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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jonas y's picture

Want diversity? Earn it!

The creative community has always been known as the most left-leaning group, accusing the editors here with racial bias of any sort without any direct evidence is the definition of RACISM!

Yes, this I am an award winning minority photographer, and I am calling this nonsense out. Minorities in the USA are not victims in 2017, I do not want to see terrible pictures being featured in Fstoppers just because the model or photographer is blue/green or any other colors. Pandering someone for his or her skin color, that is soft bigotry of low expectation. NO, Not here!

Robert Nurse's picture

Maybe not here, true. But, not in 2017? You haven't been paying attention.

Robert Nurse's picture

This guy needs to read "The Color of Law": plenty of numbers and stats for him to chew on. He also needs to crack open a history book. In the mid 2000's, I believe it was Chevy Chase Bank or CitiBank that had lending practices where race played a part. Not out of hatred or negative bias per se. But, when they looked at statistics, they saw that people of color would have a harder time paying back loans because of the issues they faced. Again, no hatred or "racism". They were merely looking at the numbers. Now, it was still illegal and they got called to the carpet for it. But, hey, there you go! You want more? For Social Security to get voted into law required Southern states approval for passage. Guess what group of people they frowned upon for receiving benefits. So, rather than say "no blacks", legislators targeted occupations where blacks were prevalent to exclude their participation. Were those occupations exempt from those taxes? They were not. So, basically they paid into a system they were not allowed to benefit from. These are just two examples out of centuries of both undocumented and documented bias. Either this guy remains purposefully ignorant of facts or he just doesn't want to know. It'd be very entertaining for him to pose his questions to a historian.

It all comes down to lack of opportunities. Blacks and Latinos have a hard time getting the right education if they are raised in the ghetto. If you go anywhere in the country you will find the schools in the black and hispanic neighborhoods are underfunded. Meanwhile, the poor white areas have great schools. It is because the schools are funded mostly by property taxes and in the black and latino communities, the population mostly rent. In a poor white community, they mostly own the place where they live. Even if they are poor they still own a house. The system of collecting property taxes to pay for schools is wrong. This system was created after slavery so that the free blacks would always be at a disadvantage. Whites were given home loans while blacks were denied. Today, whites are more likely to turn a hobby like photography into a profession because they have a better education and higher income. The photograph on this article is the end product of lack of opportunities in the black and latino communities.

jonas y's picture

First of all, a lot of white areas are poor because of their job went overseas. And as result, their communities are decaying, and they too have the poor educations and they want their jobs back. That is partially why Donald is so popular.

Secondly, for those cities with largest minorities populations came up in flames under the name of equality, who want to buy property in that kind of area? Also, those cities often have high tax, who would invest in there? People need jobs to live on, lower the tax and regulations to attract investments, and stop the outrage brigades and violent crime, and let the free market do its things. With jobs, there will be loans, with law and order, there will be businesses, properties sell and better educations.

In the end, pushing minorities to a failing industry is what we shell not do. Let people make their livings(make money), and let businesses like Fstoppers do their businesses.

What a waste of time reading this... nice job in turning people off to FStoppers. There are plenty of other places to spend my time reading, it won't be fstoppers anymore.

Joel Cleare's picture

When i have a day off in the middle of the week and see 90% of the parents with their children are women. Thats sexist ? Where are all the stay at home dads ?? We need to change this stereo type today. Starting with me !!

I remember posting, once, on dpreview. I was surprised at the level of nasty that existed among their readers. I think they were rolling out a new comment system. I informed them that all the tech in the world couldn't help if their community was full of vipers. I haven't logged in since, nor do I bother with reading the comments on their site.

I'm not sure if it's a vocal minority (no pun) spewing hate and fear here, or if the readership overall is broken. It's imaginable that the photo under, er, 'discussion' reflects the overall demographics right now. Regardless, the commentariat have made the author's point most effectively.

As for the folks running the site, I'll say to you the same thing I said to dpr all those years ago. Community is thoughtful and mutually supportive. Having a comments section so blowhards can listen to themselves bluster is not useful.

Wasim viewed those photos the way a patient was made to look at Rorschach, it revealed what's lying deep within himself. "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."

Jeff McCollough's picture

Who cares?

Samy St Clair's picture

There's nothing like an article pointing out the obvious to get a bunch of angry white guys rallying to prove the author's point.

Ahhhhh, the blame the white guys senario, please allow me to exercise that "privledge" that has been bestowed upon me for being born a white male... (LOL). What we see here in this photo are those that may not only be the top in their field, but may also have the experience to do their choosen profession expertly. Pointing out the fact that they are white men is not only absurd, but also irrelevant as well. As others have said, we can make the same conclusions of exclusion in many different fields of employment, i.e.: sports players for example, unless its hockey. Fast food workers perhaps, maybe the fact that health workers are predominately female. Being white (while it is wonderful, lol) does not lend its self to more advantages in life even if the media would like us to believe it.

I know i for one have gotten to the point where it become tiring listening/reading from people about some assumed "privledge" that I have as a birth right to success just by being born a white male. And those that blame another's success or failures because of the color of their skin is blatant bigotry at is most jealous form. Its always sad to see a persons exceptional accomplishments in life belittled by other because they believe it because of their skin color and not their deserved success.

Sadly you must be a very petty person to assume that what you dont have in life is because of someone else and not your lack of understanding or ambition, and that makes you a hypocrite, as you assume racism is the cause and in turn makes you a racist.

Kirk Darling's picture

It might be that only young white men are willing to live in cardboard boxes, given the prospects of a steady job for PJs these days.

Amy Wei's picture

Not exactly but for us politics, while male players have significant advantages in all genres. However, as minority like the narrator, you could also contact try to jump out of the repeating judgment and find your theme. It's possible and equal fun.