Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?

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The answer to this question is not easy, that seems to be clear … Or not, because “unfortunately Machismo is everywhere,” says one of the photographers we’ve done this article with.

Given the issue of gender equality and the gender gap, we felt that we need to ask to what extent this has an impact on the photographic industry in our country. We did not think of a better way than to address them. ,

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Late last summer, we filed a lawsuit by Susan Stripling, a US photographer who complained about the machismo she suffered as a wedding photographer. In an open letter published on Facebook, Susan denounced numerous episodes in which she suffered as a woman a dismissive and / or paternalistic treatment and even multiple attempts at sexual harassment.

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
‘Utero inhabited’ by Rafaela Rodríguez

At the same time, another controversy arose when Nikon introduced a team of 32 photographers as ambassadors for its new Nikon D850 (one of the most talked about cameras). The question is, there was not a single woman among them. Something that denounced FStoppers (a respected American web portal for photography) asking if the new camera was for men only.

It seemed to us that the best way to know to what extent machismo is immersed in this area was to contact photographers to know their opinion about it and to know how it has affected them

There are only two recent examples that, it was easy to assume, confirm that there is also machismo in the photography industry. But in what way? It’s hard to know, that’s clear, but from we wanted to at least try to investigate it, and it seemed to us, as we expected, the best to visit photographers who get to know different trajectories and genres of opinion about it, Whether they have suffered directly from machismo or if they think they have a harder time because of their gender. We also ask them if they believe we are on the right path and what can be done to move forward.

Through their answers, we will try to get as much idea as possible of the extent to which the machismo that still exists in the depths of our society is affecting photographers.

Of course, our goal is not to draw categorical conclusions that otherwise seem impossible to us on such a complicated topic, and not to make it look like “another article by fawn feminist photographers,” as some of our readers think (as one of the Contact persons who refused to attend, that he had doubts about how he should deal with this problem).


Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
Photo of Anna Surinyach

Women and the labor market

Although we will rely primarily on the opinions of the photographers, we do not hesitate to give some of the inevitable numbers to solve the problem.

In this sense, it would undoubtedly have been ideal to know the percentage of women and men devoted to photography, but as you can imagine, these data are very difficult to calculate. More in a profession of an artistic nature, which is very connected with the temporality and self-employment.

What we can say briefly is something about the situation of women in the labor market, which includes the 2017 report on the women’s labor market.

This document contains some interesting facts that need to be known, starting with the fact that the gender gap seems generally to be very prevalent, with the employment and employment rate of women in 2016 (where the data comes from) eleven points lower is three points higher than men’s and a female unemployment rate.

The gender gap in the labor market is still present in general terms, but in the case of photography it is very difficult to calculate because it is a profession closely linked to temporality and self-employment

It is also interesting to note that, according to this report prepared by the State Public Employment Service, three out of four women worked in 2016 as employees in the service sector (the area in which the photo is to be framed) and so on 34, 48% of the self-employed were women.

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
Photo by Miren Pastor from series ‘Bidean’

We already say that it is difficult to transfer the data to the photographic sector, but according to the opinions gathered, we could at least say that it is quite possible that there are more women photographers than men, although they are less visible.

At least at lower levels, such as in education centers, as Miren Pastor tells us: “The number of photographers trained in classrooms is usually higher than that of photographers.  When it comes to publishing, publishing, winning, scholarships and competitions, something happens that the female presence is scarce or, in some cases, directly nil. “

Miren was one of the most visible faces of the first edition of the Baffest, the first women-only city photography festival (of which we’ll talk later) and a member of Gender and Figure, a project claiming the female photographer’s figure.

Estela de Castro also agrees that women win by numbers “I see workshops and schools with many more women than men”, but they also confirm what we said earlier: “If you look at the speakers later they will invite or visit the festival? ” Seminars of photography, the vast majority are men. “This certainly seems true, but Miren Pastor tells us a very significant case:” For example, in the first volume of “The Photobook: A History” by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, the The best photobooks in history are cited In a total of 205 volumes, there are only 15 women, which means that the proportion of women does not reach 8%. ”

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
Portrait of Cristina García Rodero by Estela de Castro

Poor visibility

This problem is even more pronounced in certain very specific genres where ” women’s work is little visible “, as photojournalist Anna Surinyach tells us . ” When I go to the universities to teach, I see that, in most cases, more than 50% of the students are women. However, there are more photographers than photographers who have obtained recognition […] On the other hand, if we look at the references that teach us in universities we see that more than 80% are usually men. There is a problem in the field of photojournalism, which is the area that I know . ”

As in other areas of society, women are as or more active than men but there seems to be a problem of discrimination and visibility

Another of the photographers consulted, Angela Sairaf , tells another revealing anecdote about this matter: ” A couple of years ago I participated in a photography workshop in Madrid in which a journalist had been invited to give us a talk. He had just published in a newspaper a ranking of the best contemporary photographers in Spain. When one of the attendees asked him why there were no women on his list, he explained, under a mask of impartiality, that according to his criterion no work by any Spanish photographer was good enough to merit being included in his selection and, being the works of men so superior, there was no reason to include any photographer in that ranking . ”

Elena Plaza, a photographer and board member of the Royal Photographic Society, tells us of another specific case: “At the ceremony that was held at the Royal Academy of Arts of San Fernando in the presentation of the Medal of Honor, look at the photo of the event to recognize that there is not a single woman in top management … coincidence? I do not think […] that women are underrepresented in decision making in politics and politics. Economy or art is a sad reality of the 21st century. Century. “

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
Portrait of Elena Plaza by Paco Torres

A cultural problem

To correct this problem of visibility that seems obvious , the women consulted propose different recipes. For example, Rafaela Rodríguez is committed to ” creating mixed multidisciplinary teams […] It is important to work hand in hand with men, so that they value our efforts and understand the reason for our struggle. Let them see that it is still harder for us to reach the same sites . “For this photographer” it is also important to associate with groups that create networks and join efforts “, such as the Andalusian Association of Women of Audiovisual Media to which she belongs and which “promotes the visibility of women, training and parity in a transversal way . ”

Something similar is what Miren Pastorproposes , which applauds initiatives such as these in which ” the photographers can offer their services and professionals can search for them according to their needs, it would help to position on the map more women who seek to show their potential “. In any case, it seems somewhat difficult to solve. Because if in one thing they are almost unanimous, the photographers consulted is that it is a deeply rooted problem . ” Many times we assume certain things because we have seen them all our lives without being aware that they are wrong. In other words: you can be macho and have macho attitudes without being aware of it ” Lidia Vives tells us .

Lidia herself tells us a specific case of machismo suffered by her: ” Some time ago they gave me a video interview in which they talked about my work.There were comments of all kinds, but unfortunately many of them said things like ‘she is beautiful, but her work …’ or ‘very cute, but this she said …’. In that interview the main issue was not my appearance and nevertheless it was the most talked about […] It has also happened to me of guys who told me they wanted to do a project with me and in the end it was an excuse to stay. I’m not here to waste my time . ”

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
Photo of Lidia Vives

María Antonia Garcia de la Vega refers to such things when she assures that “in order to move forward, it is important that you do not concede to your side any action that can be considered macho and socially reprehensible.” almost everything “it is something inevitable, it is a cultural problem of education in many people”.

For this reason, it is something that needs to be eradicated “in the family, in advertising, in the laws …” Elena Plaza tells us “and here I add the revision of the textbooks, I implore you! As a historian put I usually do this before my hands on my head many times. “

It is important for Angela Sairaf to “first and foremost realize that machismo exists and that it does not only hurt women, it would be helpful if we become aware that we are finally a great team and need to grow together.” The case of this photographer is significant because, as we say, she is Spanish-Brazilian and knows the situation of other countries.

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
Photo of Ángela Sairaf

” Of the countries that I have had the opportunity to know more deeply the functioning of social relations, I think that this is the one that advances faster in the attempt to correct this condition. Despite having totally different sociocultural contexts, Brazil, Japan, India and Spain have in common the fact that machismo functions as a kind of central axis, from which everything develops. However, in Spain women tend to be more vehement when it comes to fighting for their rights, which is very positive for us to grow as a society . ”

In addition, for its more global vision , the photographer reminds us that “it may still take decades for us to have a more egalitarian society, but when we look back, everything that we have already advanced is evident. Not long ago in Spain women could not even have a bank account or vote. 

A festival for women only

We have advanced it before and of course we had to talk about it. Barakaldo Foto Festival ( Baffest), a photographic event exclusively for creative women, the first of its kind in our territory that vindicates the female role in photography .


Thought to ” value the work with women’s signature “, Amaia del Campo , mayor of Barakaldo, tells us that ” the idea was David de Haro and Luis Benito, responsible for Fotopop , who approached the City three years ago delighted with the idea of ​​turning Barakaldo into an open-air museum; in a space for photography with a differentiating characteristic with respect to other festivals, the feminine point of view. We could not say no . ”

Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is still necessary to extol female work. When I was elected mayor of Barakaldo I became the first woman to hold the position […] There are still jobs, professions and tasks that are automatically related to a man and from the institutions, and I personally as mayor, we are very committed to carry out initiatives that make this situation change . ”

It is one of those cases of positive discrimination that tends to generate controversy. That is why, questioned about the reception received, Amaia tells us that they have ” had everything, because art provokes precisely that, loves and hatreds. But in general I think Baffest has gained followers over the years, both inside and outside the city […] It’s an incredible opportunity for us to enjoy the artistic and professional work of women and also a great springboard for local artists, who have a chance to exhibit his photographs before thousands of people . ”

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
Photo of Mercedes Higuero Bisbe

This type of positive discrimination is something that most of the respondents seem to agree with, although of course not at any price . This is evident, for example, by Mercedes Higuero Bisbe , who tells us how ” on a political level, in towns and neighborhoods, councilors stick literally for exhibiting small projects and exhibitions, from women to women, where the quality of what is extolled” feminine ‘, not quality, in some cases. This positive, opportunistic and electoralist discrimination in most cases, to cover the file, seems lamentable to me . ”

More or less of the same opinion is Nuria Murillo Lara , who comments on how she has participated in several ” projects only for women […] but I have refused to be pigeonholed in this type of exclusive projects for women since I think that art should be free and it should not have any distinction between sexes […] We want equality, not condescension . ”

For that reason, Ana Surinyach thinks that ” we are on the right track but there is still a lot of work to be done. The day must come when initiatives like these are no longer necessary, but at the moment they seem so to give deserving visibility to women photographers . ”

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
‘Bach’ by Nuria Murillo Lara

Looking forward

The award of the last two National Photography Awards to two women, Isabel Muñoz in 2016 and Cristina de Middel last year , can be understood as another symptom that, indeed, we are not going astray.

In this way, the future seems hopeful, although “it is a question of society becoming aware of these things “, says Lidia Vives . Because practically all the photographers who have collaborated in this article are convinced that ending machismo (which ” sometimes is disguised and not displayed openly ” Estela de Castro tells us ) will not be simple but it is necessary .

The awarding of the last two National Photography Awards to two women seems a sign that, albeit slowly, things are changing in the right direction

” There is an increasing awareness among women and also men that equality in all areas is necessary for the construction of a healthier and ultimately happy society “, says Rafaela Rodríguez . In the same vein, Elena Plaza concludes that “it is a subject that has to be solved at the base, from the schools, from the heart of the family … There is still a long way to go, in any case I am optimistic .”

Women photographers: Is there machismo in the photographic industry?
‘Panoramic of Fuente Dé’, photo by Maria Antonia Garcia de la Vega

Cover photo | Claudia Nuta



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