The lack of visibility and recognition of females in many professions still hold true today in 2018!!! I mean it hasn’t been 100 years yet that women in our country had the right to vote. Even in the world of street photography, women photographers tend to be underrepresented.
For example I’ve been looking at Melissa Breyer’s photographs and for a while I hadn’t known if the photographer was male or female. When I scroll through Instagram or websites of photo competitions, I just appreciate the photos and never bother looking at the names of the photographer. Before, I used to stereotype and think that women would only photograph children, make the photograph on a wider scale including more in the frame, and a photograph by a man would be up close and personal but that can’t be so accurate today with the amount of photographs online. But now there’s really nothing specific that can pinpoint whether a picture was taken by a man vs a woman.
Back to my main question, how can female street photographers get more recognition in the industry? Two things come to mind: the two affiliates with the most reach in the genre of street photography (Eric Kim and iN-Public). Both have significant reach and a strong influence in the genre. So much so that if they say a photograph or a photographer is good, most people will listen or at least check out their work.
To my knowledge, Eric Kim has never interviewed a female street photographer. What’s incredible about Eric Kim is that he has a solid following from the average street photographer nerd to anyone new or curious about the genre. He reaches more of the general consumer. I mean his stuff is all over google.
The same goes with iN-Public. They have the reach and influence to bring more attention to female street photographers. Besides Magnum, they are the longest reigning collective. For crying out loud, of their twenty five active members only two are females and one of them is Trent Parke’s wife. I don’t know what iN-Public’s criteria is in selecting and accepting new members, but seeing an unbalanced number of men to women under this list of photographers on their site has me scratching my head. Even Burn My Eye, out of 19 members only two are female.
I also think the legacy of street photography plays a role in keeping the women photographers in the dark. When we think of the gold standards in street photography or photographers that helped propel the genre forward, a few names that come to mind are Henri Cartier Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and Alex Webb. All of them men. I do think men take things a little too seriously, partly because men have more of an ego than women do, not saying there aren’t females that don’t have egos but generally speaking us men have bigger egos. Ken Walton of StreetFoto did a great thing by having a majority of female judges for his competitions, but that’s seasonal and clearly not enough.
The difficult part in seeking recognition, regardless of being male or female, is that “you’re only as good as your last photo”. And with many good and bad photographs floating online today it’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle. It can be very hard to stand out for longer than 24 hours. People who say they photograph for themselves, well yeah with street you do have to photograph for yourself, but they also want people to see their work. Street photography is a visual medium, it’s self expression and you should want people to see how YOU see the world.
I feel there are many women street photographers who produce great work and we need to do a better job at recognizing them. I’m glad to find that female street photographers have taken initiative to create online groups that are dedicated exclusively to female street photographers. To see more visit Women in Street and Double X Street.
Another good read here “Street Photography”s a Man Problem”
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