Are Cameras Just for Men? The Industry Needs to Change

Olympus has produced a beautiful series of videos on YouTube whereby its ambassadors visit some stunning locations, exploring Lapland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Namibia. What’s noticeable is that all of the Olympus Xplorers are men.

As an industry, photography has a reputation for being male-dominated, and this is reflected in some of the major manufacturers occasionally forgetting that half of their potential market is in fact female. Just over a year ago, Nikon presented a team of 32 photographers as the face of the Nikon D850, but failed to include a single woman. Unlike its Instagram, this Olympus campaign seems to be of a similar attitude: the Xplorers series on YouTube revolves around the heroic image-making achievements of men. Across the various videos, one or two women have a very brief presence, holding a camera for split second, but otherwise spectating as men discuss maps or light fires, and then posing to be photographed. Ultimately, it reinforces the stereotype that men are active and achieve things, while women are passive and, when included, are there simply to look pretty.

Screenshot from olympusXplorers in Lapland.

In stark contrast, the outdoor industry — a sector that’s arguably perhaps a little more progressive in its attitudes towards gender — is up to speed with the fact that women are equally capable of going on adventures. This is a realization that has largely been driven by greater recognition of equality and women’s increased spending power. To a frequent consumer of outdoor industry-related media, the way that Olympus is perpetuating stereotypical gender norms with its Xplorers series feels strangely out of place.

The photography industry seems to be a little slower when it comes to understanding gender politics, and while it may seem that the overwhelming majority of photographers are men, the numbers don’t necessarily agree. These statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor suggest that of 205,000 photographers, 47.7 percent are women. When you also take into consideration the fact that women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, you have to question why so much of photography’s media is geared deliberately towards men and is at times markedly sexist. I’ve lost count of the number of male photography YouTube gurus who are perfectly happy to present themselves as technically skilled, all-knowing fonts of wisdom while female models stand awkwardly alongside, not speaking, often unnamed, offering some flesh for an audience that is assumed to be unable to make it through a video if there isn’t something pretty to look at.

In its defense, Olympus’s Instagram account is a different story, featuring several well-established female outdoors photographers. Perhaps its YouTube department simply needs to catch up.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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So much SJW

Just like those whiny "War on Christmas" people or the people who say everyone should have to speak English all the time.

Oy. They've probably done the market research and found that the majority of their user base is men. So what?

Their business and ONLY their business.

It's important to realize that advertisements often target a specific audience and no one should feel deterred from doing what they love because of perceived gate-keeping.

Photography is for everyone. Nothing about this says 'MEN ONLY.'

It's important to realize that advertisements ALWAYS target a specific audience...

Fixed that for you.

Go play with your dolls! Cameras are for BOYS!


Unsurprisingly the senior management is all male :

So you're saying men are better at photography AND management? ;-)

Oh here we go~

Somebody has to stirred this up. This thread has been entirely too civil up 'til now! ;-)

<sigh> Fine....



::Walks away and locks himself in a quiet room with some vodka.::

Well, where is the controversy? It is all true.

I would rather say that they are confined in their "alpha male bubble" and too blind to see the potential in changing their approach.

Well, okay.

oh goodness.

My niece is a premier wedding photographer and loves her Nikons. At Thanksgiving we were discussing cameras and lenses and know one else had a clue what we were talking about.

Hahahaha I love how you talk to yourself.

Not that it has any relevance to anything, but what job is this?

"Helicopter electrical lineman"

I'm actually impressed by how obscure a reference you've managed to pull out here. LOL! Maybe it's actually not that obscure, but it's certainly something I've never heard of. :P

Don't generalisize genders. We are all just photographers and we all have our favourite sectors. The gender doesn't matter at all!
I love exploring the world and shooting landscapes.

Bare hand helicopter stopper

The future isn't looking too bright, with the total backfire of the #metoo movement:

People said the same thing about other Civil Rights laws.

"Don't go stirring up trouble asking for your rights."

Didn't work then. Probably won't work now.

Problem is, many of these women didn't ask for their rights until 20+ years after the fact, when nothing can be proven either way. The next problem is, just accusations have caused men to be fired. And the final problem is, some of these women have lied about everything. Put all of that together, and it's a complete mess.

You sound like you're more angry with the women who report rapes than the men who commit them. Many of these women didn't ask anything other than to be heard. They're not responsible for society's or the medias reaction. They just didn't want to live with such a horrible secret. Part of healing is talking about trauma. Sure some women will abuse this opportunity, just like some men rape. If you want the benefit of the doubt for men, you've gotta give it to women too.

Thing is, you can bet that these same women would instantly call the police if their house was robbed or even broken into. Saying they didn't want to live with such a horrible secret places the blame on them for keeping it a secret in the first place. If you're wronged, go to the police. If you don't, it's basically saying you're OK with what happened, as you've made no attempt to contest it. And coming back 20+ years later expecting anything to happen is wishful thinking anywhere except the SJW capital of Hollywood, where "innocent until proven guilty" does not exist. If those were normal people being fired from their jobs, instead of overpaid actors with more than enough money already, you can bet there'd be lawsuits against those employers all over the place. The fact that all of that actually happened set a bad enough precedent. And it's exactly why the issue in the article I posted has occurred.

If you think your house being broken into is analogous to sexual assault and not reporting a rape immediately after is implicit consent to it after the fact, you gravely misunderstand the psychological toll sexual assault has on a victim. Victims are not responsible for the way society reacts to them coming forward and good god, not immediately reporting a rape does not mean a victim is implying their consent to it. Fear of physical retaliation, fear of career consequences, shame, fear of not being taken seriously, feelings of helplessness, depression, disbelief, dissociation, having been drugged — all of these and more are reasons someone might not immediately report a rape. Have a little empathy, dude.

"Fear of physical retaliation, fear of career consequences, shame, fear of not being taken seriously, feelings of helplessness, depression, disbelief, dissociation, having been drugged "

So you're saying those are worse than rape? Because they're not. And coming back 20+ years later when it's "safe" is meaningless, as nothing can be done beyond hashtagging phrases. Except in Hollywood, where everyone speaks the truth all the time...

Read the last line of my initial response to you. That’s where your problem stems from.

maybe the vast majority of their youtube viewers report as male, while a majority of their instagram followers report as female, and thus they've tailored their marketing to match.

you've failed to include the demographic breakdown of their Xplorers program membership. that alone would tell the tale of total women in their ranks and their specialties to see if your assumption has any merit.

anyways, you may now continue to jump to conclusions while exposing zero facts. i'm sure the female photographers of the world are relieved to know a man is here to advise them on when, where and to whom they should be outraged.

let's be real though: the most celebrated photographers are women. anecdotally speaking, take a look at Yelp under "photography studios" and you'll find just as many women as men listed in the larger towns and cities across the US. and neither of these account for the fact that women are the ones who spend more on cameras annually, worldwide.

while men are spewing malformed opinions on youtube and gracing ads, women are out there making a living in photography more consistently than men. could women be better represented in camera ads? sure, but let's not pretend photography is some boys club, like michelin starred, celebrity, or even just run of the mill chefs. there may be sectors of photography that's male dominated, like sports photography, but there are sectors that are dominated by women and others that are equally represented.

bottom line, it's the image that should be the focus. a great image is a great image, whether the photographer held the camera with her vagina or pressed the shutter button with his penis.

Level headed and rational opinions are not permitted here. Go troll some statistical forum, nerd. :P

Exactly! I'm just fed up with such "articles" (as they lack basic journalistic work & ethics).

FYI: even Playboys' Fotoerotica competition in Poland was won by female photographers a couple of times recently...

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I swear there is a group of people that wake up every day looking for something that is sexist or racist or bigoted or name your poison.

A group of photo clubs here in Winnipeg are hosting a workshop in the spring. The photographer is a Nikon Canada Ambassador and SHE is a very good landscape/portrait shooter. That's right, SHE!

Some out there need to give it a rest.

Well if there's a female photographer in Winnipeg I guess this was a big false alarm. Roll back the discussion fellas, they got one in Winnipeg!

In the first paragraph, Olympus is named as having all men as ambassadors. I pointed out that Nikon, in fact, has at least one lady as an ambassador. Just giving Nikon kudos. If you had read the article then had the ability to relate it to my post, you would have figured it out.

Hold on. Let me consult my wife about her thoughts on this topic. Oh wait... she doesn't care.

Hey man, you need to get some S...

Whether I look at the contributors on the photography group for my area or ask people who run photography workshops, I conclude that photographers comprise approximately a 60% male / 40% female split overall.

But to understand why camera marketers choose to put who they put into their promotional material is a completely different question. They'll make their marketing decisions to maximise profits. If putting mainly men in their ads will maximise profits then that's what they'll do!

Maybe it would be more pertinent to ask why women seem to generally not care that they are proportionately under-represented in camera marketing materials.

The thing that is bothering me is that the word "need" is used based upon an implied premise.

Why do they "need" to change? 48% of professional photographers are female, OK, cool. So are you arguing that they "need" to change for economic reasons, and if they don't change they won't survive? Or are you really arguing from a moral posotion that they 'should' change, for the sake of representative fairness?

I would understand if this article would be published on some feminist or sjw page, but fstoppers?

"while it may seem that the overwhelming majority of photographers are men, the numbers don’t necessarily agree"

Pretty much wraps up the majority of SJW concerns.

I think you should re-read the quote you chose.

Just for the record, if you're offended by this article YOU are the Snowflake.

See that's where you miss the point. We're not offended, we're just tired of it.

A #MeTooICanWhine Era.

Damn Naggers.

If it's a male dominated industry then half the market ISN'T women. How come SJWs have such a hard time with math?

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