Guest Post by Erin Patrice O’Brien

I was doing a shoot last week for Golf Digest with Christian Iooss, the magazine’s director of photography. We were photographing a celebrity who golfs with a bunch of set-ups. I have worked with Christian and his deputy picture editor, Kerry Brady, a few times in the past.

It occurred to me that this was probably Christian’s first shoot where he just happened to be surrounded by all women. On that day, my two assistants,Lyndsey Newcomb and Rebecca Reed, were women, and the prop stylist Helen Quinn also had an entirely female crew. Christian and I talked about the differences between men and women photographers, some of which were apparent, others seemingly assumed by certain photo editors.

I always recognized that the editorial side of media seems to embrace, or at least maintain, the good-ole-boy network. It’s bothered me for some time, particularly given the female talent in the market on the demand and supply sides. There are plenty of amazing women photographers out there who are not getting hired by magazines in spite of the fact that the majority of photo editors are women. I’m pretty sure the break out among photo editors is 80% women and 20% men. With that figure in mind, I realized that of the editors who hired me it was a 50/50 split of female to male. The same thing goes for art buyers. Seriously.

After the shoot, Christian forwarded me a thoughtful blog post by a photographer named Daniel Shea. Daniel observed that there was an absence of women working on the magazines for which he was currently shooting and questioned why?

Thank you, Daniel. I have been questioning this for a very long time.

When in college, I spent hours at the library, looking at photographers whose work captured my imagination. I was into Sally MannNan Goldin,Richard Avedon and Helen Levitt. When I opened magazines, I was inspired by the work of Annie LeibowitzSheila MetznerSarah MoonPeggy Sirota,Pamela HansonBrigitte Lacombe and Ellen von Unworth. They were doing what I wanted to do. They were women photographers with their own vision who were making beautiful work. Mary Ellen Mark was my idol, closely followed by Melodie McDanielCleo SullivanDana Lixenberg and Elaine Constantine.

I would scour magazines to find the latest and most interesting work. I would rip out the pages from VibePaper, and i-D with the work of Melanie Mcdaniel, Elaine Constantine, Dana Lixenberg, Cleo Sullivan, Anna Palma and Corinne Day. They inspired me. I loved their work. I loved their perspective. It made me think in a different way, and I learned from it. I would read The New York Times and be inspired by Brenda Ann Keneally. I printed at Printspace next to Baerbel SchmidtJustine KurlandImke LassSylvia OtteGillian LaubElinor CarlucciTracey Baran and an assortment of guys whose careers took shape much differently than mine.

When I arrived in New York City in 1995, I began assisting many photographers, including Jill GreenbergTria Giovan, Anna Palma and Ellen Silverman, none of who had assisted and all of whom had their careers going. I also worked for a bunch of male photographers. It was much harder to be a female assistant. I would work for fashion photographers as a second assistant and literally feel invisible on the set because the other women were skinny models who were sixteen years old. When I would pick up from the equipment rooms at any of the big studios, I was routinely treated like a “girl who couldn’t possibly know anything.” The men running the equipment rooms were bullies who hated their jobs and took it out on assistants who were not part of the cool club. Pier 59 anyone?

What I learned from Jill Greenberg was that you didn’t have to know everything technically. One could figure it out by experimenting or have an assistant show you how to do it. I saw her experiment and test things and be creative. She knew what she wanted. Jill was just a year older than me and she was doing it. We had our differences, but she took Michele Pedone and me under her wing and gave us solid work for a year on cool shoots as opposed to working for still life photographers wiping off perfume bottles.

When I look through magazines or online, if I see a picture that I love, 9 times out of 10 it is the work of a female photographer.

George Pitts was instrumental in hiring women and black photographers and showing a completely different perspective to the world. Vibe was first where I saw many incredible female photographers. It was breathtaking. Pitts told me once that he thought women were better photographers and it really stuck with me because I agreed. My favorite photographers have always been women.

I can’t tell you the number of times that people would come to my shoot and walk right past me looking for the photographer. Or how many times that I’ve been asked if I was the makeup artist simply because I was a woman standing on the set.

Some female photo editors who will go unmentioned that I have worked with put their own glass ceiling issues above women photographers.

Translation: Women don’t frequently help other women in business, even when it benefits both. A lot of times my work and that of other female photographers is relegated to the front of the book (magazine speak for work appearing before the feature well), while male photographers get the cover or the big feature story. Conversely, some of the male photo editors that I’ve worked with have given me some of my most challenging assignments that I am sure a female photo editor in the same position would never give to a woman.

There are many female photo editors who really do hire equally and have supported me throughout my career, and I am very thankful for and could not have succeeded without them: Leslie dela Vega, Doris Brautigan, Nickie Gostin, Michelle Molloy, Brenna Britton, Kathy Ryan, Crary Pullen, Lucy Gilmour, Donna Cohen, Rebecca Simpson Steele, Amelia Haverson, Fiona MacDonagh, Kathy Nguyen, Rebecca Horne, Heidi Volpe, Florence Nash, Helen Cannavale, Phaedra Brown, Julie Claire, Ernie Monteiro, Donna Cohen, Sarah Harbutt, Yvonne Stender, Kate Osba, Raquel Boler and Michele Romero…to name a bunch.

When I was pregnant, I was worried that no one would hire me if they knew, so I didn’t tell any photo editors until I wasn’t allowed to fly anymore. After I had my daughter, Maya, photo editors like Marianne Butler, Victoria Rich and Suzanne Regan hooked me up with jobs that were in NYC for a while, or said you can bring the baby.

When I get a call for a shoot, usually my first call is not to secure an assistant, but to make sure I have childcare coverage. I live in a community where I know other parents that are able to pick up my daughter if my shoot runs late or even have her sleep over. I feel blessed to make a living as a photographer. I love what I do.

And those skills of being able to manage a business, a household and a child are things that have taught me to troubleshoot and always be prepared for surprises that require solutions. I know that if an assistant, stylist or babysitter doesn’t show up I will still be able to do the job.

Daniel Shea says, “In my own personal experience shooting high-profile people and situations, shoots can get tense quickly, and you have to be able to be aggressive and assertive in a time-crunch situation. That is in no way meant to suggest that women can’t do that, but here is where sexism rears its ugly head—if women are perceived as being less able to handle those situations, that can definitely factor into the decision to hire men.”

The constant multitasking that is my life as a woman, mother and photographer makes me more qualified to deal with time crunch and stressful situations better than most. I am completely confident when doing three set-ups in an hour, which I did the other day, or handling the “you will have 10 minutes with this person” shoots. I can do these shoots with my kid pulling my hair or climbing on me because I can shut out everything except the shoot. It’s the nature of the job. It’s also my life.

One photo editor I spoke to told me, “As a photo editor (and not a photo director), I get to choose a short list of photographers, send them to my boss and hopes that he/she picks the one I want to use. I think a lot of time PEs want to hire women and their directors go for the guys—I don’t know why that is, maybe because they have a history, maybe its because their name is better-known. I have had many—MANY—conversations with editor friends of mine who keep having to hire the same male photographers because that is what their boss wants, I think most, if not all, PEs see the ratio and realize it’s fucked up.”

Women and men get different things from their subjects. It’s how we relate to each other. This is an important conversation. I know that Daniel Shea is compiling a list of female photographers that he would endorse which is great. I have my own list worth sharing.

My list has been in my head since I started shooting, and it keeps getting bigger. I am always checking out and inspired by the really cool work of women photographers. What female photographers’ work matters most lately? Delphine Diallo and Sarah Wilmer blow me away. Livia CoronaLauren GreenfieldGail Albert Halaban and Elaine Constantine are all doing things in different media, but to great effect and on their terms. Dulce Pinzon,Maggie SoladayAmanda Kostner and LaToya Ruby Frazier are pushing cultural, social and economic boundaries with their extraordinary work. Sandra Myhrberg started her own fashion magazine, called Odalisque, where she employs a ton of women photographers. And the female brands behind some of the biggest corporate brands: Olivia Bee and Elizabeth Weinberg.

That Daniel Shea is bringing up this issue is important. But what of the many women—photo editors, for example—who can do the same but choose to sit on the sidelines instead, avoiding taking risks and playing it safe to their own career benefit? Women will rise in greater numbers when other women take risks by pushing the talents of unknown and little-known women, and by the continued support of men who have the power and influence to get women recognized. It’s not an either-or scenario. Both things have to happen. And men need to stop hiring other men who are just like them. By default that places women at a disadvantage.

Here is a big list of women photographers who are all…. killing it.



Alessandra Petlin

Alison Aliano

Angie Smith

Anna Bauer

Annie Liebowitz

Autumn de Wilde

Barbel Schmidt

Cara Bloch

Cass Bird

Catherine Ledner

Christina Gandolfo

Dana Lixenberg

Danielle Levitt

Darcy Hemley

Delphine Diallo

Dulce Pinzon

Elaine Constantine

Elizabeth Weinberg

Emily Shur

Erika Larsen

Erin Patrice O’Brien

Eugenie Frerichs

Flora Hantijo

Gabriela Hasbun

Gillian Laub


Jessica Antola

Jessica Wynne

Jill Greenberg

Kendrick brinson

Kyoko Hamada

Lisa Wiseman

Lamia Maria Abillama

Lori Adamski Peek

Mackenzie Stroh

Martha Camarillo

Mary Ellen Matthews

Megan Peterson

Meredith Jenks

Michele Asselin

Michelle Pedone

Morgan Levy

Naomi Harris

Olivia Locher

R. Jerome Ferraro

Robin Twomey

Sage Sohier

Sarah Wilson

Susana Howe

Sylvia Otte

Sarah Wilmer



Amanda Marsalis

Anna Wolf

Beth Perkins

Brigitte Sire

Catherine Wessel

Chloe Aftel

Christa Renee

Debra LaCoppola

Ditte Isager

Emily Nathan

Erica Shires

Ericka McConnell

Jennifer Rocholl

Karan Kapoor

Kate Powers

Kathryn Wolkoff

Melanie Acevedo

Nina Anderson

Olivia Bee

Samantha Casolari

Sarah Kehoe

Sue Parkhill

Terry Doyle

Thayer Gowdy

Venetia Scott


Fashion and Beauty

Amanda Pratt

Amber Gray

Anna Palma

Caroline Knopf

Catherine Servel

Chloe Mallet

Claudia Fried

Claudia Goetzelman

Cleo Sullivan

Colleen Rentmeister

Corinne Day

Daniela Federici

Elinor Stigle

Ellen Stagg

Ellen Von Unwerth

Gabriele Revere

Indira Cesarine

Jamie Isaia

Jennifer Livingston

Julia Pogodina

Karen Collins

Kate Orne

Liz Von Hoene

Melodie McDaniel

Micaela Rosato

Ondrea Barbe

Pamela Hanson

Paola Kudacki

Sandra Myhrberg

Sarah Moon

Sarah Silver

Sheila Metzner

Stephanie Rausser

Yelena Yumchuk


Still Life, Food Interiors Lifestyle

Alexandra Rowley

Amy Eckerton

Andrea Chu

Andrea Gentyl

Andrea Wyner

Anita Valero

Anna Williams

Aya Brackett

Beth Galton

Beatriz Dacosta

Burcu Avsar

Diana Koenigsberg

Ellen Silverman

Erika Rojas

Erin Kunkel

Katherine Barnard

Leela Syd

Linda Pugliese

Ngoc Minh Ngo

Melissa Punch

Moya McAllister

Maura McEvoy

Rachel Watson

Rita Maas

Sara Remington

Tara Donne

Tria Giovan



Amanda Koster

Amira al Sharif

Anastasia Rudenko

Andrea Gjestvang

Annabel Clark

Brenda Ann Keneally

Chiara Goia

Chloe Dewe Mathews

Christina Paige

Dorothy Hong

Elissa Bogos

Ericka McDonald

Emily Berl

Erin Siegel McIntyre

Gail Albert Halaban

Imke lass

Jessica Dimmock

Katarina Premfors ngo, inspirational

Kate Brooks

Kathryn Cook

Katrina Dautremont

Latoya Ruby Frazier

Lauren Fleischman


This post originally appears here:

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  1. An interesting list,…. but it would be a more accurate list if it DID NOT include the names of Female photographers who are not shooting and haven’t been working in the last 10 years or more; and still others that have left the industry.
    Maybe consider the numerous female photographer whom have been making a name for themselves during the last 10 years, ” And Killing It”, but have yet to gain the exposure and notoriety the truly deserve.
    This list reeks of favoritism and reveals the same politics being perpetrated by women that we women accuse men of.

    • why not just include the names of those photographers instead of complaining about her list?

  2. Having assisted many of the women you mention in your 5th paragraph, and a number in the long list, perhaps one reason “SOME” women photographers do not get hired is because they do not know how to work their own equipment or how to do their own lighting.
    MAYBE, just maybe, clients would rather work with photographers that DO NOT need a hand-full of photo assistants or lighting technicians to create the lighting that they: the photographer was hired to do.
    “Do you really think that this fact goes unnoticed.?”

    And while were on the subject…
    Some of ,…. many of the women on your list are sexist and ONLY hire men.
    And when things do not go well on set they become abusive.
    NO One deserves this working in a “professional” environment.
    Neither clients or crew members want to or will work with people like that.

    This all based on years of assisting women, and seeing things first hand.

    Perhaps Erin Patrice O’Brien would have a greater insight had she assisted longer or asked more questions of those working in the industry longer than she has.

    • This is a photographer perpetuated myth: “clients would rather work with photographers that DO NOT need a hand-full of photo assistants or lighting technicians to create the lighting that they: the photographer was hired to do.”

      Clients don’t care.

      • Rob,
        Know your an Editorial guy, so not sure what your on-set commercial or advertising experiences have been. On more than one occasion while I was an assistant several art directors after seeing me do all of the lighting, answering their questions, doing the test shots, would ask me to show them my book “during the photographers shoot”. I respectfully declined but took their business cards and stayed in touch.
        When I began shooting I contacted those art directors, and now those clients that were the photographers I had worked with are now my clients.
        “Smoke and mirrors and a talented team will only take you so far and then you ‘the photographer’ will actually have to do the job.”

        Again based upon my past experiences:
        If a photographer is billing $10,000 a day or more, the client/art director really appreciate it when the photographer at least pretends to know his equipment, the lighting and has at least some sense of what he’s doing on set.

        • I have to agree with Albert – I don’t shoot editorial, I shoot commercials and started as a DP shooting films and TV ads. I’m now primarily working as a commercial photographer shooting complex shots requiring compositing work (I do all the post as well). If you clearly don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t get hired in that world. I got a lot of big gigs in my early 20’s because I had a reputation for knowing what I was doing. It inspires confidence in the client. Other factors come into play as well, like personality, but only after you have proven you’re technically competent.

        • there are $100,000 a day commercial photographers who don’t even press the button. how do you explain that?

          clients hire photographers to make pictures. who cares how they get it done? some yes, but as a rule, no. there are plenty of successful commercial photographers (that also work editorially) who simply hire the right people.

          • Hey Rob,
            The explanation is very simple, the client and the art directors don’t know any better!
            But trust me, they learn very quickly.

            If all your looking for is someone to make pictures you can grab a tourist with an iPhone off Broadway in times square and get pictures.
            IF your looking for someone to create images that can not only stand the test of time but sell your product, then you need to hire a photographer.

            I guess it comes down to whether
            “You” want a Photographer, or You’d rather hire a talented Art Director that sits behind or next to a camera, puts on a great ‘Dog & Pony show’.

            Clearly your statement: “…who cares how they get it done? ”
            Is indicative of that fact that you would rather be entertained with the smoke and mirrors rather than work with a professional that brings skill and craftsmanship to the job that he was hired for.

            You are absolutely correct. There are “Photographers” who don’t even push the button for $10K and more. I worked with them.
            In fact there are dozens of instances that as the assistant: I pre-produced the job, attended the client meetings to discuss the job, logistics, and sets,. On the day of the shoot I did the lighting, adjusted the sets, worked directly with the stylists picking clothes, shoes, etc. , Composed the images, did the light tests, shot the days final images, edited the film and or digital files, and presented the job to the client.

            A perfect example is the Terry Richardson circus that so many see as “New & Freash”.
            Fluffer’s on set for himself and his crew, images of models giving him blow-jobs, his incessant sexual harassment of models, not to mention the harsher events that we can’t discuss here, and his crappy on-camera flash images will only last until the clients grow up and realize that the emperor has no clothes. Then he too will go the disappear just as Dah Lan, and so many others have done over the years.

            So if you Rob, really feel that it does not matter how the images get created, than why not hire a second year F.I.T or S.V.A. student for the next job that you or one of your associates are hired for, and give them a budget to hire those that can help them get the job done?

            • You made it all about you and your male-privileged experiences. You clearly can’t see the point of the article: Try to challenge your preconceived notions and expectations of gender, as pertained to this industry.

              Please, keep making a fool of yourself.

              • Don’t be a douche.

            • The world is full of camera/lighting technicians who churn out banal shitty images. Creativity is more important. Also, you’ve got to be kidding me with your self importance in this digital age. Photographers used to be chemists…

              My point, which you are now attempting to turn into something about bad photographers who abuse assistants and some BS about entertainment, is that there are plenty of successful photographers who are not as technical and clients who will hire them.

              The larger issue in the context of sexism is that men probably fare better when looking like they don’t know what’s going on.

              • For a professional who’s trying to create a forum for discussion and learning, you get really defensive when people share their opinions based on personal experience.

                Here’s the problem as I see it, and it’s not only in this field, but in other fields like bartending and other industries where grunt labor tends to be a precursor to making it.

                Photo assistants, barbacks, food runners, lighting people/grips (theatre/film) tend to have to do very tough menial grunt work as they “apprentice.” Lifting very heavy things, working extremely long hours and having to put up with verbally abusive people above them.

                Historically, women haven’t been doing these jobs, but with progress, comes a lot of women in high power positions who have never done the grunt labor that was a right of passage in the fields.

                When I come across women who did do the grunt work, and earned their stripes like their male counterparts, they are highly respected in the field. They tend to respect their day laborers more, speaking to them with respect and empathy. They tend to pay (or tip out) more because they can relate to the work their assistants are doing. They teach instead of yell, and are overall pleasant to work for (generally).

                I’m not going to try to pretend I know where the next step of the equal rights movement will lead us, but this is something I think will need to be addressed for us as artists to move forward with getting women more work.

                • Actually I’m rolling my eyes at the thought of an assistant telling us how they setup the lights and camera and did all the work for some well known photographer. Never heard that one before…

            • Terry Richardson is new and fresh?

              • He he.

          • I actually somewhat agree with your last comment about hiring the right people. They are simply directing the crew, however every DP I know that is successful goes threw a period of doing all the work themselves, to eventually directing a crew when the jobs start to become larger and beyond the scope of a one man operation. At the end of the day, they are there because they actually can do, or are knowlegable of, all the directed activities themselves. Keep in mind the title “Director of Photography” – Directing is a big part of the job. How do you direct lens selection if you know nothing about lenses? Being a commercial photographer isn’t any different, despite lacking the term “Director” in the tittle. The more you know, the better you can direct and it’s very apparent to anyone on a set. When it appears that the Gaffer or first assistant is really directing all the work – and you’re supposed to be the one taking credit for direction, you look bad. People do notice. So yes and no – you do need to know what your doing, but you don’t always have to be the guy “pressing the button”.

            • This too all depends on whether we are speaking about still photography or film/video.

      • So right.

  3. How could the documentary list leave out Ami Vitale? She’s a big voice in bringing a female perspective to documentary work (both in her pictures, and her interviews, where she doesn’t shy away from it).

  4. as a male photographer living in this century I also:

    “When I get a call for a shoot, usually my first call is not to secure an assistant, but to make sure I have childcare coverage. I live in a community where I know other parents that are able to pick up my daughter if my shoot runs late or even have her sleep over. I feel blessed to make a living as a photographer. I love what I do.

    And those skills of being able to manage a business, a household and a child are things that have taught me to troubleshoot and always be prepared for surprises that require solutions. I know that if an assistant, stylist or babysitter doesn’t show up I will still be able to do the job.”

    its fucking hard being a photographer…and I empathize with women in situations like this…but lets not generalize the roles of all. Every person has unique opportunity to exploit the best of themselves (and their access or lack thereof for that matter) to make something amazing…its being done everyday, especially today.

  5. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is speaking live as I type this at the Montana Job Summit on this very issue…it’s GREAT! Watch live: She’s on til I think 12PM MST or maybe 12:15.

  6. …if they post it on YouTube later I”ll share the link.

  7. Erin you are spot on about women and men getting different results from their subjects. One reason for this is that as men we are socialized differently than women which has a direct affect on our communication and the way we interact with our subjects. What’s fascinating about this conversation, is that gender is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider culture, class, age and even the education level of the photographer and subject. Anyone of those variables is what makes us who we are and why we get totally different results from one another.

    From my assisting days in the corporate world, I can recall an incredibly awkward sexist remark the male photographer made with the hope that their female subject would come to life and perform according to their understanding of the world. On an editorial shoot, the urban photographer didn’t understand how to engage with the subject who grew up in a rural village outside of the US. The photographer had a harder time achieving the result they wanted not so much because of a language barrier, but rather the subjects cultural associations surrounding having their photograph made.

    My hope is that photo buyers, clients and photo editors become more cognizant about these dynamics. Here’s two of my fave female photographers:

    Photojournalist Aga Luczakowska ::

    Lee Grant ::

  8. As the father of daughter who is soon to make her way out into the world (and likely in a creative field) your perspective on this issue is very enlightening. It’s so easy to lose sight of the part gender plays in our daily interactions with the people who do the hiring. Over the last few years I’ve also noticed the sheer number of female photo editors and the lack of female AD’s and CD’s in the magazine world. If anything, it seems like a handful of talented female editors I’ve worked with have hit the glass ceiling and quit the business in frustration. With that said, I have to say that the list of photo editors that you feel have supported you and hire equally also happen to just be really great at their jobs. I’ve worked for more than half the women on that list and every one of them have been an absolute joy to work with. I think much of how you feel about them has to do with how well they do their job no matter what gender the photographer is.

  9. I’m a white make hetero photographer. I got my degree in photography in NYC. My fellow students were different genders, races, and sexual orientations. We got along great. Then I assisted, my fellow assistants were the same as my classmates — a bit more males. Why more males? Probably because as a generalization guys are more into the nuts and bolts of the equipment. I assisted photographers of all varieties. And guess what? In terms of working for, some of the guys were cool and some weren’t, some of the women were cool and some weren’t some of the sexual orientations were cool and some weren’t. Now, when it came to so-called superstars, the younger ones were much less cool to work for than the older ones. In fact, the best people to work for were over 50 — they were more generous, more knowledgeable, and kinder.

    When I opened my own studio, I hired assistants who were guys, gals, straights, queers, and people from any race. Most of the time over the phone. I would ask them some questions about photography, what equipment they knew how to operate, and who they had worked with. And guess what, my satisfaction or dissatisfaction with any of the assistants had nothing to do with their sex, race or orientation.

    My point is this article is offensive. Offensive to guys? No, offensive to women. A good photographer is a good photographer. Any good photographer can relate to, understand, communicate with, and make a good photograph of someone from any background and in any situation. To say that women should make a point of showing hiring preference to other women is offensive.

    Of course it’s only human nature to be more comfortable with the familiar. And of course everyone should be mindful of how the familiar might make them filter others for the simple reason that it’s not nice to mess with another person’s ability to earn a living.

    That said, when will there be a nice article about being kind to white male photographers over the age of 50 who are evidently fair game for being discriminated against? We need the work to help provide for the women in our life, and to have something to leave them after our rapidly approaching demise.

    • I love it when a man tells me I should be offended by something.

      As I’ve already mentioned below, this is an ENORMOUS problem for female landscape and nature photographers. This subset of photography also overlooks a LOT of phenomenally talented (male) minority landscape/nature photographers, too. It’s a real problem.

      • Firstly as a male, I’m not overly pleased with being told that my clients should hold a preference for women either. There shouldn’t be a bias, but shaming anyone who doesn’t actively seek out photographers based on gender isn’t any better.

        Secondly, the fact that Dan has a penis, shouldn’t affect the validity of his opinion. That’s a very tired argument and you didn’t even bother to address anything he said.

  10. In a perfect world, the gender of the photographer should not matter. If the photographer a) makes great images, b) can be an all around easy person to work with and c) delivers on time the contracted images/video that’s all that truly matters. I’ve worked with male and female assistants (each with their own strengths and weaknesses not according to their gender) and worked for male and female photo editors (including aforementioned Kerry Brady who is awesome!) and truthfully gender never really has mattered to me. I only care about competence and congeniality from everyone.

  11. So you’re saying that people should be hired based on their gender rather than their ability to make intriguing content? Makes sense.

    • I’m betting she’s saying that people should be hired based on their ability to make intriguing content, rather than their gender. Makes a lot more sense.

  12. Erin, I empathize and wish you all the luck. FWIW however, I can guarantee (from experience) had I been standing next to you- they would definitely have recognized you as the photographer before this male. Women are still disproportionately represented and respected (as in most fields). But the numbers of Black and Hispanic photographers, editors, judges and gallery owners have a considerably longer way to go before reaching even those proportional percentages. Keep pluggin’…

  13. Great article, Erin. Another phenomenal female who deserves a spot on this list is Claire Weiss!

  14. I empathize with female photographers who feel like they’re being overlooked. There’s only ONE “successful”, “major” female photographer in my local market.

    Thanks Stan B. for being the first one to mention Black and Hispanic photographers. I’m a Black photographer in the Midwest who rarely receives work in my region. What’s up with that?

    Not bragging, but my portfolio is on par with the rest of the photographers in the region. I promote myself, and I do agency portfolio showings regularly – yet I don’t receive as much work as my “competitors” (you have to be in the game to compete).

    Let’s have a REAL discussion about the “good-ole-boy” network. I can share some great stories.

    • Oh… THAT discussion (the one guaranteed to be the loudest- and go nowhere the fastest).

  15. Carolyn Drake –
    Long since been one of my favorite photographers

    An important issue, and I’m very appreciative that some have already brought up the awful under-representation of minority photographers in our industry as well.

  16. I personally see a ton of women photographers hired for every possible type of shoot. I know you’ve focused on editorial work but try looking at portraiture, particularly families and children. This field is dominated by women. If commercial work is your game then take a look at some of the most iconic names in the industry. Peggy Sirota, Ellen Von Unworth, Annie Liebovitz, Sara Moon.

    What the hell are you complaining about? It sounds to me like people are looking for all sorts of excuses for why they’re not hired. Trust me. Be a female is not one of them.

    • Good points. I agree. Also, if someone has an unusual name, quirky background, all these things far from hindering getting hired are in fact, a huge help. To say that these things hurt, is denying reality. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’d really like to learn more regarding the impact of age — as in being older — on getting hired.

    • You need to look beyond just studio, wedding and portraiture work. Female landscape and nature photographers are virtually ignored.

  17. Here’s a few more to enjoy, various genres, all very accomplished photographers.

    Andrea Gjestvang

    Tine Dyrkorn

    Erika Larsen

    Evgenia Arbugaeva

    Maisie Crow

    Alicia Bruce

    Lottie Hedley

    Natsumi Hayashi (fun!)

    Ciara Leeming

    Georgina Cranston

    Andrea Ingram (eclectic)

    Diana Markosian

    • i love Diana Markosian’s work. So happy you added her!

  18. Best thing I read in this thread:

    “Also, you’ve got to be kidding me with your self importance in this digital age. Photographers used to be chemists…” — Rob

  19. There may be sexism but racism is more prevalent in the industry. As a black photographer I have had to work harder to secure a gig. I’m good at what I do and far better than most photographers in my region but all the white photographers that I share a studio with receive more gigs than I do. This is a known fact. Sometimes you want to vent out in frustration but at the same I don’t want to be labelled or black listed for staring up sh*t. Pun not intended.

  20. “Or how many times that I’ve been asked if I was the makeup artist simply because I was a woman standing on the set.”

    I think when talking about sexism one should be extremely careful not to have the stereotypical “what do you mean with ‘you people'” reaction. If I were looking for the make-up artist on set I would probably also look out for a woman simply because, statistically, make-up artists more often than not are women. I also don’t think a make-up artist is worth any less than a photography. They’re all self-employed artists in their respective fields.

  21. I’m a female photographer and have been working in the industry for 10 years. I assisted for many years before breaking out on my own in the past few. I can honestly say I have never felt I didn’t get a job due to my gender. Never, not once. I will admit I have experienced older men I’ve been commissioned to photograph looking me over and approaching my male assistant as though he was the photographer even though I was holding the camera. I didn’t let it get to me though, just raised my eyebrows introduced myself and took charge and did a good job. That’s the only thing I can relate to about the issues in this article and I really didn’t take it personally, just chuckled a little at their good ol’ boy mentality since it didn’t hinder me at all. I think being a woman opens doors for certain shoots depending on how you relate to clients/subjects and certain jobs men might be a better fit for based on their personalities/interests. As individuals we each bring something unique to the table which people who hire us relate to for their own reasons. I am on the UGA football sidelines shooting games and also in charge of their promotional imagery for their official posters ect. This is an area typically thought of as belonging to the men. I had no trouble getting my foot in the door there what so ever (and to be honest, I didn’t know much about sports at the time when I approached UGA and their agency, The Adsmith). I don’t think of it being a possibility that I won’t get certain jobs because I’m a female. I do think that matters in how you approach people and come across in the end. I don’t want to go around thinking I’m always being discriminated against because I’m a woman and for that to come across. I’m sure there is sexism going on in places and whatnot, I just don’t feel like I’ve been held back one bit by that….ever.

    • Amen!! You hit the nail right on the head. It’s how you present yourself and your interactions with others. Glad to hear that you are focusing on the good aspects of your gender rather than what may or may not be holding you back. If I was an art director, I’d hire you!!


  22. Thank you so much for this excellent post.

    Now I am frantically clicking my way on the links :O It is so inspiring and motivating!

  23. Quote: “Women don’t frequently help other women in business, even when it benefits both.’
    I think a comment like that should probably be supported by some verifiable data.

  24. thank you Erin and Rob.

  25. I have an idea for the PE—Director choice split. Maybe this has already been said.

    When you show the Director your choices for photographers, you could show only their photos and omit all names.

  26. […] Kareem Blacks of the world. Need more inspiration? Erin Patrice O’Brien just created her own great list of women photographers in response to Shea’s blog […]

  27. Great piece–and great list at the end, except for one thing: no list of female landscape and nature photographers, which I would argue is the area of photography where women are most likely to be overlooked. It’s almost impossible to get published/hired or chosen for exhibits because of the knee-jerk assumption that we (in some minds) don’t exist in that particular field. It is beyond frustrating. (And I’d be happy to furnish a long list, with URLs, of talented female landscape photographers).

  28. It’s too bad that Black women will still not be included no matter how much things change…Caucasion women will see to that.

  29. I have been watching this debate from the sidelines, and after reading Liz Weinberg’s very smart response, it prompted me to comment. It is great to see this issue being raised, but it also makes me sad to see that not much has changed in that last 5 years. In 2008 there was a similar online discussion on this issue (but specifically related to women working in the art world)

    That online brouhaha led Amy Elkins and myself to launch the online exhibition project, Women in Photography. And I can say from personal experience women can support and lift each other up. Amy and I have both been proud to see how the site has promoted great work and led to opportunities for the artists.

    However over the years I have had many discussions with women artists who feel uncomfortable with the idea that women need “extra help” to compete. They simply want to be measured and succeed on their work and talent alone. But like it or not, photography is still a male-dominated field, most strikingly at the top levels of success. And if no one takes action, it will likely continue this way.

    As a women who lives on both sides of the debate, photographer and photo director, I do not believe that women photo editors have any ‘conscious’ bias for hiring men. This gender imbalance seems to be created by many different factors that are too complex to allow us to pinpoint the “cause.”

    But women who are in the client role, can make a difference by paying attention to their own hiring practices and by hiring more women. And no, I am not suggesting that they should hire “inferior photographers” because they are women, but as anyone who has ever been in a position to assign, there are almost always more good photographers than jobs. The same goes for the art world, there are more good projects then publishers can afford to publish, and there is more great work then there is room to show in Chelsea.

    So if you are a women who is making one of these decisions you really can have an impact. And if after reading about this debate you realize you only ever work with men, maybe you need to take some time to figure out the exact reasons why.

    And women photographers have an effect by creating stronger connections, by sharing contacts and resources, by hiring women assistants, and by recommending each other to their clients. It might sound naive or counterintuitive to think that by promoting other women you can help your own career, but I have seen it work.

    • Your suggestion sounds rosy enough but it still amounts to actively discriminating against men in practice. You can’t make a concerted effort to hire photographers of a particular gender without doing so with bias. It’s not as if clients are putting names in a hat. The decision is calculated and reasoned.

      There are lots of possible reasons for why women are under-represented in commercial photography, but not everything has to be a result of sexism. Men make up a shrinking portion of wedding and portrait photographers. Is that a result of discrimination? 80% of AD’s are female, is that a result of sexism?

  30. To add to the list, my friend Esther Lin, who, being a woman, kills it in the boys world of MMA and UFC editorial photo.

    That being said, I live in Asia, and there are plenty of female photographers who kill it in the commercial world. It really comes down to skill/eye.

    And for the record, I do know female AND male photographers who don’t know anything technical, so it’s def not gender based.

  31. Have few more girls to add to the list!!!

    Heidi Levine
    Maysun Aleina
    Eman Mohammed
    Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
    Tara Todras-Whitehill
    Stephanie Siniclar
    Anja Niedringhaus
    Tanya Habjouqa

    … i could go on for ages!!

  32. […] sexism in editorial photography. Read it here. There have been some other posts following up on it here, here, here, here, here, here, here and […]

  33. This conversation is intriguing. Yet it’s based on anecdotal evidence at best. Photography has always been an industry which attracted creative females who did quite well. There may have been a time when certain areas of photography involve many men such as the press industry, but then there are many many female journalists.

    Women earn significantly more as models than guys do, to be honest, I can’t name any male models but there are many super models – all female.

    Photography is a meritocracy, it’s very very easy to get pidgeon holed into one category or another. Clients don’t give a damn if your male of female. But the give a damn if your late, inflate costs too much or just bulks hit your way though the job, or are plain hard to work with.

    There are some absolutely fantastic women photographers out there, and I’m sure they’d prefer to know that their inherent creativity and hard work got them the job. An old boys network won’t help a photographer if he’s produced a front page that has to be reshot.

    There is sexism everywhere in every industry, and those that shout loudest about it might be guilty of a little sexism themselves. ‘All men are b@stards, right?’ Even when they are photographers, editors, fathers, husbands and brothers.

  34. another woman discrediting the idea of equal opportunities by using cheap feminist propaganda methods. when will those girls learn they are doing their gender a major discredit by using simple name-dropping and a me-too attitude towards achievements. really.
    and in the end people work with other people because they come along. given a choice heavily based on their personal preferences. professional or not, but in the end we all want to work with people we share a mutual respect with.

  35. Why is it hunky dory when women make up 80% of AD’s, but sexist and discriminatory when women receive less than 50% of the photography jobs?

  36. I am adding my own name, Dorothy Perry,, to ‘represent’ for African American female photographers. I exist, whether or not I make any trendy/hipster lists, and love what I do every single day.

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