Here is something to ponder on for us this Women’s Day. Are there enough female wedding photographers, and who defines ‘enough’? If not, are we doing enough to make aspiring female photographers want to get into the field, and should we even bother?
Is wedding photography primarily a male-dominated industry? In a previous blog post we discussed closing the gender gap in the wedding photography industry , and whether women make better wedding photographers. This time we’d like to take that a step further. If women offer a fresh, different perspective into photography, why is it that they are so underrepresented?
Equal Representation Of Women Photographers in The Wedding Photogrpahy Industry
The question is a rather complex one, and it isn’t as easy as encouraging more women into the field. There are a ton of societal barriers that prevent women from even trying to get into the field of wedding photography.
Jen Huang, who incidentally was the only female panelist at SILK Inspire 2017, had an interesting note to share, that she received from a female attendee at the festival. This photogrpaher expressed that she was very inspired by seeing Jen on the panel, but couldn’t muster up the courage to speak to her. “I’m so concerned by this,” says Jen, “Many of the women I spoke to expressed the same sentiment – the fear and inequality they feel in a male-dominated world and industry.” This definitely points to what may be one of the reasons there are so few women stepping into the field. Being in a male-dominated scenario can often be intimidating, and the ‘boys club’ atmosphere that tends to be there when there are too many men can isolate or alienate women too.
Prasheila Lookhar, from ‘Going Bananas’, knew of a woman who would do wedding shoots with her brother but was discouraged from pursuing it full time due to the late hours and returned to a 9-5. Not to mention that women usually need to work 150% harder than men in order to even be taken seriously, regardless of the field.
It’s a bit of a catch 22 – on one hand, those in the industry say there just aren’t enough women in the field, while when it comes to the women who are, they’re not as visible or consciously chosen to represent the field. Take Nikon’s recent launch of the D850, featuring a panel of 32 photographers, all of them male, despite there being ample female talent to choose from. Is it time to consciously make room for women, and take decisions that ensure they are represented equally?
Renowned wedding photographer Erika Mann believes that only an intentional deviation from what is seen as ‘the norm’ will help achieve equal representation of men and women in wedding photography events and festivals. In other words, there needs to be a conscious effort to include women – at conferences, at panel discussions and other events of significance that are influential for the photography community.
Another argument in favour of inclusivity for women is the fact that there’s a need for different perspectives. Which brings us to the question – is there a ‘unique female perspective’ when it comes to wedding photography?
Mahesh Shantaram believes that it shouldn’t make a difference whether the person behind the camera is male or female, because it can give rise to stereotypes. Some of those include the assumption that women are more ‘sensitive’ and so are better suited to wedding photography or that men’s masculine traits make their approach more ‘objective’.
Equality And Diversity in Wedding Photography
Erika believes that the ‘differences’ aren’t as simple as gender. “Every single photographer brings with him/her a set of different experiences. It is these experiences that shape the way we see the world and the way they photograph it.” The time may have come for a more diverse approach to choosing photographers who represent the industry. Ekta Rekhi from ‘Sam & Ekta’ believes that the strength of the portfolio supersedes everything else, and it shouldn’t matter whether the photographer is male or female.
When it comes to the technicalities of the field itself, it is often believed that it is tougher for women to break into the segment. Things like handling heavy equipment, working late hours and the functionality of the cameras and equipment itself make it less ‘suitable’ for women. Especially in Indian society, where, as Prasheila mentions, people do not expect a woman to do ‘manly work’ such as lifting light stands or working late into the night. While brands like Nikon are trying to bring in ‘woman friendly cameras’, some female photographers think that’s quite patronising as well.
Then there is the matter of unconscious biases that come into play even while selecting a wedding photographer – for instance, it would be assumed that a woman would capture more of the ’emotional’ or ‘in the moment’ shots, while a male photographer would take the epic shots of the wedding. Women do tend to have a slight advantage too in that they have the opportunity to connect with the bride and capture some of the more intimate sides of the wedding in terms of having access.
How does one break the mold when it comes to equality and diversity in wedding photography? Is it merely about acknowledging and challenging biases? Or does it go deeper, in that the field needs to seem more approachable for women?
As a first step in the right direction, SILK INSPIRE 2018 festival in Bengaluru will include an equal number of men and women photographers on the panel. We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.