Kicking the Door Down

Two girls dressed in western clothing kick down a saloon style door at the Austin, Texas Ghost Town, JLorraine in Manor

This past week, there was a brouhaha over an announcement from Nikon. The announcement itself seemed harmless enough-Nikon announced a new D850 DSLR camera, which is, well frankly, what one might expect Nikon to announce. The problem with the announcement stems from the fact that Nikon picked 32 photographers from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to promote this wonderful new camera. Nikon picked 32 photographers to share their stores and talk about their wonderful new product, which was all well and good, except for the fact that not one single photographer selected was a woman. Since the announcement, the Internet has sort of blown up about this, with the New York Times technology section doing an article about the lack of women in the promotion. Nikon itself tried to issue some kind of apology like statement but this didn’t really fly as it wasn’t quite an apology or at least not the kind of apology the Internet was looking for at the time and this really just further confused the issue. I believe things have settled down a bit although the question still lingers over the notion that 32 photographers could be selected and not one female represented in the bunch. I’m mean, technically speaking this is possible although statistically unlikely, right?

If you look at other statistics, they don’t quite mirror what Nikon has done but they come relatively close. For the 2017 Canon Explorers of Light, there were 8 women and 32 men. The Nikon Ambassadors fared a bit better with 7 women and 17 men. The idea that female photographers are underrepresented is certainly there and, it would appear, there is some data to back this up, at least upon initial glance. What the statistics don’t tell us, however, is how many women applied for these programs. Most of these type of programs are application based, in fact, if you follow this site you might have seen me post a call for entries back in June as part of my ongoing series “Opportunity Weekend” where I shared the news that Hasselblad was looking for applicants for their Master’s Program. I think a better statistic might be how many women applied for this program and were accepted/rejected vs how many men did the same, but this is one of those things we may never get the chance to figure out as the application processes for these type of things are usually shrouded in secrecy or in the very least not made public.

Part of me really wants to call out Nikon for being unfair, but then I think about the application process and it really is difficult to tell just how many women applied or approached Nikon to be included in such an announcement. I feel strongly that women should be represented in the arts and in the photographic community in particular but then again I’ve seen what can happen with women who don’t represent themselves. I know many women, far too many women, who don’t send their work out enough, who don’t have the drive, who don’t have the stamina (I’m not talking physical stamina here either) to keep going, keep sending work out, keep pushing themselves to advance their careers. Perhaps, I am feeling the pangs of guilt over this for myself. I mean, do I really send my own work out enough? If you don’t send your own work out, you can’t rightfully expect the universe to just sort of randomly “discover” you, especially not in a field as competitive as photography-one in which there are many participants struggling and pushing themselves every chance they get. No, if you are even the least bit lazy or hesitant, quite frankly, you don’t deserve success in this field, regardless of gender.

Part of me also likes to think along the lines of what I like to call “living well is the best revenge.” By that, I mean if you can do the work, get the shows, get on the gallery walls, get into the magazines, you can prove any of the stereotypes wrong just by doing it. It’s all too easy to make excuses, right? But spending the time and actually doing it, actually getting it done, proves that women can do it too. I’ve always been this way in the technology field. I’ve never stopped, not applied, not pushed, not done something because, well, somebody told me, “you’re a girl.” Why should my photography be any different? Yeah, I get it. I’m female. So what? Girls can take photos too. In many ways, the best way to rub somebody’s nose in their prejudice is to just do the job and leave them scratching their head. I like to think I live my life that way, Nikon announcement or not. More akin to Nike than to Nikon perhaps but the “just do it!” is strong with me.

I also recognize that the art world is full of under representation in many ways. A lot of times women are out there making kick ass art and it gets written off as mere “doily art” while men are seen as “artistic visionaries.” Things can be unfair like this, unfortunately, it’s just a factor of who we are as people and the price of doing business. It takes time for society to change, to catch up with the accomplishments of women and so it follows that it might take some time for women to move out of the “doily art” and into the overpriced auction houses. Things are changing in a lot of ways. I mean, look at somebody like Cindy Sherman, she’s kicking it at auction and is frequently one of the highest bid artists going, photographer or not. Photography itself is often under represented in the art world. Let’s face it, photographers are treated like hobos running after the caboose of fine art in the gallery world. For a long time too, color photography was not accepted as “fine art” and nowadays it’s often “digital art” that gets the snub from the high falutin noses in the gallery. Bottom line? If they want to snub you, if they really want to snub you, why it’s all too easy to find something they don’t like about you and milk it for a “I’m sooo sorry but you’re just not good enough” raspberry. Yes, sometimes the best answer to that is to break down the door and work all that much harder to get past the inevitable snubs. It’s just what we have to do because we are female, photographers, working in digital or for some other reason they see fit to banish us from the table of all things acceptable. Anybody can claim to be under represented if they try hard enough, frankly, I’d rather be known as somebody who worked hard and kicked that door clear off its ugly hinges (but maybe that’s just me?)

So, was Nikon right in selecting an all male round-up of starts for their D850? Probably not. Will anything come of it? Probably not. I mean, they might have to suffer a few barbs from the Internet pirates but, let’s face it, the bottom line for them is selling cameras and they are probably doing to do just a lot of that with their new D850. On the whole, I’d have to say the needle really didn’t move all that much although they did get people talking a bit. The announcement got me thinking anyway. We certainly live in interesting times. (Wasn’t that some kind of ancient Chinese curse? Oh the horror of it all.)

Until next time…

PS This one taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. In the ghost town outside of Austin. Kicking doors down indeed, ladies.

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