ISPWP's List of Top Wedding Photographers Dramatically Under Represents Female Photographers

ISPWP's List of Top Wedding Photographers Dramatically Under Represents Female Photographers

Intentional or not, there’s a substantial amount of messaging that occurs when you create a “Top 100” of anything. The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers released their list of the Top 100 Wedding Photographers in the World, and when you scroll down the list you’ll notice there’s a group that’s incredibly under-represented: women.

In the list, which encompasses incredible talent from all across the globe, only ten to fifteen are female. Whenever I see these kinds of things, I have to ask myself: How? I find it hard to believe that the best options were almost exclusively (85-90%) male, and if that’s the case, what led the organization to this conclusion?

In recent years we’ve become more and more aware of the inequality in the photography industry (and honestly, in most industries). Be that through body shaming, or even Nikon’s distribution of D850’s there’s a well-documented method of operation that, in effect, excludes or pushes out women. Just as well-documented is the persistent push-back against the idea that what we’re seeing is sexism. But I think that comes down to the ways that we hear the word, “Sexism.”

This Top 100 may not have been made with malicious intent. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that it wasn’t. But sexism doesn’t require malicious intent for it to be sexism. There’s an inherent bias that many men carry with us (myself included). These things dictate our deliberate actions, as much as they dictate our involuntary actions. Because of that, when I look at this list, I don’t see some brand of angry, violent sexism. I see the sexism that until now went unnoticed, and that includes the lack of appreciation for the talents of the females in our industry that’s demonstrated on this list.

How do we change that? First, we need to accept that this exists and that we are ourselves responsible to change it and we need to become aware of our own biases and accept them. And then, we need to start appreciating and encouraging the female talent that’s always been among us.

This Top 100 list might have been well-intentioned, but it’s another example of how intentions don’t translate to messaging.

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39 Comments

Matthew Saville's picture

As a full-time wedding photographer of 10+ years, whenever I'm looking for inspiration from around the world, (I find that most "local" (USA-only) wedding photo organizations are >75% rockstar photogs and brand-pimps) ...I've always turned to WPJA a bit more than ISPWP. So, I wonder if WPJA has the same problem?

Either way, I don't know if this is representative of a prejudice in ISPWP specifically, or a reflection of an industry-wide condition that favors men over women in general.

As with the Nikon "32 men" fiasco last year, like it or not photography as a craft is very intertwined with the geeky tech stuff that, on average, men seem to obsess over, while women care less about. That's not an insult or a disadvantage to women, by the way, if anything it's men who need to shut up about megapixels, and focus on creativity more!

Either way, I think photography is currently predisposed to be a male-strong craft. It really shouldn't be, though. Creativity obviously has nothing to do with gender.

What I'm trying to say is, if we want this current situation to change, I don't think it's a matter of just affirmative-action-ing a bunch of women photographers into the spotlight. I think what really needs to happen is, human beings as a whole (but likely men in particular) need to de-emphasize the materialism and shallow fanboy (fangirl?) bickering about immaterial stuff that pervades all of our society, not just photography, not just artistic creativity, but every aspect of society. We need to obsess over gear, tech gadgets, and possessions in general a whole lot less, and focus on the real things that matter in our lives, like emotional connections, the visual aesthetics of the naturally-occurring things, and un-fettered creativity as well.

Of course, sexism as a whole is obviously a major issue in society, and the whole "men make better gear snobs" issue PALES in comparison to the larger scale of sexism in society.

However, that issue must also be dealt with on a society-wide scale. We cannot expect to eliminate sexism from photography, in a bubble outside of society. It has to be dealt with on a larger scale too.

Bret Hoy's picture

The argument here isn't that we should arbitrarily put female photographers on the list. It's that there are plenty of incredibly talented female photographers that weren't considered to be in the Top 100 because they're female. If that's not the case, it assumes that men are just inherently *better* at photography than women, which I think we can all agree is simply not true. And if THAT'S not the case, we're dealing with a clear lack of opportunity for females.

I can see you're general sentiment here, but I think all reasonable roads lead us to confront the same issue: Sexism has changed our perception of female talent.

"...there are plenty of incredibly talented female photographers that weren't considered to be in the Top 100 because they're female. If that's not the case, it assumes that men are just inherently *better* at photography than women..."

You are taking massive leaps there unless you have some secret info you didn't share.
Maybe they just didn't put much effort into a useless article -seriously, Top xxx lists are almost always fluff pieces. It's just a mediocre article, and doesn't seem like a conversation starter.

Mike Yamin's picture

A huge leap indeed. Does anyone really believe that these people saw lots of great work by women and thought, "Awesome photos! Too bad a woman shot them." I'm not even sure I've ever met anyone who's that much of a caveman. If you think that sort of thing is common at all, you are the one that lives in a cave.

Matthew Saville's picture

Well, there is also that. Maybe women just didn't care to worry about getting nominated, or submitting for consideration, or whatever the process is. Unless someone cares to fully describe the process of consideration, we're just armchair-ing here.

While "Top 100" type publications are often just fluff pieces, they're still a metric that shouldn't be ignored. And unless the gender differential is at least 60-40 in either direction, I think there's something wrong with the process.

Bret Hoy's picture

I really appreciate you contributing to the conversation, Matthew. This is a touchy subject for lots of men, so just being open to discussing it is hard enough.

Matthew Saville's picture

Wow, you completely missed the point, but OK... This discussion is about creativity and art, not getting a PHD in electrical engineering.

Sure, we need super geeky folks to actually MAKE the cameras in the first place. But the bickering, bashing, measurebating, and fanboyism, ...that's what we could use a whole lot less of.

Matthew Saville's picture

Again, not at all what I'm trying to say, but thanks for putting words in my mouth. Yummy.

The only explanation I can think of is that you actually see value in things like fanboying, measurebating, flame-warring, and the pervading materialism and consumerism in modern society's tech world...?

Christopher Cooke's picture

I bet if this was a list of the top wedding photographers in the US it would be at least 50/50 if not more slanted towards female dominance.
Wedding Photography might not be as popular with women in other parts of the world. Maybe photography isnt as desirable of a career in other parts of the world. I think there is a lot more to look at than just the smaller number of females in the list. "Equality" is such a utopian idea and one that everyone thinks is so black and white but it really isn't. There is so much more to consider than just gender of who makes these lists. You will never see people write and article about "Why are Men under represented in Wedding Florist Options?" Sure, there are plenty of male florists who do a great job with floral design but the industry is and always was dominated by women. Why? Women like flowers more than men. Its not malicious or sexist. Its just one the ways we as a gender differ. Its not right, its not wrong and there is no need to address it or label it cause its a non issue.
I have seen more women LEAVE wedding photography in the past 5 years instead of enter into it. Why? They look to other genres. Newborns, Lifestyle, Maternity, Seniors, Family, Fashion, etc. How many men do newborn/maternity?

Bret Hoy's picture

The issue with equality isn't finding a perfect 50/50 split between male and female photographers (though wedding photographers roughly 50% male and 50% female). It's that since the the pool of photographers is 50/50, why are our lists so lop-sided?

Christopher Cooke's picture

why does it matter? If the list was lop sided the other way would it have prompted your article?
There doesnt NEED to be equal lists. There doesnt NEED to be "equality". There will always be careers that slant one way or the other. That is OK! And like I said, while the industry in the USA might be more 50/50, this list is world wide and there is no evidence that other countries are represented the same way. We need to stop making up reasons to get riled up! We need to stop using the "issues" the united states keeps coming up with to take to the streets and apply that thinking as what the rest of the world does too.
As long as there is the open opportunity for all to choose what career they want then everything is ok. And in photography, as we have seen since the dawn of the digital age, EVERYONE can be a "photographer."
With no proof that this list is specifically excluding women or not considering a body of work based ONLY on the fact that a woman created it, this article is pretty much just stirring the pot. And from what I see in every photography group, contest, list, etc at least here in the USA, the women are pretty well represented and often times dominating the industry and influencing the industry a LOT more than men.

Bret Hoy's picture

The only proof I have that this list excludes females is that the industry is nearly a 50/50 split and that's not close to what's represented here. My argument for equality isn't that we need to disingenuously praise female photographers. It's that they're already there and we don't celebrate them the way that we celebrate male talent.

I have plenty of opinions about my own experience/perceptions about female representation, but those are less important because, of course, they're subjective. From what I can verify, it certainly looks as though there's an issue.

Christopher Cooke's picture

Again, I believe you are only thinking of the US wedding photography industry. Are you sure that in Europe and Asia its 50/50 too? Austraila? South America? Because I'm pretty sure its NOT 50/50 in all those places. Had this been a USA only list then you would have more ground to stand on but world wide there is a LOT more to consider which I don't believe you are doing.

Are you sure, that “The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers” is perfectly split for the start?

It’s a Society, with some admission process, not a bunch of (any) photographers shooting wedding.

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

Because men are still better at the craft (according to the list). Give the list some time bro, nobody likes to suck at anything. A small drop of dye turns the whole water blue. Why is that so hard to believe?

Matthew Saville's picture

"Because men are still better at the craft."

...Much more likely is, men are still more obsessed with certain aspects of the craft that incline them to join societies in order to stroke their egos, or more unhealthily competitive in general, and society has continued to reward it because it is profitable for the camera companies.

If it were purely a matter of creativity and vision, I suspect the divide would be much, much closer to 50-50.

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

I like how you removed the "according to the list". Well done. There's a new article about black female photographers, I'm sure Latinos and Indians would soon speak out then probably short black West African men and women. So yes I feel good about stroking my ego. Still stroking it.

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

Most if not all of the tutorials in the fstoppers store are by male photographers, and I'm sure most of the featured shots are male too, maybe the writers on the blog are predominantly male too... Do your assignment and start a campaign

Jonathan Reid's picture

It would not surprise me if I were told that the percentage of men vs women professional photographers was 85%/15% therefore, this stat on wedding photographers doesn’t surprise me either.

Bret Hoy's picture

In the early 2010's, wedding photographers were 60% men. Those under the age of 30 were 60% women. At best, we're currently sitting around 50/50 male to female ratio.

Jonathan Reid's picture

How is that stat determined? Are we talking about everyone shootings weddings (including the hobbyists) or is that stat legit career wedding photographers?

If the stat was about newborn/baby photographers, I’d expect a 90/10% ratio in favour of women, but from what I’ve seen at weddings, most photographers are men. It’s even more male dominated in my genres (architecture and travel)

Bret Hoy's picture

It was based on a study by the National Endowment for the Arts:
https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/96.pdf

Jonathan Reid's picture

Quoting the source doesn’t answer the question. You can not compare someone who photographs 100+
Weddings a year to the photographer who shoots the odd wedding to suppiment their day job. I’d like to know what the ratio is between men and woman who photograph weddings successfully as their main source of income.

Bret Hoy's picture

Unfortunately, I don't believe the specific information you want has been studied and compiled in terms that you will accept. Personally, I know plenty of full-time female photographers, however I wanted to give you information that's been compiled in a scientific, verifiable way instead of injecting my anecdotal experience. Anything else would just be my opinion.

So, you believe that to say “10-15%” is scientific enough for specific list of people? (BTW, I also didn’t care to count).

Matthew Saville's picture

This is the age we live in, Jonathan. The full-time wedding photographer is a dying breed. It will never be fully extinct, but the evolution is moving towards a significant portion of the business being done by part-time photographers, OR, unfortunately, by "full-time" photographers who only really survive for 2-5 years, and then give up and go back to a day job.

Simply put, your interest in "men and woman who photograph weddings successfully as their main source of income." ...is less significant of a statistic than you think it is, especially when you reduce the pool to folks who stay in business for even just 10+ years.

Like it or not, moms with spare time are now a huge part of the photography industry, period.

With that said, they're extremely unlikely to get inducted into ISPWP, at only 1-4 weddings a year, for close friends. But that doesn't mean they aren't incredibly numerous.

Looking at the study, it seems like there's an overall balance across artistic professions. Singling out one profession, which of course makes sense for an article on this site, doesn't accurately portray the overall representation of women in the arts. I think it would be difficult to prove systemic sexism, which seems to be your point, this way. It looks a lot like "anecdotal experience."

Michał Schabowski's picture

i'm offended that most of the female roles in the movies are played by womens! ;)
edit - thank you Ann for vote down. its because im man? :D take it easy and have a nice day.

On balance, though, all the female roles in Kabuki theater are played by men. ;-)

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

😂

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