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Friday, 28 March 2014


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This is wonderful! I support the idea completely.

Please imagine me on the sidelines, silently smiling and giving a big thumbs up and otherwise staying out of it completely. This ain't about me, after all.

I'm changing my name to Sue.


[Shouldn't that be, "Thanks, Sue"? --Mike]

Sweet! It should coincide nicely with my upcoming sex change.

While I'm sure you have many female readers, I don't notice many here who make comments (and keep a female sounding user name, at least). Surprisingly I know of a number of regular female posters over in the more gear oriented (with easy image sharing) forums of DPR.

I look forward to this contest.

Fantastic idea.

The Lumix is a nice prize. Wow!
Once upon a time I was in love with my GF1. I just wanted it to have a VF. This one is what the next generation should have been, and it's a beautiful prize.

A female photographer to explore: Magdalene Sole

I do hope you'll be having a similar number of "male readers' photo contests" as well. I would hate to think that the site had become sexist.

[I'll think about including males in the future, but no promises. --Mike]

I love the GX7! Once I made a picture while wearing a dress and a wig. Does it apply?
Seriously now, I think this is a tremendous idea. There's so much to admire in photographs made by women. Generally, women are less prone to gearheadness and their pictures display more subtlety than men's, appealing to one's sensitivity rather than exploring visual impact or using techniques that don't add much to expression. Besides, there are so many honorable women in photography: Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Vivian Maier... so many, in fact, that it would be fastidious to go on mentioning names.
The other day, while I was perusing through a Flickr's group I joined recently, I found some wonderful pictures made by a woman. They never cease to impress me and make me wonder why this girl isn't on top of the world! Her pictures are, well, very... feminine. I don't know her personally, I don't know where she's from and have only a nickname to call her, but her pictures... they're just brilliant. Take a peek: I'm sure you'll all agree with me. http://www.flickr.com/photos/71510266@N08/
All in all it's a great idea. I'll be chatting with Andrew Molitor on the sidelines, hoping to see some great pictures here :)

"...limited patience with the persnickety gearheadedness and status disputation of many male-dominated forums."
Let's face it, that's long-form for "all photography sites and blogs".

I have no idea how many regular female readers you have, Mike. Even though you try to give TOP a wider angle of view and you assiduously sand-down male aggression its dial-tone is gear. So my bet would be that less that 5% of your daily viewers are female. TOP is most decidedly a venue for the "mature" male.

Nevertheless it is always a treat to see the work of women devoted to serious, or even earnest, photography. They tend to whiz right past the what-camera-do-I-use crap, past the "awesome" decorative spectacle traps that many men never escape, and get right to crafting the emotional experience with a camera.

There's an excellent sampling of both gender's work at PDN's The Curator Fine Art Photo contest entries right now. It's a relatively rare chance to see so much work by devoted folks of all ages.

So good luck on the contest, Mike. But you might have to recruit entrants from other places on the Internet!

Hmm. A lot of people will hate what I’m about to say, but I don’t really “get” this. I completely understand the idea of being “female friendly” by including content that has broader appeal than just “gear-guy” stuff (although I must be a woman, because I too prefer the less gear-oriented posts). But holding a contest that is only open to women seems like an act of segregation.... [Snip. --Ed.]

[I want to attract more women readers. Can you think of a better way to do that?

If you really object, I can only give my standard answer: It's a blog. If you don't like what you read, wait a bit: it changes! --Mike]


Great stuff, I applaud your efforts. One thing to keep in mind is that typically female readers are not as interested in gear stuff as your male readers. Not that there are not gear heads of the fairer sex, but just not as many. My sweetie is an excellent photographer and I'm sure she will enter your contest.

That'll be cool.
Generally they seem happier with a single camera and lens than us blokes (from a sample of 2).
best wishes phil

Best of luck to all the contestants. I look forward to seeing the work that Mike shares.

[I want to attract more women readers. Can you think of a better way to do that?]

No complaints in that department but you might consider a term somewhat more comfortable for the gearheads than "snip". Hehe.

Looking forward to the contest.

"...gem-like..."? Would you have described it differently if it weren't being offered to your female readers? :)

[Of course not. I'm pandering. As I always do.

It was that or a pink Pentax.

Seriously, it appears "gem-like" is a favored adjective with me...I've applied it to books, prints, lenses and more over the years. --Mike]

Hi Ken - but what about:





There are lots more out there of course...

I'm hurt.

Since there is likely no research supporting the idea that men and women photograph differently, it would be interesting to have a contest for all, then separate the entries into those done by men and those done by women, and then compare the results. This would still encourage women to get more involved.

My sense is that there would be a difference between the two groups, but it is always nice to have data.

Good idea, bad idea, who knows? But it IS an idea, different, and I think that's good.

One of my favorite photo books is Mother Earth: Through the Eyes of Women Photographers and Writers, Revised Tenth-Anniversary Edition

Without knowing the title, I don't think anyone would think the images must be by women. Its more that women make images as good as the best men. Hmmm ... Then why is it a favorite of mine? Perhaps the selection/editing by Judith Boice. at least a couple of my favorite images are in this book.

This newer edition adds images and the reproduction quality is excellent.


Does the winner have to prove she's female? Or are you just going to take the winner's word for it?

While I'm not convinced that bribery is the best way to achieve it (and might look chauvinistic if not done right), I wholeheartedly support woman-friendly ambitions and wish you luck. Just for the record, though, many of us males have "limited patience with the persnickety gearheadedness and status disputation of many male-dominated forums" as well, and I think the management's continual efforts to cultivate a higher level of discourse is one reason why we stick around.

Is this your way of saying women can't compete with men?

[Why would you say that, instead of assuming that it's my way of saying that men can't compete with women? ;-) --Mike]


As one of the women readers here, I really appreciate your gesture and will certainly participate.

Some questions for you - how do you know how many women readers follow your blog? Are you keeping track via comments? Would a poll help you figure out how many women actually follow your blog?

Also have you considered trying to rope in at least one woman photographer to write a guest post here occasionally?

Also of interest to me - how the majority male photographers here consider female photographers?

The post from Ed H about the percentage of female readers got me thinking about what the percentage is, of course, no way to tell. I read TOP every day, posted once or twice and have emailed Mike about a car he was selling (Yay Miatas!). Then I thought... "Not a lot of females? Better chance of winning!" (Yay me!)

"I want to attract more women readers. Can you think of a better way to do that?"

Try to get more females from the world of Art & Commercial photography, writing articles for TOP.

I'm not saying the comps a bad idea, but I'm not sure it's enough on its own

Good Luck


I live in a house full of women. I get to see it first hand; and this:

"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*."

is patronization of the first order. You have been fooled by the masters of "persnickety."

Have fun with your contest.

Was excited when I saw "contest," together with that camera- thought for sure, the B&W contest (as if I'd uhhh... naturally win it)! When I read it was a contest for females, I was naturally let down- and then relieved, since I now have a very legit excuse for not winning...

Seriously- Great Idea!

Contest sounds cool - if, for a change, I can just get my head out of the gear sites long enough to go make some photographs. "-)

What about women like me... trapped in a big hairy man's body (with all attendant parts still in place and, mostly, working)?

[Sounds a lot like you don't actually qualify. Sorry. --Mike]

When I'm out shooting on the streets I see a lot of women doing photography. I suspect that many women are interested in gear but what puts many of them off participating on forums IMO is the style of discussion. Gender difference in the use of language is a well studied phenomenon first brought to my attention through the books of Deborah Tannen. Tanner made the point that in mixed conversation with men and women the male style of language dominates. The bombast and single mindedness of much forum discussion is well known and parenthetically difficult to take for many guys too.

I'm glad you're doing this. Over at one of my favourite tech podcasts, The Accidental Tech Podcast, they've been discussing the similar issue of male domination in nerdy tech (after several women at a big tech site complained about the sexist attitudes of their co-worker male nerds) and one of the people I follow on Twitter, a physicist named Deborah Berebichez both have come up with the same idea, namely, it's better to do something to address the obvious imbalance between men's and women's participation in various activities even if it means a reverse discrimination via women only projects than do nothing. If the intentions are correct as I believe yours are then adjustments can be made further down the line to maintain that everyone's equality is guaranteed. It not unlike driving a car, you steer it.

Finally, I've often wondered about how women's art differs from that of men. In many many cases it doesn't but there are also many female artists from Annette Messenger to Louise Bourgouis to Rinko Kawauchi to Uta Barth whose work seems to me to come out of a particularly feminine point of reference. I'm not positive I'm right so I'm very interested to see if I sense anything in the images submitted to your contest. I recently took part in a learning project with Zack Arias and he set up a Flickr group for participants to post to so that all work was seen. Perhaps setting up something like this for your contest would be of interest?

I mentioned Zack Arias's project at Flickr in my last comment so I decided to post a link. The assignment was simply "lines" with the intro video here
http://dedpxl.com/assignment-01-lines/ and the images posted at Flickr are here: https://www.flickr.com/groups/dedpxl/

I'd add that Zack often wears a very macho attitude and seems to attract photographers with the same attitude which I personally find off putting but the project was an interesting one and the images produced were of a higher technical caliber than I expected.

"Seriously, it appears "gem-like" is a favored adjective with me...I've applied it to books, prints, lenses and more over the years. --Mike"

Good thing you don't write a jewelry blog! :)

While I admire your intentions and motivations, if I'm reading you right, the contest in question will only be open to female readers ? If so, such exclusionary** affairs never sit too well with me, often succeeding only in offsetting one bias by introducing another.

Now that I have put my curmudgeonly and knobbly cane aside, I am all for a pro-photography site. Too often, most photography sites get bogged down in the usual and endless gear-centric discussions, and TOP is like an oasis in comparison, especially with just the right amount of gear-related content, imo :)

** unless exclusionary is the norm, ie if most or all photo contests here were open only to distinct and seperate groups each time.

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….?

"...All TOP readers are more enlightened, and smarter, as well as much better looking than the norm."

Weeeelllllll, I have to take a pass on the third quality. Very best wishes for the success of the contest!

With best regards,


I might have missed it, but will any women be judging said contest?

[Nope, nobody in here but us chickens. --Mike]

MargaretR I Love You...

First of all- to the two wonderful women I live with, my wife and daughter, that earlier post by a Jim is NOT me! and secondly as I've said before, its your blog and you do a great job with it! Keep up the great work. Plus I sent back the GX-7 I bought, didn't like it!

and, and, I think you mean roosters!

Mike, you made your motivation for this contest very clear, and I think it's perfectly valid. In fact, considering the paucity of comments by self-identified female readers over the time I've been reading TOP, I'm surprised you didn't do something like this a long time ago.

I don't have any facts to back this up, other than my own casual observations, but it seems to me that at least in the area of photography as art, male and female photographers are equally represented today. That certainly wasn't the case in the earliest years of the craft, when taking a picture meant lugging several hundred pounds of wood and glass around in a horse-drawn wagon, and dealing with noxious chemicals; but as the process became more democratic, so did the practitioners.

I'd submit—more bluntly than the comments above—that the apparent disparity between the equal distribution of both genders in the practice of photography, and the heavily male-weighted participation on forums and in photo-blog comments is obvious. Photography is to "gearheadedness" as sex is to porn.

I realize that camera porn (otherwise known as new equipment announcements and reviews) is going to bring in more readers, and by extension, more affiliate-comissioned sales to keep you and TOP in business, so I'm not suggesting that you upset the balance. But hopefully, this contest will be an enticement that will lead to more female participation when it's done. I look forward to seeing a selection of the submissions and reading the commentary on them.

As for my earlier, very short, tongue-in-cheek comment, it was intended to be accompanied by an embedded link that didn't work.

"Men", by Loudon Wainwright III:

To those that feel excluded and marginalized in this little contest—imagine going through your whole life and professional career feeling that way, except that the exclusion and marginalization isn't usually explicit or documented but, like someone looking over your shoulder, is very much there.

Make no mistake, we've come a long way in just 100 years—it's amazing to think that a woman's right to vote is less than 100 years old. And in many ways the US is among the most progressive nations with regards to the rights of women. We're on the right path but we're certainly not beyond sexism quite yet.

I am delighted to see this blog because it flushed out so many comments from women readers, which I was so pleased to see and read.

Thanks Mike!

"Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a girl named Bob"

At first this smacked of a bit of discrimination and separation, but after thinking a little it looks like a good way to gauge female participation and readership and I'd like to see a group of photos all by women. I'm curious to know if I discern a different perspective when seeing them.


I figured a while ago by one of your advertisers, (do not see them right now), that you were a sexist because you accepted an advertiser that was marketing a site that sold or rented sexist pictures of women (beautiful women or something like that). I took from that advertisement, this is a site that is directed towards a male crowd.

I am a women, and a bit of a gear head, and have never been insulted by anything sexist on your site except the sexist advertiser that was anchored on the left side of my margin when I viewed your site. I found it to be a bit vulgar and happy to see it gone (at least for now).

a/k/a Darlene Christina Almeda

>>Also of interest to me - how the majority male photographers here consider female photographers?

Posted by: Suprada | Friday, 28 March 2014 at 06:49 PM <<

I can't speak for the majority, only a minority of one, but I've not had any doubts about the capabilities of female photographers since I was a wee lad and fell in love with the work Margaret Bourke-White.

Sixty-odd years later I still admire her work.


Dear Margaret et.al.,

It's too bad that you and a few others are unhappy with Mike's contest, but I think you're entirely missing the point of it. It has nothing to do with women's equality. It's purely about reader demographics. Mike is not happy with the percentage of women readers he has. He wants to increase that. Him just saying “everybody's welcome” repeatedly hasn't gotten it to the level he'd like. That means he needs to take specific measures that will preferentially attract women. I'm sure he'd be thrilled to hear suggestions as to how to do this. If you have ideas on other steps he can take in that direction, I have no doubt he'd be receptive. It's a difficult problem.

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Well, I don't know if that's the case for most forums/blogs on photography, but it is my impression that there are far less women posting in them than there are taking photos or attending photography courses.

I don't know if there's a reason for that, but I seriously doubt this contest will change things. You might get a few more women to start reading TOP regularly, but very few of them will post, so you won't notice the change.

As far as I'm concerned, the only reason to make a women-only contest would be to create awareness on discrimination or other unfair issues specifically faced by women. Not the case here, although I understand your stated reasons.

Still, I'm always amused at how many women are deluded into thinking that they have not experienced discrimination in their life or career (sure, other women may have, but not them). The truth is they've almost certainly been (or will be at some point) unfairly passed over on a promotion in favour of a male colleague, or spend their whole career earning 10-20% less than their male counterparts without even knowing it.


You're asking for other ideas to attract female readers? Well, it seems to me that most, if not all, of your columnists/guest writers are men. Surely there are at least a few women in your orbit, or in the orbit of this blog, who write well about photography.

I have no issue with your contest, but it is a one-off. I think you would be equally well served by adding one or more women to TOP's rotation of guest writers.

Mike, I think you should run the site the way that pleases you (and I think that you do). I don't want to go to a site that is only covering the entirety of whatever topic only in a way that appeals to me. I read most of your posts, even ones on subjects I don't 'like'. How else would I ever discover things to find interesting (or converse)? I won't tell you which subjects aren't interesting to me for that reason.


Almost verbatin I agree. IMHO there are cameras and photographers. That is all. I never ask if the foto was made for a woman or a man, a child or an elder, living here or there, foreigner or not. If I am interested, then I ask for the name, and this because I am not able to say who made a foto just by looking at it. Sorry for that! :-(

Hmm, I am as split on this idea as some others seem to be. On the one hand, you are reaching out to women photographers, which is good, but on the other hand, there are subtle implications here, and some not so subtle. The one implication, which I know isn't true but it still leaves that feeling in the mouth, is that women can't handle the competition from men.

But something else bothers me about competitions for women: there is no category other than being a woman. So, there are competitions for journalism, wedding photography, urban exploration, people, and so on, and then women. Should there be categories for women too? And a for-men, a for-women and a for-everyone competition on every topic?

I am not sure that a women-only competition of this nature really helps at all. Wouldn't it have been better just to have a highlight on women photographers, with no competition, or a for-everyone competition with equal prizes for the best man, woman, and overall?

I wholeheartedly applaud your intent, Mike, and hope this has the desired effect. At first, this post made me just the *slightest* bit queasy (what if you wanted to attract more people of a certain race or ethnic group to your readership and had a contest open only to said demographic?). But your sincerity in trying to achieve your worthwhile goal of increasing female readership/participation outweighs any qualms I might have. And who can look a gift horse in the mouth--that's a really nice prize you've lined up!

I smile a little bit when I think of luring women photographers through a competition, though. I can't speak for all (any?) other women, but I suspect t hat many of us would rather submit mini-portfolios of our work and then have a nice, in-depth discussion about each other's photos, our motivations, our techniques, and even our gear (I think female photo enthusiasts are just as interested in gear as the men are). On a related note, I've always wondered if camera clubs' focus on competition is the reason so many clubs seem to attract more men than women. Many women I know would rather learn, teach, and build up relationships through give-and-take rather than through competition (although there's certainly a place for that too; all humans seem to enjoy validation).

Anyway, best of luck with the competition, and thanks for trying to make the site even more inclusive! For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt excluded or marginalized at T.O.P. Everyone’s shared interest in photography seems to go a long way toward erasing lines of gender, nationality, politics, etc.

P.S. I'm no prude, but I have to say that I don't particularly miss the Joyful Nudes ad, either (no offense, Eolake).

As a 34 year old man, it's much easier to be ruled out from a photo contest for women than from contests for young artists/new talent and the like (not that I was talented, I'm most of the time just enjoying the strange new perspective my work gets the moment I submit it to a contest).

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