Issues In The Photographic Workplace for Young Women


Since attending an older male photographer friends event (the opening of his new studio space as a business) I have become even more aware of some recurring problems I have been faced with but may have brushed aside based on naivety and unawareness of changing society.

Older male photographers between the line of hobbyists and amateurs trying to make a name for themselves are incredibly narrow minded and sexist. Of course not ALL, but I would say 90% of those I have encountered.

Problem 1 Conversation: “Are you one of the models then?”

Said in such a matter of fact way as if to suggest a models job is so simple as to stand and look pretty. Before I could reply and correct them, another male photographer interrupted.

“She will be! I keep asking her to model for me”

To which I respond to both, I am not a model, I am a photographer – and the tones instantly change from charming to condescending. I don’t know whether it’s because I look like a teenager, that I am a young female, or even if I intimidate them, but they try their utmost to bring me down with grilling questions, also assuming that because I am/was a photography student, that I am only just starting in the “real world”, only to be met with answers that show I surpass their own achievements. It may sound big headed, but these are the men who will take on any job for dirt cheap and make the industry so mocked and saturated.

So from this conversation I gathered that in their minds the role of the model was simply to be mildly pretty, a student was to be inexperienced and a female photographer could not be taken seriously, and also that every young female must have a vanity and desire to be in front of the lens and called “a model”. I was only at this event for 2/3 hours and each conversation had similar elements if not exactly the same.

For example, I sat down for half an hour with a middle aged man who also initially thought I was a model and he went through my portfolio and seemed to really admire my work as a photographer. But then as we said goodbye he commented “yes I would really love to work with you (as a model), I have some crazy ideas.” completely disregarding the entire conversation or half hour we had spent talking about photography and how I was not a model. 

I should not be afraid to show my face on line or in public without the authenticity of my trade being attacked, much like how a woman should not have to worry about what she wears when she goes out for fear of being harassed.

Another thing I noticed was these men’s lack of respect for the industry and other photographers, not just females.

I have always said, I would not shoot a wedding on principle, it is not what I do, not what I am good at, if you asked me to, i would refer you to a qualified business that specialises in wedding photography and ONLY wedding photography. I don’t want to take valuable work and earnings away from the people who work hard to make a living in that category. It is people that offer weddings for a ridiculous price of less than £800 that cheapen and ruin the industry once again and put professionals out of work, not to mention giving your clients cheap and mediocre work. This can be said about any photography category – or even a different skill or trade entirely.

When I said this, they sneered and shook their heads, talking about it like back pocket cash.

The last time I did say yes to being asked to model from a friend (again, an older male photographer) it was because I knew I wouldn’t be busy and wouldn’t mind it as a social call, nothing serious, however after the organising began I was met with “okay great, what ideas do you have”? I don’t care who you are, if you ask someone to do something, it is your duty to supply the ideas – that stuff if valuable! Especially when your asking someone you know doesn’t want to do it and is uncomfortable with the prospect of being your model, I was not convinced and the shoot was called off.

Overall my impression of the amateur community has dropped considerably and has made me want to move away from it as far and as quickly as possible. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this, or if it is just a Midlands thing.

Over and out, disgruntled female photographer.


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One Response to Issues In The Photographic Workplace for Young Women

  1. Maybe it’s because I’m a little older, or just have a big mouth on me – but I never got this kind of behavior. Sure, the occasional: model or photographer? But it was always meant in good jest. Mind you, this was in the North, in the Midlands I was a few years into my photography and the question was never asked. I always went straight into the ‘ what’s your favorite gear’ sorta discussion 🙂

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