WHY WOMEN ARE SO BAD AT LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY?
2nd October 2017
Women are awful at landscape photography. Capturing, editing, and showcasing astounding landscape photos, making YouTube tutorials about shooting and post-processing is a man’s craft. Or is it?
I’m not a professional photographer. Far from it. But I’m a dedicated enthusiast. For the past year or so I’ve been trying to learn various techniques for landscape photography, including editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. Although I’ve purchased a number of (e)books, like many of us in my generation and the ones that follow, I mainly learn from YouTube tutorials. So one day, as I was eagerly clicking through videos, it struck me. I have only seen one lesson by a woman. One lesson.
I went through all my online accounts and to my utter shock realised, I barely followed any female landscape photographers. On YouTube, on Instagram, on 500px, on Flickr. Much of the accounts I follow or watch were suggested to me by the named platforms. I wondered, don’t female photographers have an online presence?
Google will surely know. So I entered “best landscape photographers” and ended up with and endless list of best-compilations featuring almost exclusively male photographers. I also gave a try and entered “female landscape photographers”. What I found was groups and online communities featuring the work of women only and blog posts like this; pointing out how female artists, even though often more in number, are less noticeable. There is no malelandscapephotography.com (I’m sure if there was one, there would be serious backlash), but there certainly is a landscapesbywomen.net website. There are even books written on the female perspective, as if the gaze of a woman would be a different one in the genre.
Does this mean there are no good female landscape photographers?
Hardly. It only means that women are less visible. Of course, the matter is much more complicated than this. The lack of visibility is just an observation, not the explanation. I believe the groups and websites featuring female photographer’s work are all made with good intention, made to give visibility to excellent work by women. But any such attempt, so I believe, will be of little effect. Instead, women and men should be given equal visibility on the same and not separate platforms. Sounds too idealistic? Perhaps. Sounds difficult. Definitely. Why?
Because there seems to be a strong gender bias. One that favours men. Nicole S. Young, photographer and educator, collected a quite comprehensive list of international events and ambassador programmes that clearly shows this, the percentage of women being between 0% (zero, nil, nought) and 38%. The numbers aren’t different for landscape photography either.
In an article that features 200+ women landscape and nature photographers, landscape photographer Sarah Marino points out that “More women are teaching workshops, running photo tours, writing, showing in galleries, selling prints, and providing leadership within landscape photography. Yet, we continue to be woefully underrepresented at the top levels of this field as evidenced by the overwhelming absence of women in publications, conference/summit/symposia rosters, podcast interviews, portfolio features, brand ambassador line-ups, and other symbols of achievement and relevance in landscape photography“. Sounds much like a glass ceiling issue. Or rather a broken ladder.
Gender should be irrelevant in photography
Just like ethnicity or social class, gender should be irrelevant. But, as we all know there are certain stereotypes that are so hard wired in us, that we barely – if at all – notice them. Although photography is art, a form of creative self-expression, it is also something very technical. Even though you can work around all of the science by experimenting, by trial-and-error, photography is still something inherently technical.
Perhaps we still – very mistakenly – believe that men are better in handling photo-gear and editing software and we end up watching or reading their content. As we do so many others will follow because popular videos will more likely be turning up in searches. Of course it may also be that there are too few women making similar tutorials.
But I might be completely wrong! Maybe there are plenty of great female YouTubers producing content on landscape photography, I only haven’t found them yet. Maybe I’m a victim of my own search history or some YouTube SEO sorcery. If you are one of those phenomenal YouTubers, please post a link to your content below. I’m thankful for all your hints and suggestions.
I’d love to hear your opinion and experience on this, so please leave a comment below!