There’s no question that the New York Times photo of James Comey during his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where he detailed his uncomfortable and suspect dealings with President Donald Trump, 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.
Doug Mills, the photographer who carefully planned and shot the photo, used a monopod from above the gaggle of photographers. If you read this detailed write-up about it, you’ll see another photo that has an even clearer view. Counting the photographers, about 32 seemed to be white males, and only two women in the group. There may have been a few minorities, but it’s hard to tell.
Take a look:
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 a president that specifically targets minorities when crafting policy.
The Comey 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. Fox News, according to that same list, seems to be doing better on this front.
Many commenters pointed out this issue not only in terms of the photographers, but also in terms of the people in the room who controlled the levers of power in government:expanded racism that followed the new administration, Fstoppers Writer 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 Comey hearing reveals that no one’s listening.