Women and Photography

I have to get something “off my chest”, so forgive this mild rant.

Yesterday, I attended a conference in NYC.  It was a trade show geared to video production with an educational track.  I was sitting in on one session and there were only a handful of people in the room – I’d say less than 10.  I was the only woman in the room. The instructor went to each person in the classroom and asked them what they wanted to learn from his workshop.  He went to everyone in the room – but me!

I was sitting next to my partner, who is also my husband.  I suppose the instructor decided that he didn’t need to ask ME that question. I didn’t count.  Maybe because we were together and he felt that he only needed to ask one of us.  But if so, why not ask me? I felt invisible. It was an all too familiar feeling that I have had in my 35-year career as a photographer and now a filmmaker. But I couldn’t believe that I was still feeling invisible after all that I’ve accomplished in those 35 years.

When I started my career in photography, it was definitely a man’s world.  I was one of six women at Brooks Institute and the only woman in my graduating class.  I fell in love with a “Brookie” and we headed back East to make our fame and fortune in photography.
We’ve done a lot of jobs together over our 35-year partnership and we’ve done a lot on our own.  I needed to do my solo gigs because I felt I had to prove to myself that I could deliver the “story” or the task on my own.  When I worked with my partner, it was always assumed by the client or our peers that I was the rep for my partner – never the photographer.  People have always asked us why we refer to each other as partners rather than husband and wife – that’s why.

Perhaps that’s why I try so hard – but then again maybe that’s just my nature.  And maybe because I always give it my all, I can’t help but be surprised when I’m treated like I’m invisible.  At this point in my life, I can either let it bother me or I can think about who I am and what I’ve done and contributed to my profession.  I focus on that and I take every opportunity to share and talk to young people – women and men.

The irony is, in photo schools these days the women far outnumber the men, yet there are still instructors out there like the one that I encountered yesterday.  I have to ask myself why? I do know that in giving seminars over the last two years for ASMP, I would consistently get comments from women telling me how refreshing it was to have a woman teaching tech.  But they also told me that I wasn’t intimidating like some male teachers they’ve had.

So what’s the point?

I only have one point and that is don’t hire me because you need to fill the slot with a “female” – hire me based on what I’ve accomplished.  Hire me for who I am.  Think past the gender and teach your children well.

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