The Scandal That's Ruining the Photographic Industry

The Scandal That's Ruining the Photographic Industry

Have you noticed the bigotry towards women in the photographic industry? It's there and I feel partly to blame. But some camera manufacturers and big photography businesses are the worst offenders.

Some while ago, I was approached by a moderately well-known photography business here in the UK. They wanted me to become a brand representative. I wrote back and said I would be happy to so long as there was equality within their ambassador team; I knew there wasn’t. Adding another white, middle-aged man to their ambassadors would do nothing to address that, and I didn’t want to be associated with a business that promoted inequality, even if it were passive and unintentional. I didn't hear back from them.

That made me look at other brands’ lists of ambassadors. The inequality across the board was shocking.

The person in this photo has incredible photographic talent. If she turned professional, she is likely to face absurd barriers for no other reason other than she is a woman.

Roughly comparing the split between men and women who are photographers globally, around 40% are women and 60% are men. I did a similar comparison ten or so years ago, and the percentage of women is increasing. I hasten to add it was not a scientific survey, just counting the members of each sex in photography social media groups, but it’s a reasonable guideline. Even so, we should be aiming for a 50/50 split between men and women in prominent positions as that is where the proportions of male and female photographers are heading.

In America there are thirty-nine women out of 141 photographers on Sony’s ambassador list, that’s just 27%. However, of their ninety-eight European ambassadors here in Europe, there are only ten women. In Asia only two of the fourteen ambassadors are women. Sony, you should be ashamed

Perhaps if powerful camera manufacturers perpetuate a culture of inequality, we should start to shun them.

Sony is not alone. Canon, for example, announced a list of ambassadors in the Philippines, and they were all male. A despicable act that, as far as I can see, they are not apologizing for. This, despite Alex Cooke’s article published here on Fstoppers highlighting the issue of over-representation by white men in the industry. That article was published over five years ago.

This really should not be an issue in the modern world. Snubbing women should have been eradicated along with the regimes that promoted misogyny, on top of their other evil practices, in the 1940s.

Does it bother you that Canon have shown what appear to be misogynistic decisions in their ambassadorial choices.

There really is no difference between the photographic abilities of women and men. In fact, when I count the most talented photographers I know personally, more than half of them are women. Furthermore, there are many internationally renowned female photographers. That is reflected in the Fstoppers photographer of the month that has an unintentional fifty percent split between the sexes. There are, of course, non-binary photographers too.

So, what is happening in the industry that gives us shameful statistics? Is it down to misogyny, or is there more to it than that?

There is an undeniable problem of men who hate women in the industry. One only looks at the despicable and sickening comments left on our women writers’ articles to know this is the case. There is a long history of internet trolls belittling, insulting, and bullying women. Read this excellent article by Kate G that highlighted the issue of discrimination against women, and then read the atrocious comments below.  Thankfully, those making such foul statements are now removed from this site and their accounts closed.

There is little doubt in my mind that misogyny is to blame. Especially so when you hear the stories the women have had to face from men. Including this world-class sports photographer being passed over for promotion because of bigotry that was both highlighted and perpetuated by her manager.

There's no question you have the skill or the work ethic, but the guys would never go to have you as their boss – you know how they are.

Or when photographing a sports event she was told, 

Put your camera down and go stand at the finish line. You're just here to be the reward for the racers.


You don't look like a sports photographer.

Why am I keeping her anonymous? To avoid the hate she is likely to receive as a result.

Most brands have had or still have issues. On the Nikon website, only five of their twenty-five European ambassadors are women. In the Middle East, there are none. In the USA, they do much better. Of their thirty-four ambassadors, fourteen are women, which represents 40% of photographers, approximately in line with the number of female photographers there are currently. About a quarter of Lumix’s ambassadors are women.

One of the most talented and creative young photographic artists I know. Her ambitions within the industry are likely to be restricted unless we all work towards a cultural change within the industry.

Shockingly, I could count fewer than twenty women out of the hundred or so Magnum photographers.

I would even start to respect these companies if they held up their hands and admitted they had got it wrong and said what they were doing to redress that.

They are not all bad. Leica shows ten photographers on their UK website, six of those are women. Fujifilm is highlighting that they are making their X-Photographer program more diverse and inclusive. I approached OM Systems, they are undertaking a complete reorganization too, and I look forward to seeing the results of that as it's the brand I use the most.

I spoke to Tianna Williams, the Nikon Z Creator here in the UK, another amazing talent whose work I admire. She is quite optimistic that things are changing.

There is a certain change moving through the industry but in terms of recognition I think there is work to be done. There can still be a feeling of photography being an ‘old boys club’ and some genres such as sports and wildlife continue to convey that. However I think if we look hard enough and in the right places, there are incredible female photographers doing their thing! That is always a joy to see. 

Is it always deliberate and active prejudice by the organizations? Not wanting to appear hypocritical, I checked the numbers here at Fstoppers. Sure enough, there were far fewer women writers than expected. I found it strange because I know this is at odds with the nature of our community of writers and editors. They are amazingly supportive of everyone, and misogyny and prejudice of any kind are universally abhorred here. So, I asked Alex Cooke, our Editor-in-Chief, and he told me that it is difficult to keep women writers because of the nature of the comments that happen in the articles.

It’s a constant struggle for me. I try to hire as many women as possible, and we actually had several more a year or two ago, but they unfortunately left. I’ve been told at least once that the atmosphere in the comments and the like have discouraged someone from continuing. I simply don’t get a lot of applications from women, which makes it tremendously difficult.

I then looked at several other major photography websites, and women are greatly outnumbered on all except DXOMark. Interestingly, they don’t give the name of the writer of their articles. Consequently, the women cannot be targeted by sexist bullies as they have been elsewhere.

Are you and I to blame for this bigoted culture? Yes! Why? Even if we all despise that form of hatred – most people do – how many of us read bigoted comments and bother to challenge them?

I did on that one of Kate's, but I am sure there must have been comments I’ve seen in the past that I have not challenged.

Historically, all the brands have failed when it comes to equality. There have been improvements, but there is a long way to go. Do you check the ethical credentials of the gear you buy? Would you help pressure them into helping build a fairer world? If not, you have a problem.

So, this is a request to all the good people out there, the ordinary readers who find those comments as abhorrent as I do. Let’s start calling out the bigots and bullies and showing them that their attitude is unacceptable. Not just on this site, but everywhere. Report their comments and reply to them showing them up for their ignorance. If their comments are illegal, and many are, report them to the Police. Unless we all tackle this head-on, it won’t go away.

If you are attacked online because of any status, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people who are prepared to make a stand. Additionally, remember that those who come out with those kinds of comments are usually doing so to compensate for their insecurities and inadequacies. 

We should make sure we go out of our way to offer support to all photographers, especially women. Let’s work on this until the imbalance is redressed.

Maybe we should also start voting with our feet too. Until they have actively addressed their anti-female fascism, I intend to discourage my clients from buying products made by those businesses that continue exhibiting discrimination. Manufacturers should start to feel the pain in their pockets. Maybe that is the only way to change their behavior.

I also urge my fellow writers not just here at Fstoppers, but at Petapixel, DPreview, DXOMark, and others, to highlight this and other ethical issues in their gear reviews. Talk about it on your YouTube channels, write about it on your blogs. When you review the latest release of a particular camera or lens, amongst the advantages and disadvantages we should also rate them on their equality and ethical standards.

This should not stop with the mix of sex and gender. Racial and ethnic prejudice exists in the industry too. Most ambassador schemes are split into continental blocks. So, the race and ethnicity of ambassadors in each area should roughly reflect that of the part of the world it serves. That could be a whole new article in itself.

Let us demand that the manufacturers meet the same ethical standards that most reasonable-thinking photographers have. Let us also shame those in the industry who perpetuate any kind of bigotry, especially those of us who stand by and let it happen. Finally, let's see zero tolerance of all bigotry in our own online communities.

Ivor Rackham's picture

A professional photographer, website developer, and writer, Ivor lives in the North East of England. His main work is training others in photography. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being. In 2023 he accepted becoming a brand ambassador for the OM System.

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Previous comments

I agree!

the number or proportion of female to male camera brand ambassadors should be reflective of the proportion of female to male professional photographers and in that sense, it may be possible that the camera manufacturers simply have more male photographers to choose from rather than this being a case of discrimination or unequal representation