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Notes From the Darkroom

Photography by Tamara Kuzminski

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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?

Traigh Iar - Isle of HarrisObvious 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?


22 April 2013




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  1. Alyson Greening says:

    I’m currently doing a dissertation on this subject, also whether as women we take landscape images differently from men. I’d be really interested to read your views. On the issue to cameras, one of my lecturers told me the other day that when he teaches a year one class he finds that he has to teach the guys more about how to be creative and the girls more about the technical aspects of the camera!

  2. Like your thoughts here, Tamara. In my part of the world, I don’t know of any “professional” female landscape photographers. It is another sand and sunset ceiling I’m trying to break. I think part of the equation is economics as well. Even though women have made huge strides in climbing the corporate ladder, it’s been just recently that they’ve been able to step off with a fair amount of cash and free time.

    I am thinking about starting photo walks for women here in Moab in the near future. Will be interesting to see how it goes.

  3. Yes – definitely an anomoly. I wrote an article a while back where I suggested that the annual Take-a-view competition should be renamed the Take a Bloke’s view, white male middle class landscape photogrpaher of the year.

    There is no doubt in my mind that men and women tend to see things differently. What we get through the photography magazines, however, is a hogemised male view of Landscape Photography and I can only imagine that the magaize products that satisfy this market are predominantly male-driven and distorts the common perception of what landscape photography is about in favour of how men see it – a self-validating myth. We *do* have some good ones, though and I get annoyed when they’re out-competed by inferior male counterparts. I believe that there is cause for positive discrimination to redress the balance. I would love to see a Landscape Photography periodical/journal/whatever run by and exclusively aimed at women. I suspect it would be well supported.

  4. Please feel free to correct my atrocious spelling – I blame the white-on-grey editor ;)

  5. Haha, sorry about that :) I’ll look into “upgrading” it :)

  6. That is a very interesting point you mention about the self-validating myth. I have been wondering myself recently if I photograph the way I do because that’s how everyone does it, that it’s the accepted norm.

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