32 Photojournalists, Not One of them Female

Melissa Gomez is an 2017-18 Active Voice fellow reporting from Tampa, Fla.

When I think about the professional newsrooms I’ve been in, I realize I have been fortunate enough to be able to look up to strong female role models.

It’s part of the reason I wanted to be a part of Active Voice. Getting more women into journalism – and keeping them there – helps diversify the field as a whole. For this post, I want to talk about photojournalists, who are some of the toughest in the field. So that’s why I want to talk about a recent issue female photojournalists were faced with and confronted head on.

I think to start, this New York Times’ headline does a pretty good job of summing up a recent issue that came to light: “Nikon Picked 32 Photographers to Promote a Camera. All 32 Were Men.”

Nikon had invited these pro photographers to participate, and they all just happen to be men. Now, I’m sure they’re talented individuals. I don’t believe anyone doubts that. But what are the odds that they could only find 32 men and not a single talented woman?

After the company’s Asia-based Twitter account promoted the project in a tweet on Sept. 13, users tweeted and called out Nikon for its lack of diversity “Where are the WOMEN!?” someone wrote. Others accused the company of sexism. A stream of seemingly appropriate trolling happened.

In a reply from the account the same day, the company noted that the women they had invited “were unable to attend, and we acknowledge that we had not put enough of a focus on this area.” It goes on to thank the community for feedback.

As a student journalist, I recognize how hard it is for a woman to be treated like a professional, especially when sources call me “sweetie” and “honey.” Is it well intended? I don’t know. But can you imagine being the only female hauling a camera onto a football field, just to be surrounded by males?

Chances are, they’re not intimidated. But it’s an uneasy feeling to look around and feel different from everybody else. These women have proven themselves worthy and deserving and yet they make up a portion of those in the field, despite making up the majority of undergraduate and graduate photojournalism programs.

The day after the Times’ published its article on Sept 14, Nikon’s USA-based Twitter account sent out an apology, which is now pinned at the top of its feed.

“We apologize for this unfortunate circumstance – it is not reflective of the value we place on female photographers and their enormous contributions to the field of photography,” it began.

Now, photojournalist Daniella Zalcman has asked the company to sponsor a round of Women Photograph grants. If it happens, it shows that the voice of many can be powerful and hold a company to higher standards.

That’s why fellowships like Active Voice matter. We need strong, female voices that will continue to stand up and call out companies, or individuals, for their mistakes.