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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Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

Are you saying that I'm a racist? Why on earth you think so? I'm just pointing out facts. I don't want either this to be about race or sex. Isn't this article about white men in photojournalism? I mean why are you freaking out to me?? What does this comment in the article tell you? "The Schaff photo reveals that there’s still a huge gender/race gap in photojournalism. ". It's self explanatory (sorry for bad spelling, not my native language). I'm just proving the point that is already made in the article... and I would presume you know which side does the main stream support more! If you are living in the US. :-O
Please reply and let me know your thoughts. I'm cool, you stay too.

Scott Magnuson's picture

Gap?! Seriously? Why must everything be normalized? If you think every position and every interest must regress to the population mean, YOUR “THINKING” is the issue!

Before accusing Mr. Johnson of calling you racist, you might take the time to notice he did not click "reply" before writing his opinion. Since he did not click "reply," he could very well be replying to the author of the article.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

You guys (Mike, Andrew and Scott) are really funny. I just wrote that what is written in the article. This comment is not mine: "The Schaff photo reveals that there’s still a huge gender/race gap in photojournalism." Just for the record, I don't favour any colors, just the talent like you guys say. I'm just reporting on what I know and read about. Those accusations of Mr. Andrew Johnson are not fair. "Because of guys like me!" C'mon. Grow up and go back into your bubble. Because of guys like you Andrew, the world is messed up.

How racist would it have been to say "there are too many *blank1* we need more *blank2* because all *blank1* think alike

Motti Bembaron's picture

Wow! Let's make another nonissue, an issue.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

By the way if you didn't notice, this article is already posted +2 years ago in 2017 here! It's a copy, not new or news. :) I wonder why Fstoppers does that??

Wasim Ahmad's picture

You might want to read all the way to the bottom before making this comment.

Matt Williams's picture

Just want to say I fully support and agree with this article but I am not getting involved in the comments any further than this. Not again. These photography websites seem to be cesspools for racists and sexists - I'm not sure if that's reflective of the actual photographic community or just people who argue about gear all day online. I sure hope it's the latter.

And Alex Cooke's quote near the end there is spot on.

Mike Yamin's picture

Just like the Naomi Campbell article, Matt thinks everyone who disagrees with him is a racist or sexist. He thinks the worst of everyone's intentions, as in, you couldn't possibly just be (trying to be) colorblind or "gender blind," you're actually part of some evil conspiracy to keep certain people down.

When you get to the essence off all this garbage thinking, it amounts to "go out of your way to hire more minorities and women and less white men." Ah yes, just like Martin Luther King Jr. would've wanted.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Colorblind thinking perpetuates racism - in the past, thinking wasn't colorblind. That meant minorities were shut out of every position everywhere, and so to be colorblind now ignores the fact that minorities haven't had an equal shot in the photojournalism profession in the past, and so of course it's hard to break into a profession that's dominated by white men because they tend to hire white men. There's tons of research on this, it's not garbage thinking. Want to see what I mean by systemic racism? Check out this link, a story on racism in what's supposed to be a colorblind pursuit, buying a home: (www.newsday.com/divided).

Mike Yamin's picture

It's garbage thinking, because you want to skip to the end to fix the supposed problem. You can't just say "the numbers are wrong here" and you can't punish people now for mistakes others made in the past. You can only look forward and be colorblind from now on... it's a "two wrongs don't make a right" situation. Not to mention, where's the dignity in getting hired for your skin color or gender?

Jacques Cornell's picture

Uh, no. Our country has been making efforts for decades now to help the disempowered catch up, and it works. You can't just say, "Hey, that's all in the past. I'M not responsible for the current inequities. You're on your own."
Well, you can, but it's pretty self-servingly disingenuous coming from a member of the advantaged class.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

Do you mean "white supreme or just white people" by your comment "advantaged class"? and now all white people have to be more giving because of this race bs... and pay for something that happened in the past?

Quota system is not an answer to that. Plus, I don't believe it's true these days.

Well, in Easter countries they are open about wanting certain group of people (e.g. western educated single Arab male in job advertisement) and I think they need more awareness than the west. So does Asians (it's very open and blunt in India).

You don't see such articles there don't you?

Legal frameworks are clear in the west with regards to these types of issues. Last thing you want is to have a quota system coz quotas won't eliminate any sort of 'injustice' (proof is Indian cast based quota system on gov/semi gov jobs), but merely retains it and shelters it.

I am sure those photojournalists either have long relationship with the agencies or working history or credibility or skillets they are looking for.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Didn't talk about instituting a quota system in here. But if only white male photojournalist had the chance to get their foot in the door in the past, then of course they have the longstanding relationships and after many years, the skillsets.

The hypocrisy is hilarious.

jonas y's picture

Are you saying people who are sick and tired of everything being racialized and sexualized are racists and sexists?

Yes, you are always right my white savior!!!

On a serious note, most people are here to learn skills and get inspirations, it's rather difficult to find a blatant racist in the USA. I do not agree with Alex on how the culture comes to be, but I believe he is much more decent than just calling all decedents evil, that assumption of innocent should be common to everyone.

Tony Clark's picture

There is a lot of truth in the story, the only way to fix it is to train those that are interested. I have learned that talent always wins, except when budgets kill it. The downside is that there are fewer opportunities, remember when The Chicago Tribune eliminated staff photographers and gave reporters iPhones?

Sure, let's all ask the white men to stop doing that for a while and then enjoy our lives.

Stop reading into every damn thing, if majority of your population is white, then majority of the talent you can get will be white. Plus, if they are all talented, I don't see any issue here.

Go-to India and check the offices and you will find another surprise. Majority is brown men.

People are turning crazy

Mike Yamin's picture

Stop it Rhonald! I can't take your common sense!

Yeah, people lack common sense these days. They just switched off that part.

The majority of the US is not white.

As of July 2016, White Americans are the racial majority.

Check statistics

The statistics still stands, at this rate (sjw article, media bashing, etc), it may not be in the next 10 years

Jacques Cornell's picture

If 13% of Americans are black but only 9.7% of American photographers are black, and 50% of Americans are women but only 45% of American photographers are women, AND those women's income is only 56% of male photographers', it's reasonable to wonder why.

Sure, happy wondering. Coz that's the only profession in the US and they all wants to be photographers.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Statistics do not always track directly and to be honest the differences between 13% and 9.5% or 50% and 45% are not particularly huge.

I'm sure I'll find a much bigger difference between people of my age (52) in the UK population and who work in TV, but I'm not screaming that the media is ageist.

People will do what they want to do. They do what they've been introduced to. They'll do what their friends do. And if they don't it doesn't mean that the world is against them or stopping them.

As to income - come on... We all know that income is not solely a function of success or popularity. It is also a function of the field of photography worked in. I used to work in a field of media where I was making a large amount per year, now I am doing exactly the same but in a slightly different field which earns me half of that at best. Does that mean the world has turned against me because I'm 6-7 years older...? No of course not. Figures like these need much more depth of analysis and less headline recital.

I think if we look at any demographic and announce the world is racist, sexist, ageist or anything else "ist" purely because we don't see a mathematical % represented, then this demonstrates a problem with the observer.

We need to stop looking for differences everywhere. We need to stop being politically correct by pointing out who is different because of their colour, sex or age. If we could all manage that, then we'd have a world which would improve.

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