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

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

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:

Some of the comments on the New York Times story about the photo.

Some of the comments on the New York Times story about the photo.

In January, shortly before the inauguration and on the cusp of 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.

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Previous comments
Anonymous's picture

You're discourse style is reminiscent of Pee-Wee Herman arguing with the fat rich kid who wanted his bike. Some Great White Defender you are!

William Howell's picture

Yes, Pee Wee's "I know you are, but what am I" was a devastating debate counter-punch!
Thank you for the compliment, I'm glad we ended this on a high note.

Anonymous's picture

You earned it.

William Howell's picture

OMG, you win, you out trolled me, okay, happy now. You can go home to mommy and tell her you're the champ.

Anonymous's picture

Nice patient work on your part. You may recall Barney Frank's interaction with a Lyndon Larouche supporter that ran along the same lines. Check this out, you will be amused:

William Howell's picture I Barney Frank, the table or the Lyndon Larouche supporter, God I hope it's Frank, because he is smart!

Anonymous's picture

I wasn't speaking to you, but I encourage you to keep hoping. Fyi Frank would kick you out of the room just like Jobs.

William Howell's picture

You know everything, how you do that?

Darien Robertson's picture

lol. Post an article about race and the watch mayonnaise drip across the comments. I LOVE how anytime anything about race is mentioned, as it relates to photography and the rallying cry for commenters is "I don't wanna see this crap!"

Donny Cotten's picture

First of's an entire article based on a lie. Second, of all, it has no relevance to photography. It's nothing more than racism against whites and a thinly veiled accusation that somehow White people are keeping minorities or women out of photojournalism. Strangely though, have never seen anyone refused a sale of a camera or the ability to photograph an event based on race or gender... The article is bullsh*t and the author a race baiter just as you are...

Anonymous's picture

Most of the replies were based on the substance of his arguments and not on the subject matter. I like Wasim and most of his articles and comments. I've noted, and liked a lot of your comments in the past. If we can't critique each other, regardless of race, racism will never die.

Definition of journalism.

1. a :  the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media
b :  the public press
c :  an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium

2. a :  writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine
b :  writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation
c :  writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest

Wasim Ahmad... it seems you can't call yourself a Journalist legitimately by this article.

jonas y's picture

He is a race baiter, mediocre photographer, and one who believes pushing minority towards a failing career is a good idea.

So many complaints about this article, but it's true. It is visible in every photographic forum: post a picture of a provocatively-posed beautiful white woman, with the subhead of "boudour" or "glamour", and expect applause. Practicality no women of color and almost no "fashion" photos of men, either. Post semi or full nude white women only, or don't bother to post at all.

For sure the stylistic leanings of published photography is tilted by the largest number of users, that being middle and upper-class white males. You must have both the funds and time to practice the craft; you must enjoy a base level of success in order to afford the equipment that allows you to participate in the hobby. That hobby eventually can turn into a career, if you are both talented and fortunate, with practice and education, again both of which take time and funds to acquire. Since white males make up the majority share of the middle and upper classes, they are more prevalent at the professional levels.

But we shouldn't discount typical hiring practices, the Old Boys Club pattern, in our analysis, and the author brings this out.

Which is why he earns the ire...of the while male majority that reads online photographic articles.


Donny Cotten's picture

What a load of crap... Please point out for us where minorities and women are refused the ability to post an image of the above-mentioned subjects. We will wait while you flounder. Your entire diatribe is false from beginning to end.

You're in complete denial

Read it again. I never said that alternative images and views are being denied a voice. This is the internet, you are free to post anything you want. But that doesn't mean that everyone will be quiet about it.

What I SAID is that the majority of photographers, white middle and upper class males, are creating the accepted norms, that images and conversations that meet to their singular tastes are often and sadly the most you'll see. I dare you to post an even slightly homoerotic image and NOT get massive, hard-core flack for it. But post an erotic image with a sexy white woman? Exactly how many positive comments can we count?

And would a photo of a beautiful, erotic woman of color get the same accolades, never mind the negative comments that will infiltrate the discussion.

So your refusal to accept reality doesn't change it. Sorry. But, sadly, all too typical.

Boris Schipper's picture

I completely agree with your comment on the general consensus of 'beauty' here, it is very unilateral and in general far from what is internationally perceived as editorial.
Well, it is what it is, I chose to be a part of this community and in general enjoy the articles every day.
I do think people of color or different ethnicities should be represented more in press, but I am convinced that if a black photographer creates great images he or she will be hired just like any other (which might not be true for jobs in front of the camera unfortunately)
I am truly a believer of supply and demand.
Whatever the reason is for a lack of ethnic photographers in press, I don't think it's because of the press itself, i agree with you it probably has to do with money, opportunities and perhaps interest

Anonymous's picture

There are several photos of beautiful women of color on this site. They have received numerous accolades, including from this white, upper middle class white guy. Homoerotic images? Not a chance!

Donny Cotten's picture

I'm not in denial about anything. I simply don't dream up garbage to say with zero credibility and numerous falsehoods to push a racist agenda. Anyone that wants to have more images seen should do the work and pay the same price the rest of us did instead of crying like entitled children and making baseless accusations because they lack representation in a field they refuse to work in.... NO ONE is keeping anyone out of photojournalism or any photography job. I have no respect for pot stirrers, race pimps or those that tell lies for the purpose of pushing hatred and racism against any race.

beauty is in the eye of the beholder, has nothing to do with photography. That's the thing about art, you don't have to like it.

Tony Reitz's picture

Maybe in photojournalism there are more men than women, and more Caucasians vs. Blacks (and otger minorities). But take a look around and you will find that in portrait photographers (especially those under 35) an increasing number of the photographers are women. On the same note, I've noticed that many black photographers are shooting sports and the fashion world. Maybe it's just that those two demographics are not interested in photojournalism as much? Kind of unprofessional for the author to judge an entire profession based off a few pictures of one location/event. Kind of like taking a picture each day in northern Canada and reporting the world weather based off it. Before throwing blanket statements out there, look at more sources.

Donny Cotten's picture

This is how leftist race baiters operate. They can't use facts or it would destroy their agenda.

Peter Georges's picture

If Fstoppers has *ANY* sense this should be the authors last article on this otherwise very fine site. Terrible race baiting which has NO PLACE on a professional photography site such as this.

Absolutely disgusting!

Donny Cotten's picture

I agree. I'm strongly thinking it will be my last visit to the site. I have no interest in such race baiting content on a photography site.

William Howell's picture

No, don’t do that, this site is the best site for photographers to show off their work and for hobbyists like me to get ideas from these great photographers.

ehh there's other sites to display work like 500px, instagram, flickr. Petapixel has some good articles too without the social justice race baiting.

Simon Patterson's picture

But great article for comments and shares. If they paid authors on commission, every other article would be on this topic. It's like they throw out the line and the fish jump on to the hook!

So I don't think we'll see a let up any time soon.

morgan white's picture

A victim mentality is so very dangerous to a persons mind.

Anonymous's picture

This comment page should be archived as the epitome of white fragility. I'll be sharing it for sure!

Anonymous's picture

Fragile? Since when is justified indignation, fragility?
Ryan Mense (never cared for), Mike Kelley (who I like aside from his PC leanings) and Boris Schipper (never heard of but probably an otherwise fine fellow): duly noted.

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