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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139 Comments

Previous comments
Luke Adams's picture

I'm disturbed there is apparently not one non-Indian person in this picture of the Indian Paparazzi in India. TRIGGERED!

George Anderson's picture

Hooray for white guys! We take the photos that others won't take! It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it. I defy anyone to look at a photo and tell me whether it's by a white man or not. Go white men! Go!

Carlos Andres Duenas's picture

This article is BS. Who cares if all photographers are white? How many non-whites applied for the job? The vast majority of nurses at my local hospital are women. Does that mean they are discriminating against men? How many men applied for the job is the right question.

Timothy Roper's picture

Maybe women expect higher-paying jobs these days?

Carlos Andres Duenas's picture

Do people choose their jobs based on wages only? Then there would be no photographers:)

Timothy Roper's picture

There would also be no dishwashers, no Uber drivers, no one to clean the toilets at work, etc!

Darien Robertson's picture

What it's like when a person of colour tries to talk to white (and white-aligned) people about racism:

jonas y's picture

OK, if you are talking about individual racism against blacks and browns in the west, they are still around, but rather rare. If you are talking about institution racism, affirmative action against Asian is one but that's about it.

jonas y's picture

Again, if you think you could not ever convince a group of your fellow human about a topic because of their race, is that racism too?

Luke Adams's picture

Woah, woah, woah! You mean "person of colour tries to talk to SOME white people". By inferring all white people in general, you are being bigoted, racist and leukophobic!!!

Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien's picture

The real shocker here is that Michael Barbaro posted such a shitty version of his colleague's photo, while her own edit of the exact same shot on Instagram looks way better. Maybe lifting every shadow is how it's done to look good when printed on cheap paper?

Les Sucettes's picture

I think it’s to emphasise the whiteness... an edit which ironically is what World Press Photo would take issue with. At least if I understand their guidelines correctly. It’s definitely not a « true » representation of the scene

g coll's picture

The longer you have a racist president in the US, the worse it will get.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

Didn't Trump's administration just got the unemployment of African Americans record low? and it's staying low. I don't think a racist would do that. It's a left leaning media narrative. Just don't buy it.

g coll's picture

If you don't think Trump is racist then you are an idiot. It is nothing to do with a left vs right narratives.

Mikko Ala-Peijari's picture

Why on earth you bring out Trump in this thread? If you think Trump is a racist, show me something that proves that. Calling names won't get you far. I can tell that you think that 63 million voters who voted for your president are all racists. That's a lot of racists. Also millions of non white people are for the sitting president. I guess they are also racists. One more thing.. usually guys like you, who just bark on people, are covering their identity and commenting as anonymous. I rest my case.

g coll's picture

Wrong. I wouldn’t extrapolate so foolishly. And your assumptions are laughably way off. I stand by my comments.

Krzysztof Kurzaj's picture

So if NYT makes this "revelation" again next year you will be reposting as well? Do you actually have any original thoughts of your own on this topic or you are just repeating stuff like a parrot every time you hear something?

At the same time Fstoppers is paying authors for engagement level and when a privileged white boy like myself posts a comment here you make extra money. Interestingly this money does not offend you. And when you teach journalism to all those privileged white students at your school, knowing they may in the future be working at the White House you also get paid for it and it does not upset you.

If you actually invested some time and effort and maybe found at least half a dozen of minority photojournalists who can attest they were denied particular position, then perhaps your work would have been taken seriously and would ignite broader public interest into this matter. That is of course only if you really care about this issues. But instead, you are reposting some old, heated up meat loaf that NYT already served two years ago. So I don't think you really care man.

Robert Herrera's picture

OH NO!!! All white photographers!! GASP!!! No minorities and.. NO WOMEN!!!! What shall we ever do!! lol Dear god..another social justice warrior article.