© Holly Andres
© Theodora Richter
While women account for 85% of consumer purchasing power, they are woefully underrepresented behind the camera, creating the images behind entertainment and advertising campaigns. Male photographers account for 90% of the commercial work – a disparity fueled by the “boys club” mentality that is out of step with the times.
Photographer Jill Greenberg decided to address the issue head on with the creation of Alreadymade, an online directory of women photographers, which she launched in tandem with a TEDx Talk titled “The Female Lens.” Here, Greenberg shines a light on the gender gap in the photography industry and the ways in which it reshapes the way we see the world.
“Here’s a dirty little secret about what photographers do: We make image propaganda!” Greenberg said in her talk. “So what happens when our views of the world are shaped by only a male lens? We are only getting the perspective, and biases of half the population. Almost every image we are surrounded by has been filtered through a man’s eyes, a man’s mind.”
With Alreadymade, Greenberg has created a platform featuring the work of 49 women. The list will continue to expand, with the oversight of an advisory board that includes Carla Serrano, CEO of Publicis New York, Judith Puckett-Rinella, Photography Director at Entrepreneur, and Meg Handler, Editor at Large for Reading the Pictures.
We caught up with Greenberg to discuss her vision for Alreadymade, and the significance of addressing gender parity in photography.
© Ramona Rosales
© Diana Zalucky
What inspired you to give the talk “The Female Lens”?
“I had been working on a whitepaper about this issue for many years. When I was contacted in December of 2017 to do a TEDx talk about my photography, I asked if instead I could speak about this issue. I planned Alreadymade once I decided to do the talk. I felt like I needed to create a solution to this issue if I was going to highlight it in the talk.
“I have been very aware of the difference in how women and men are treated in the photo industry as it mirrors the way we are treated in the rest of culture. This stems from the fact that we are not even complete persons according to the U.S. Constitution. We only have the right to vote, and really not much more than that.
“Long before Trump arrived, the United States has been historically corporatist and is the only first world country to have not passed CEDAW, the United Nation’s 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. American companies would prefer to arbitrage the pay for women; when we are not paid the same as our male peers, companies rely on those built-in profits. Of course, it is so much worse for women of color. How many women of color are in the photo industry? So few.”
© Elinor Carucci
© Shaniqwa Jarvis
How have you been able to navigate the commercial industry as a woman despite the inherent biases?
“I think the discrimination was not as bad in the ‘90s. While it appears that I have gotten ahead, from where I am sitting I can see very clearly the second tier career that being a woman saddled me with. Rarely was I told to my face that I was not getting a job because I was a woman. But the numbers don’t lie.
“The male shooters at the agencies which repped me routinely made multiples of my income. Women don’t get hired with the frequency of men. We are perceived as a ‘special circumstance’ to some. While I don’t think of myself as female photographer, others do – the women who hire, and the men who hire, too. But I want to call out the women for a moment since so many of the decision-making roles are filled by women.
“Women need to support other women more. When women primarily support men; it leads to the patriarchy being continued, the status quo being unchallenged, and sometimes that can be quite bad. What I am hoping for is something closer to parity in the world which I work in. So much talk is about Hollywood and STEM and finance being biased against women. I am here to say it’s close to every field and even worse in the creative fields due to the myth of the male genius artist.
How did you select the photographers to feature at Alreadymade and how often will you be updating the list?
“Primarily by looking at photo reps sites and working with the advisory board on their feedback to ensure a quality control. I don’t want to be the only arbiter of who is on the list, so I am working with those other tastemakers so that there is a consensus of who fits. The list is being updated as much as possible.”
© Autumn de Wilde
© Amanda Demme
What are some of the traditional biases that have marginalized women photographers within the industry and how does Alreadymade address these?
“The biases which women photographers face are the exact same ones I find reading articles in the Harvard Business Review about women in VC, or STEM, or in the NYT about FILM. There are many established biases, there are lists of them. One is called the called ‘prove it again bias’: ‘One of the most common examples of “Prove it Again!” is the double standard that men are judged on their potential, while women are judged strictly on what they already have accomplished.’ Studies show that, in jobs historically held by men, men are presumed to be competent, while women often have to prove their competence over and over again. Thus men but not women may be given the benefit of the doubt. In addition, women’s mistakes may be remembered forever while men’s are soon forgotten.
“We must join together or we won’t get things to change. It is a shame when women don’t support other women. Or when female photo buyers who outwardly purport to be feminists and march for women’s rights then hire zero women photographers. There are so many women in positions of power in our industry and so many of them are making the decision to hire 90% men. We all need to consciously make a change.”
What are some of the perspectives and approaches that women bring to the field of commercial photography?
“Women simply know what it is like to live our life in the body of a woman. So if there is a story about a woman’s experience or a product that is being marketed to women, maybe a woman knows what women want out of that product innately. It would make sense, no?”
What are your plans for Alreadymade?
“This is blue sky. I have many ideas. I am hoping to get some funding. It is quite hard to do this on my own. I am hoping that I can find some help to do the things I can’t do it myself.”
© Erin Patrice O’Brien
© Jill Greenberg