Photojournalism Is (Still) for White Men, as Revealed by a Stunning New York Times Photograph

Photojournalism Is (Still) for White Men, as Revealed by a Stunning New York Times Photograph

There’s no question that the New York Times photo of American diplomats William Taylor and George Kent, where they detailed their uncomfortable and suspect dealings with President Donald Trump’s handling of a phone call with the president of Ukraine, is going to be one of the iconic ones of our time. There’s also no question about who overwhelmingly seems to dominate the photojournalism field based on this photo: white men.

Take a look at the photo:

Ironically, the photo was shot by a woman staff photographer for the New York Times, Erin Schaff, who thought to get slightly behind the diplomats to photograph the gaggle of photographers from the other side. The photographers, about 27, or almost all of them that are visible in the photo, seem to be white males. There may have been a few minorities or other women in the group, but it’s hard to tell.

Regardless of what the exact count was, it’s stunning that news organizations don’t consider this when sending out photographers. Yes, news outlets have hit tough times, and those tough times disproportionately affect minorities in newsrooms, but it’s still something an editor should think about. This is even more important when it involves an administration that specifically targets minorities when crafting policy.

The Schaff photo reveals that there’s still a huge gender/race gap in photojournalism. If you look at the list of New York Times reporters in the White House Press Corps (or at least the ones listed here), there’s a lack of diversity across the board. It’s a similar situation for the board of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

A look at Erin Schaff’s Instagram post from the hearing highlights that this is an issue not only in terms of the photographers, but also in terms of the people in the room who control the levers of power in government:

In January 2017, shortly before the inauguration and on the cusp of expanded racism that followed the new administration, Fstoppers editor Alex Cooke looked at the diversity problem in the photography industry as a whole and called out an important reason to foster diversity in photography and specifically photojournalism:

When photographs disproportionately carry the collective consciousness and culture of a specific group, they in turn disproportionately bias their consumers toward that group's ideas on anything from sexuality to social habits. Culture feeds into art feeds into culture. Culture feeds into advertising feeds into culture. Culture feeds into journalism feeds into culture.

This particular photo from the impeachment hearings show that, still, no one is listening.

Does This Sound Familiar?

If you’re a longtime reader of Fstoppers, maybe these words seem familiar to you? It’s because it’s almost exactly the same article I wrote more than two years ago about another stunning New York Times photo, one of James Comey testifying in the Senate.

It’s been more than two years since I last wrote about this, and the political press has seen it fit to not pursue diversity in their photojournalists. It’s a sad state of affairs when our history is photographically only told through the lenses of white men. That one of the only women in the group documented this travesty speaks volumes.

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Paul Farace's picture

Awesome, now do professional basketball.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Somewhere on and they have similar article...

Leslie Murray's picture

Haha! Whenever I see an article like this one, I always say I can't wait till they notice there aren't enough Asians in the NFL. I also can't wait for the day when these woker-than-thou people stop clubbing me over the head with it and get a life.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Came here for comments

LA M's picture

Ditto...with popcorn and a glass of rum....and a cigar.

Ryan James's picture

Have you ever considered that maybe there just aren't a large number of minority photojournalists? And those that are in the space, are just resourced elsewhere as they are needed? Are you calling on media outlets to seek out and hire individuals based on their minority or gender status? That in and of itself is discriminatory, and an illegal hiring practice. A single image from a single news event, though of major importance, hardly proves your hypothesis. It's good clickbait though.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

There are plenty of minority photojournalists out there. News organizations don't seem to want to put them in the White House press corps. though. It's not clickbait when you see every single time that this is the case with political photography.

Rhonald Rose's picture

Oh please, let them first build credibility to get such assignments

Carlos Andres Duenas's picture

"News organizations don't seem to want to put them in the White House press corps". Can you please elaborate on this? Which news organizations? Do you have data to support this claim? I'd also be interested to know how many non-whites applied for the jobs that those 27 white men hold.

Krzysztof Kurzaj's picture

There are plenty of white basketball players out there. Basketball team managers don't seem to want to have them play in NBA though. It's not a clickbait when you see every single time this is the case with pro basketball in USA.

Carlos Andres Duenas's picture

"There are plenty of white basketball players out there. Basketball team managers don't seem to want to have them play in NBA though". What is the proportion of white vs non-white basketball players? Which basketball managers don't seem to want them to play in the NBA? Do you have data to support these two claims? Please elaborate:)

Krzysztof Kurzaj's picture

NBA season just started a month ago so just watch any game :)

Travis Pinney's picture

Shocking. You posted something similar to this over 2 years ago.

Edit: I can see you mentioned it in your article, which I didn't bother to fully read, just skimmed

Les Sucettes's picture

It’s not like photojournalism is this flashy high paying job that is super attractive. Assuming the narrative of institutional discrimination is entirely correct (which is questionable at times), then even so, what if it is being addressed but stable jobs just don’t exist? How many photojournalist are still being employed? Are we going to kick out the long serving ones, just because of a ratio? How about the impact on their families and kids?

Let’s be a bit more realistic about speed of sustainable change and also take into consideration the profession we are discussing here. These aren’t surgeons with Million Dollar salaries.

How about Brick layers? How many women go into that profession? Practically none? Why isn’t that a problem?

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

This is because the main stream media is owned by the left! and left is racist. Not the right like you have might been tought. It's a known fact that the main stream media is owned by the left, you can't deny that fact. If the left would not be racist, they would obviously have black people also working as photographers. Because! there are a lot of great black men and women as photographers. Prove me wrong! or give me a thumbs up! ;) – a guy from Finland

Mike Shwarts's picture

Some dude from Finland should look at who pushes for civil rights. Who pushes for anti-discrimination laws? Before you call one side or the other racist, come live here and see for yourself.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

I will never come to live there. I'm just fine here, even though after I have opened my eyes to this never ending divising political agendas from both sides of the isle. Look, I'm just saying out loud how things are. I don't need to come and live in your country, because I can see that it's really broken. I don't watch mainstream media. It's a propaganda machine, from both sides but you cannot prove that the main stream media is way over to the left. Have you ever heard about cognitive dissonance? I'm just aware and obscuring the world from the grass root level. Also checking out the news from unbias indepent media and journalists and other good guys. Who happens to be also black people. All in all, I'm not supporting any color in photojournalism... which we are talking about, right? If you are talented enough, welcome aboard!

Here's some wise words written by "some dude":
– Anyone who says the left isn’t racist should ask why they focus on it so much.

Also have a look at this video from PragerU:

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Males in Finland are extremely white, as far as I know...

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

That's because we don't see the sun that often. ...and we have polar bears. ;)

Ferdinand Teunisse's picture

Well the most popular and well watched main stream media is right owned (fox news, they love to taut how more people watch them than cnn) so there goes your theory :P

Ed Sanford's picture

Except Fox News is not considered mainstream. As an old black dude who has been around the block a few times, there is a status inconsistency with the liberal press (in fact, with liberals in general) . They claim that they are the purveyors of equal rights in terms of what they do for people. Nevertheless, a close look at the track record isn't all that good. When it comes down to it, minorities must compete with excellence in order to achieve success. Note that Gordon Parks was a photojournalist in the 1940s and was with Life Magazine in the early 1950s long before affirmative action and diversity programs. His work was impeccable. In fact, here is a famous quote by him "I suffered evils, but without allowing them to rob me of the freedom to expand." I found through 30 years in the corporate world that so-called diversity programs do more to hurt minorities, especially blacks, than they help. It causes others to question whether you are competent or did you get a bump just to check a box. These politically correct programs forces many to rely on quotas rather than increasing skills. A perfunctory observation of the numbers of people of color in any field doesn't necessarily denote discrimination.

Les Sucettes's picture

What you say is interesting because I always suspected that quotas is a tool that causes harm. Having been exposed to some minor racism in my youth (I am darker skinned and when I went to a new school in a very white neighbourhood, kids called me names) I can empathise with people who have far greater issues their whole life. But to use crude methodologies that are at best reverse-discrimination is to use the wrong method to achieve the right results. And frankly I also think there’s a difference between a white middle class women who claims to have had great issues with the male patriarchy and real racial issues. I often find that white middle class women like the narrative of male “oppression” and like to cast themselves into the same “victim” category as people who have to deal with racism, complaining they don’t have enough Women CEO’s - when Black society is still far more under represented and also ignoring the fact that white women were very much part of the problem and indeed benefited from racial segregation.

On a positive note: In the context of history we are making huge strides forward and we have to continue to do so - but without introducing quotas and the sort of measures that work against the principle of what you are trying to achieve. It’s like beating a child because he beat up a friend. It’s ridiculous and contradictory.

All this is going to take time but that’s far more sustainable than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Ed Sanford's picture

Good points. I entered the business world in the early 1970s when there was still real racism to the effect that “you can’t risk placing a black or a woman” in that position. They created quotas to stop that. However, if you were competent (as I was), you could be held back until they needed to fill a quota spot. I had a friend who was in HR tell me that I was held back from a sales manager position because they didn’t need a “black” at that time. Then, another opening came up six months later which I got because they had a quota fill to make. In other words, they didn’t promote you until they had a quota requirement even though the hiring manager requested me. When they got rid of affirmative action and quotas, my career soared because I was a top producer and competent leader. We have come miles beyond that. Nevertheless, many minorities still rely on the residual effect of that system, and they constantly whine about racism. Feminists do the same. Regarding this article, I’ve been around photography a long time, and I find that many blacks aren’t interested in photojournalism. I know that is anecdotal, but it could be a valid reason. You couldn’t pay me enough to run around and stick a camera in someone’s face or sit on the floor at a hearing. Like everyone else, minorities must hone their craft and focus on excellence in a highly competitive field like photography where all opportunities are shrinking rapidly. Or, they must enter another field where chances are greater. It’s called “life” and “life choices”.

Paul Farace's picture

Lol Ferdinand, who owns Fox? I'll give you a hint, same company that owns ABC. It's all smoke and mirrors my friend. Don't fall for any of their Left/Right, Black/White, Christian/Muslim dividing BS.

Ed, awesome comment. I judge people by their character, not their skin color.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

Do your homework buddy. Fox News is not part Disney. ABC is and that's why the Epstein case was never aired via ABC. Disney is very far in the left.

Paul Farace's picture

Sure I can agree that wasnt put the best way, technically they couldnt on paper and legality had to step in and had to "split" to Fox Corp and 21st.. But if you keep going up the ladder...Vanguard Group, Blackrock, SSgA...etc they all own majority shares in all of the top 6...There is no Left/right up top. It's all a bunch of psycho assholes and smoke and mirrors. Controlled opposition on both "sides", control both and you make the narrative. Keeps us infighting while the pedos and psychos do whatever they want.

I have no ill will toward you my brother.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

That doesn't prove anything. Except that there's only ONE concervative (right-center) media in the States that is popular. Left has a lot more (a lot!) media out there. Combine them together and you'll see how much left has coverage.

Andrew Johnson's picture

Here is an idea. Who cares about the race or sex of the photographer. Why don't you focus on what they capture and the story they tell not the racial or sexual group they associate with?

You are the problem. Racism and sexism exist because of people who think like you. Why don't you judge people based on the merits of their craft and their character, not the color of their skin or their sex?

I can't wait for your highly over educated and arrogant response. If you can manage try not to be a racist piece of trash when you reply. I won't hold my breath.

Everyone should bring more popcorn. :D

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