“We learn of the gender disparity from our real-world experience,” Briar Pacey, the producer and co-founder of Women’s Work in New Zealand, tells me. “I was never shooting the massive campaigns with women photographers. It was always men. It’s important to draw attention when you see that bias play out in real-time in your industry.” Women’s Work, a collective of women and non-binary photographers, is doing just that through an advertising campaign running on billboards across Wellington and Auckland.
Created in collaboration with Ogilvy NZ and the outdoor ad brand Lumo, the campaign features photographs by members of Women’s Work, overlaid with text about the gender disparity across the ad industry. Kristal Knight, the executive creative director at Ogilvy NZ, shares these numbers: while women influence more than 85% of consumer goods purchases, the percentage of ad images shot by women sits at less than 20%.
(Another figure, this time from Jill Greenberg, who founded the Alreadymade platform for women photographers in 2018, puts that number at less than 10%, based on research of advertising agency output.)
“We can see on the rosters of agents around the world that there are fewer women represented than men, and we know that this translates into fewer commissions and fewer large-scale campaigns that are being shot by women,” Victoria Baldwin, the founder of Women’s Work, tells us. The collective regularly shares resources for women and non-binary photography professionals, including organizations working to foster equality and bridge those gaps.
The current campaign coincides with Women’s Work’s fourth annual exhibition in Auckland, titled The Shape of Things. “We have a number of avenues for people to engage with the work though live shoots, an assistant workshop, and artist talks,” Baldwin shares. “For the first time this year, we have also included works of emerging photographers shown on beautiful screens provided by Sony.” The show will be on view until March 12th.
In recent years, sexism in advertising has come under closer scrutiny: in the UK, for example, ads that perpetuate gender stereotypes were banned in 2019. That same year, one billboard ad for an air conditioning company, which featured the line “your wife is hot!” drew criticism for that reason.
In many ways, the choice of location for the outdoor ad campaign feels deliberate and meaningful. The fact that these new images—all made by Women’s Work members—have taken over the traditionally male-dominated space of commercial billboards gives the campaign another layer of significance. Women in advertising photography should have a role in every stage of the creative process, from the mood board to the finished product.
“We each hold a little bit of power in our hands, whether you’re a suit, a creative, or a producer,” Baldwin explains. “The people we choose to work on projects can have huge effects on the outcomes. We are all learning the nuance of our bias and trying to assess our thought processes to see how we can wield that tiny bit of power for a more inclusive and authentic storytelling process.
“We love to see agencies including women in every pitch; simply by doing this, they have the opportunity to engage in the process and learn that little bit more. The next step, of course, is seeking out female and non-binary talent and hiring them.”
You can learn more about Women’s Work and the work they’re doing for women in advertising photography by visiting their website.
CEO: Kelly-Ann Maxwell
Managing Partner: Megan Clark Cook
Executive Creative Director: Kristal Knight
Senior Art Director: Glenn Chapman
Senior Art Director: Diana Winter
Resource Manager: Ellie Walker-Huizing
Studio: Ian Wood
Founder/Producer: Briar Pacey
Founder/Photographer ‘Car ads’: Victoria Baldwin
Photographer ‘Fashion’: Mara Sommer
Photographer ‘Activewear’: Michelle Hyslop
Photographer ‘Women in sport (beam)’: Sacha Stejko
Photographer ‘Women in sport (rock climber) / ‘Holidays’: Virginia Woolf
Chief Marketing Officer: Hamish Smith
GM – Programmatic: Jack Plowright
Further reading on women in advertising photography and beyond:
A Stunning Exhibition of Powerful Photos of Women
Exploring Black Masculinity Through the Lens of Black Women and Non-Binary Artists
40 Subversive Female Photographers Who Capture Women in a New Way