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As the Arts & Culture editor of a leading photography publication, it’s my responsibility to ensure we remain as diverse as possible. It’s not only my doing; all staff at The Phoblographer remains committed to showing the best photographers from all walks of life. Diversity in photography isn’t tricky either. Dig into any subculture, and I promise you will find remarkable photographers. So, the question is: why do camera manufacturers still struggle to get on top of diversity within their camps?
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“We deserve to appreciate photography from all gazes and allow minorities to flourish, not for the person they are, but because of the photos they make.”
Diversity in Photography
I recently read an article titled Male-centric and whitewashed. Now, before some of you roll your eyes or choose to click off, stay with me. I empathize that this constant emphasis on race and gender isn’t pleasant reading. Like you, I think it’s disheartening that the photography world finds itself in this constant battle when it comes to inclusion. But we have to understand why it’s happening.
In the article, photographers shared thoughts and statistics. British photographer Izzie Farr highlighted that on Kodak’s Instagram page, she had to scroll through 30 posts before finding an image created by a woman. She also noted research conducted by The British Journal of Photography. They found that “globally, 70 to 80 percent of photography students are women—yet they account for only 13 to 15 percent of professional photographers.” It’s difficult to ascertain why those numbers exist; they may choose different career paths. But it’s also possible they’re put off pursuing a career in photography due to the lack of opportunities they may have.
Back in July, we reported on Canon dropping the ball in the Philippines. Canon Philippines announced 11 ambassadors. None of them were women.
Fujifilm and Nikon in Europe have also received pushback for their lack of diversity in photography within their ambassador programs. So, the question remains: why does this keep happening?
Divserity in Photography Is Better Than Being Exclusionary
Are the top camera manufacturers racist, sexist, and riddled with a plethora of phobias? I can’t answer that. What I do know, however, is that it doesn’t serve them in the slightest to be so, especially from a marketing perspective.
We’ve seen a huge rise in advantageous marketing masked as a desire to be inclusive. It sells to put “black,” “women,” “gay” in a campaign. I have friends of color who work in marketing. They’ve worked with huge brands, and they’ve told me, “it’s not about diversity, it’s about sales.” Let that sink in. Centuries of suffering for minority groups turned into a way to drive consumption.
On the flip side, there’s a benefit to highlighting race and gender. It makes certain minority groups feel seen and heard. This is especially important as many of them have been silenced and hidden for a long time, just for the “crime” of being themselves.
And this is where it becomes murky waters. Because a photographer should not receive recognition based on who they are outside of their images. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair on the industry. But before you think I’m giving camera manufacturers a pass, I’m not.
As an editor, I walk a fine line between amplifying minority voices and ensuring people only see the best photographers. The reality is that it’s not difficult because they’re fantastic photographers. And this is why brands are failing. They can’t use the excuse that it’s difficult to be diverse due to a lack of options. Only last week, I spent a few hours enjoying photographers’ work on both Diversify Photo and Black Women Photographers.
So at this point, if not xenophobic, manufacturers are either lazy or just plain dumb!
Diversity in Photography Is a Simple Problem to Fix
Like most, I long for the day where photography isn’t about race and gender. It makes me uncomfortable when I see a photographer’s identity being pushed more than the photos they make. It’s a disservice to them and their talent.
Camera companies could easily end all this in-fighting. Before they send out their list of ambassadors, they should have a conversation about diversity. They should ask, “Is there a potential backlash from this selection?”
Again, it’s not difficult to be diverse. There are fantastic photographers from all paths: black, Asian, white, male, female, non-binary, trans, straight, gay, bi, and every other identity you can think of. So, camera manufacturers, this stupidity has to end, and diversity has to win.
The photo industry deserves to move forward. We deserve to appreciate photography from all gazes and allow minorities to flourish, not for the person they are, but because of the photos they make.