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.