Women in landscape photography
It was brought to my attention recently by my new Twitter friend Lizzie Shephard, that there are quite a few female landscape photographers out there. I must admit that I hadn’t realised. The vast majority of my landscape photographer friends are male. And while I do have a fair few female photographer friends too, most of them are either family or wedding photographers. There seems, from my personal viewpoint, to be a bit of a gender divide.
Why is there a gender divide within photography?
Obvious answers would include family commitments and safety issues. Having no children naturally gives me greater flexibility to get away for an early morning, a weekend, or an impromptu day out when the weather is promising. But I will admit that safety concerns have stopped me going out alone (or to certain locations) in the past. But that’s more from the perspective of getting myself into trouble (falling and breaking a leg) than being attacked by a stranger lurking behind a bush.
However, there is a stereotype that it’s a very male dominated hobby or profession. The photography magazines are generally placed within (or next to) the men’s interests section of newsagents (and of course we women get a lot of crafting and cupcake-baking magazines), and they are often filled with gear geek-outs and techno-nerding (my new phrase of the day!) But is it over-generalising to say that women don’t respond to these kinds of information?
A female friend of mine bought her first “proper” camera the other week. She told me about it very excitedly and we promptly arranged a day out together to hang out and take photographs. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I realised I never actually asked her what camera she bought. I still have no idea.
On the other hand, there is a photograph of myself on the Isle of Harris lurking around the internet. I’m standing on the edge of a salt marsh with a camera in my hand. A few days ago, I received an email from someone I don’t know, a man, asking me if it was a Canon camera (it was). I’m not sure why he wanted to know. But there was also no mention of the location, subject or the circumstances surrounding the photograph in his query.
If these two examples are to be taken as representative, then perhaps there is a difference in the way that men and women enjoy their photography. And if there are really hundreds, or thousands, of female landscape photographers in the country, but we’re all just keeping stubbornly quiet, is it time to change this balance?
What can we do to redress the gender balance?
Lizzie recently introduced me to Beata and Vanda, two female landscape photographers who have taken it upon themselves to do just that. To give women interested in landscape photography a voice. They have created a website called Landscapes By Women, which is well worth a look at, even if I am slightly biased as I’ve been asked to become one of their contributors.
So if there are family and/or safety concerns amongst women, does that mean we enjoy our photography in a more structured way, amongst groups of like-minded photographers, such as on workshops? David Barrett thinks so. He claims that 50-60 percent of guests on the landscape photography holidays that he leads are women. I’m not sure that this is backed up by the workshops that I have either participated in or assisted on. But perhaps workshop duration plays a part in that, where mothers are less inclined to be away for their families for a up to a week and more likely to participate in shorter duration trips.
So should we be doing more to give female landscape photographers a platform to showcase themselves, or are we really all happy to continue enjoying our photography in silence?