Last year, Sony’s Alpha Female made its debut, and the result was a talent-quake. The thousands of qualified applicants proved something. All those individuals and companies who (I AM sure you know who) explained away the lack of female creatives in their organizations or departments by saying: "we just can’t seem to find qualified female talent" simply weren’t looking. Because it’s there, in spades.
Sony seemed to know this before, but now it’s clear as day. So, Alpha Female continues, growing in ambition, recognition, and support.
Sony Alpha Females at a Glance
From eye level, Sony Alpha Female is a women-centric competition. In its first year, they awarded five winners with varying styles of photography, from Erin Hogue with action sports to Colette Peri with a background in stop motion. In 2018, there was a total of five winners. This year, they are expanding the competition to not only include photographers and videographers, but also cinematographers and filmmakers. In total, there will be six winners: four photographers/videographers and two cinematographers/filmmakers.
Winners of Sony’s Alpha Female receive three key benefits. To start, they get $21,000. This money is not only to help the winner pursue a dream project, but also to remove any barriers or stresses that may be standing in their way — things like student loans or even their monthly rent. They want the winners to have the ability to fully jump in head first to pursue their dreams and passions as creators. The second prize falls in line with the first and is an additional $5,000 to spend on any gear the winners may need or want as well as the ability to borrow any additional gear they may need.
The third prize though is something you simply can't buy: something that up and coming creators could only dream of having and may not even know the full benefit of having: a one-on-one mentorship with an established Alpha Female for six months — artists like Sarah France, Taylor Reese, and Brooke Shaden. With this mentorship, plus the support of Sony, the winner receives extensive education and once in a lifetime networking opportunities. It’s an opportunity that will change the path of their careers for the bettera, a fast track to the top of their field and the opening of doors they never knew could be reached.
Sony Alpha Females Under the Surface
Aside from winning money, gear, and mentorship, Sony is taking charge and bringing light to a well-known industry problem. Women are consistently underrepresented in the photo world, not only within brand-specific ambassador programs, but within the teaching/education community as well. I have personally seen entire conferences without a single female speaker, and even Nikon ran into trouble when they had 32 brand ambassadors test the D850 and didn't include a single woman.
What the program is doing is recognizing the problem and taking steps to fix it, growing in ambition every cycle. Sony is all in. Through the process of entering alone, they are encouraging women to step outside of their comfort zones and start creating, encouraging them to identify what they want to do and try to come up with a rough game plan of how they can do just that. And for those who don't win, Sony has plans to keep up and find ways to support many of you.
This sets an example for others in the industry by saying: "yes, there is a problem, and we need to act." They are blazing a trail for other women creators and showing what is possible and encouraging young female creatives to follow their dreams, highlighting that women are valued and that they can have space within an industry that historically leaves them in the shadows.
Some Insight From Past Winners
The Sony Alpha Female program is what the industry needs. It's supportive of so many passionate women. The program was an eye-opener for me. It came at just the right time, right when my mind was starting to reject my dreams. The girls I met while part of the program, Danielle Da Silva, Megan Allen, Erin Hogue, and Colette Peri, are all so amazing and I love them. I also had a mentor I love very much. To be honest, I've cried from happiness because she comforted a void I had since I was a small child. MeRa Koh is an angel in my life and I'm really happy this program aligned with me her. She is my friend for life.
Being a Sony Alpha Female to me means believing in yourself and going after your dreams, no matter what.
Sony Alpha Female is a community, it’s a sisterhood, and it’s dream nourishment. I feel honored to have been given this opportunity and am excited to say that the feature documentary project entitled "Reckoning with the Wendigo" that I submitted for Sony Alpha Female will be screened for the first time Oct. 9 in Toronto alongside the 10th anniversary of Photographers Without Borders!
The Sony Alpha Female program is about community. As creators, we go through ups and downs, successes and failures, and big learning curves. The most valuable thing we can have in this industry is a community: peers to cheer us on, resources to help when work gets challenging, and most importantly, the feeling of belonging. Sony Alpha Females empower each other, help each other, and stick together.
This competition is currently getting close to the final submission date. But there is still time. I encourage every female creator reading this to enter, even if you have that silent but deadly voice in the back of your head telling you that you can’t win. Because even if you don’t receive one of the coveted spots, you will learn so much about who you are and what you want to do through the process. You will acknowledge what it is you want to do and be better for the experience.