Why do you think photography is such a male-dominated hobby/profession?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Ish

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Nov 30, 2004
2,055
463
UK
Since I bought my DSLR recently I've picked up a few photography magazines out of interest, and I'm interested to see that the majority of people producing them and all the editors are male. The one I'm looking at now, for instance, has 14 people on the team and two of them are women. There is a list of their 'experts in the field', nine of them, all men. The book I bought about my camera was written by Julie Adair King but there are more books on photography written by men.

What do you think it is about photography that seems to attract more men than women? I would have thought it's the sort of creative field that would attract roughly equal numbers but it would seem not.
 

sfwalter

macrumors 68000
Jan 6, 2004
1,788
827
Dallas Texas
I wouldn't say its male dominated profession. At least here in the USA it seems to more female dominated, specifically in the Texas area. The last 3 workshops I have been had about 70% women.
 

smiddlehurst

macrumors 65816
Jun 5, 2007
1,226
22
It's not a male dominated hobby, but the side of it your talking about - the magazines, the reviews, the books etc - isn't really about photography. Oh don't get me wrong, there's some good stuff in there but really it's all about the gadgets.

It's about which is the best camera rather than the best option for what you want to do. It's about a lens with the best technical specifications versus a lens that actually suits your style and type of pictures. It's about arguments over RAW or JPEG being the superior option instead of shooting whichever is right for you on a particular day. It is, in short, about everything BUT the photography.

Let me put it this way - since I got into DSLR's about three years ago with my little D40 (and very recently D90) I've learnt many things. One of these things is how to recognise a full-frame Nikon versus a DX format camera. I've seen maybe, oh, a dozen or so full-frames over that time. Of those dozen three were in a studio environment, one was being used in a dark club and the other eight were outfitted with VERY expensive lenses hanging around the necks of people who had everything sent in auto and were just firing off snaps as if it were a point and click. I even saw one (actually, sorry, it was a Canon not Nikon but the point stands) in use in a reasonably well-lit club with a 1.8 prime lens and a massive flash on top being fired straight at the subjects at full power giving really bad results. In other words, people who'd bought top end kit thinking it'd magically give them better results. All of them, every last one, were blokes.

Men tend to like the gadget side, women tend to prefer to just go take pictures and learn how to use what they've got better. And yes, I know that's a horrible generalisation but in my experience it holds true.

My two pence worth anyway...
 

Chundles

macrumors G4
Jul 4, 2005
11,981
364
Because women are out, like having babies and that ;)


Nah, I think it's very much like the food industry where there would appear to be more male chefs than female chefs. There's no difference in ability it's just a traditionally male-dominated field and I guess breaking into it would be tough.

There are loads of female photographers around now who do STUNNING work. In the past the many female photographers may not have had the exposure as society back then didn't put much stock in their abilities but nowadays the sky's the limit.
 

Phrasikleia

macrumors 601
Feb 24, 2008
4,074
397
Over there------->
Of course I can't resist this topic. :p

The long answer involves the arts in general and the history of the exclusion of women from its professional realms, combined with the lack of acclaim for most women who did manage to work against the grain. Historically, women have been the objects, not the agents. They're the desirable bodies on display in art and photographs, not the "masters" responsible for them. "Genius" has historically been the domain of men, and that's a difficult situation for modern women to shake.

The short answer is more pragmatic. Current societal programming discourages women from wielding large pieces of equipment and from being assertive in public--two practices that typify the photographer's experience. I've spoken with many women who feel that it's unfeminine to be seen schlepping around a large camera and the bag full of peripheral gear that usually goes with it. Moreover, a woman out on her own is fairly vulnerable to begin with; add thousands of dollars of gear in plain view, and you have a fairly precarious situation for the average woman. So a lot of women do not find the profession very appealing. We learn from a young age that our femininity should be cultivated in order to garner acceptance and to achieve goals, and we tend to avoid situations that make us physically vulnerable.

So while there are certainly a lot of female photographers doing wedding and studio work (which involve relatively safe working environments), the few women who make inroads in more 'exposed' genres are the exceptions that prove the rule. The women who have risen to fame as photojournalists or acclaimed portraitists can probably be counted on one hand because they are swimming against the tides of history and of societal pressures.
 

ChrisA

macrumors G4
Jan 5, 2006
11,598
380
Redondo Beach, California
Since I bought my DSLR recently I've picked up a few photography magazines out of interest, and I'm interested to see that the majority of people producing them and all the editors are male. The one I'm looking at now, for instance, has 14 people on the team and two of them are women.
You confuse "Photography" with "Equipment".

If you are interested in art and communication with subjects and viewers and about color and shape and what people might like to look at the what might sell. Then it is not male dominated.

But if you want gear reviews and articles about "settings" then it is male dominated.
 

Ish

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Nov 30, 2004
2,055
463
UK
It's not a male dominated hobby, but the side of it your talking about - the magazines, the reviews, the books etc - isn't really about photography. Oh don't get me wrong, there's some good stuff in there but really it's all about the gadgets.

It's about which is the best camera rather than the best option for what you want to do. It's about a lens with the best technical specifications versus a lens that actually suits your style and type of pictures. It's about arguments over RAW or JPEG being the superior option instead of shooting whichever is right for you on a particular day. It is, in short, about everything BUT the photography.

Let me put it this way - since I got into DSLR's about three years ago with my little D40 (and very recently D90) I've learnt many things. One of these things is how to recognise a full-frame Nikon versus a DX format camera. I've seen maybe, oh, a dozen or so full-frames over that time. Of those dozen three were in a studio environment, one was being used in a dark club and the other eight were outfitted with VERY expensive lenses hanging around the necks of people who had everything sent in auto and were just firing off snaps as if it were a point and click. I even saw one (actually, sorry, it was a Canon not Nikon but the point stands) in use in a reasonably well-lit club with a 1.8 prime lens and a massive flash on top being fired straight at the subjects at full power giving really bad results. In other words, people who'd bought top end kit thinking it'd magically give them better results. All of them, every last one, were blokes.

Men tend to like the gadget side, women tend to prefer to just go take pictures and learn how to use what they've got better. And yes, I know that's a horrible generalisation but in my experience it holds true.

My two pence worth anyway...
I think I've seen a part of the field that's more biased as you say. You're right, the magazines are rather gadget-orientated, but I couldn't resist them anyway. I'm sure that'll soon pass. I know there's nothing like practice to familiarise oneself with the camera, but when you buy a camera and the weather is grey and uninspiring it's better than nothing and I love reading anyway. I think I'll move on to more books rather than magazines.

Love your stories about the 'men' with the gadgets!



Of course I can't resist this topic. :p

The long answer involves the arts in general and the history of the exclusion of women from its professional realms, combined with the lack of acclaim for most women who did manage to work against the grain. Historically, women have been the objects, not the agents. They're the desirable bodies on display in art and photographs, not the "masters" responsible for them. "Genius" has historically been the domain of men, and that's a difficult situation for modern women to shake.

The short answer is more pragmatic. Current societal programming discourages women from wielding large pieces of equipment and from being assertive in public--two practices that typify the photographer's experience. I've spoken with many women who feel that it's unfeminine to be seen schlepping around a large camera and the bag full of peripheral gear that usually goes with it. Moreover, a woman out on her own is fairly vulnerable to begin with; add thousands of dollars of gear in plain view, and you have a fairly precarious situation for the average woman. So a lot of women do not find the profession very appealing. We learn from a young age that our femininity should be cultivated in order to garner acceptance and to achieve goals, and we tend to avoid situations that make us physically vulnerable.

So while there are certainly a lot of female photographers doing wedding and studio work (which involve relatively safe working environments), the few women who make inroads in more 'exposed' genres are the exceptions that prove the rule. The women who have risen to fame as photojournalists or acclaimed portraitists can probably be counted on one hand because they are swimming against the tides of history and of societal pressures.
I was hoping you'd join in Phrasikleia! I don't know why some women should feel it unfeminine to be carting around a camera and bag of gear. I think they're missing out, probably on many interesting things if that's their general attitude. I can understand the feeling of being more vulnerable working alone in more remote places though, especially, as you say with expensive gear.

If there's one thing I have learned, is that most large pieces of equipment are not designed to be used by women. Most large labour-saving devices need quite a bit of muscle-power just to operate them. As someone who's helped build their own house two times I know all about large pieces of 'labour-saving' equipment!

Women have taken a back-seat in our society in the past and even though most people take a balanced view of equality there is still the undercurrent of programming you mention. However, I don't want this moved to the PRSI thread!

EDIT: Thanks ChrisA. That seems to be coming out of the discussion. We all like our cameras, and we all want to make the most of them, but it looks like interest in buying more 'gadgets' is more a male thing. Must turn in now—will catch up tomorrow!
 

Phrasikleia

macrumors 601
Feb 24, 2008
4,074
397
Over there------->
You confuse "Photography" with "Equipment".

If you are interested in art and communication with subjects and viewers and about color and shape and what people might like to look at the what might sell. Then it is not male dominated.

But if you want gear reviews and articles about "settings" then it is male dominated.
Sorry, but the measure of domination is really fame and glory--the proportion of people who rise to the very highest levels and therefore enjoy the most power and the greatest renumeration. Highly successful female photographers like Dorthea Lange and Annie Leibovitz are few and far between.
 

niuniu

macrumors 68020
Maybe at a professional level. But most photography students I met were women. I still consider it a very female orientated hobby due to the sheer number of women I know with professional DSLRs. Of course, I'm only speaking from my personal experience.
 

macrumormonger

macrumors 6502
Sep 22, 2009
364
0
Los Angeles, CA
I don't know, I thought photography is one of the most female-friendly hobbies around. The examples the OP cities is really not about photographers, but about the structures of newsrooms and publishing.
 

Phrasikleia

macrumors 601
Feb 24, 2008
4,074
397
Over there------->
I was hoping you'd join in Phrasikleia! I don't know why some women should feel it unfeminine to be carting around a camera and bag of gear. I think they're missing out, probably on many interesting things if that's their general attitude. I can understand the feeling of being more vulnerable working alone in more remote places though, especially, as you say with expensive gear.
I have to say I'm uncomfortable with the idea that it's the "attitude" of the women. It's an attitude of society in general. Men's expectations are to blame just as much as women's desires to meet them.

If there's one thing I have learned, is that most large pieces of equipment are not designed to be used by women.
And even the small equipment. For example, it's very difficult to find a camera backpack that is made for the female chest. I applaud companies like Black Rapid, who've just come out with a women's R-Strap that incorporates an S-curve so that the strap won't cut across one breast.
 

FrankieTDouglas

macrumors 65816
Mar 10, 2005
1,489
1,968
I never really thought about it as a male-dominated industry. I know and have worked with photographers from across this country (and across the pond). Plenty of females in every avenue.
 

Abyssgh0st

macrumors 68000
Jan 12, 2009
1,885
3
Colorado
Interestingly enough, I've always found myself considering photography a more female-specific hobby. Not that there is anything wrong with males being passionate with the hobby, but I've just thought of it as it being feminine by nature (maybe it's a southern USA thing?).

As we get into the age where technology is becoming so much more advanced with DSLR bodies, lenses, accessories, etc, it essentially invites gadget-loving males (such as myself), and provides a convenient point of interest just in a technical aspect.

I find myself thinking more and more photographically minded every day, and I really have been starting to appreciate the technique based aspect of the hobby as well as the technological stuff I've always loved.

I'm not sure that it is per-say 'cool' to be a heterosexual male who loves photography in high school, but I certainly enjoy it. But that doesn't mean I'll be toting a gripped XSi with a 17-50mm lens with a lens hood, flash, etc at school.
 

sonor

macrumors 6502
Jan 15, 2008
345
0
London, UK
Since I bought my DSLR recently I've picked up a few photography magazines out of interest, and I'm interested to see that the majority of people producing them and all the editors are male.
Perhaps "Digital Photographer" - a UK magazine - is the exception. The editor in chief, editor and reviews editor are all women.
 

Phrasikleia

macrumors 601
Feb 24, 2008
4,074
397
Over there------->
If anyone posting in this thread is a female, I encourage you to say so.

It would appear that a bunch of guys here think there is no gender inequality in the field of photography--that women are equally successful and celebrated. But perhaps I'm being presumptuous in guessing that we're lacking females in this discussion.
 

niuniu

macrumors 68020
If anyone posting in this thread is a female, I encourage you to say so.

It would appear that a bunch of guys here think there is no gender inequality in the field of photography--that women are equally successful and celebrated. But perhaps I'm being presumptuous in guessing that we're lacking females in this discussion.
No women here, they're all out taking photos while the men are here whining about women rights :D
 

Designer Dale

macrumors 68040
Mar 25, 2009
3,950
99
Folding space
I'll make up for that...

I think that this is rooted in something that is much deeper and could be looked at in terms of our history as a species. I think it's genetic.

My ex has a saying, "Men hunt and women gather", and that's very true. If you look at the history of humans before the onset of agrarian society, you will find that men do hunt and women gather.

Men were the half of the species that picked up crude weapons and marched off into the wilderness in search of meat, while women guarded the home, tended the children and gathered wood, water, fruit, berries, tubers and such.

This went on so long that it became hardwired into our genetic structure. If you look at hunters and fishers today, both commercial and sport, you find that it is dominated by men. Large scale farming is a joint venture, but small scale gardening is dominated by women. Men hunt, women gather.

With studio work set aside, photography is about as similar to hunting as you can get. Pack off into the wilderness with a bag of glass, roam the streets with an R-strap slung over one shoulder, stake out the courthouse to "capture" the bad boy escorted to the waiting police car. Photographers hunt.

There are plenty of women photographers but they are outnumbered by men because of genetic programming. Not something a mother taught her daughter, something taught by time.

Dale
 

jodelli

macrumors 65816
Jan 6, 2008
1,219
1
Windsor, ON, Canada
I've posted in a couple of forums featuring urban photography, and frankly some of the places myself and others have wandered into have been on the rough side.
There are a large majority of male photographers who would not care to do that either. It's not all about gender.

Margaret Bourke White had an amazing career but there aren't many, including males, like her and it's a shame.
 

Ish

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Nov 30, 2004
2,055
463
UK
I don't know, I thought photography is one of the most female-friendly hobbies around. The examples the OP cities is really not about photographers, but about the structures of newsrooms and publishing.
And this forum. Is it because it's on a Mac site—do the photography-only sites have a better balance?

I have to say I'm uncomfortable with the idea that it's the "attitude" of the women. It's an attitude of society in general. Men's expectations are to blame just as much as women's desires to meet them.
By 'attitude' I'm thinking that any society has expectations of how its members will behave, men, women and children. Some of these expectations are for the good of that society and others are more rooted in habit and the way things have been in the past. It's a personal choice how an individual will respond to that expectation and how much they're willing to step 'outside the box'. Pity you live a long way off. This calls for a good natter over a cup of coffee!

Perhaps "Digital Photographer" - a UK magazine - is the exception. The editor in chief, editor and reviews editor are all women.
That's interesting to know. I hadn't noticed that one!

If anyone posting in this thread is a female, I encourage you to say so.
I am.
 

niuniu

macrumors 68020
Wow. It's rare to come across such a genuinely impolite person in the photo forum.
You mean, someone with a sense of humor. Try being less sensitive and judgemental, you're not better than anyone here. You and your buddy are genuinely angsty is all. :)

Besides, my girlfriend, my ex-girlfriend, and nearly every one of her girlfriends have either been photography students, or are hobbyists. It was an ex-girlfriend that introduced my to photography about 8 years ago. I made my point earlier humourously that men are here whining and women are out taking photos because, it's largely true. I know very few women who post on forums. They much prefer to be out socialising of if they must be indoors, they'll be on the phone. They do upload a lot of pictures to websites and comment, but the format is different to a forum like this one, it's not a place to discuss, just to post comment on pictures.

Interestingly the subject matter of male and female hobbyists is much different in my experience.
 

RedTomato

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2005
4,014
313
.. London ..
Most of the photographers I know or have met are female. By 'photographer' in this context, I mean anyone I know who has paid out for a DSLR or had their photo mass-produced in print. That's about 20 or so people.

However, the straight male ones in my experience, while still nice people, are generally a bit more arrogant about it, and it seems to form a larger part in their self definition of the identity they choose to project.

Female: Hi, I'm a photographer. Would you mind sitting over there please?

Straight male: Hi, Ah am teh PHOTOGRAPHER. This iz my GEAR. It is *cool*. Let's have you over here plehze.

Of course I grossly exaggerate :)
 

Status
Not open for further replies.