Why News Outlets Should Hire More Female Photographers

When tragedies strike, victors rise and ordinary people live their lives, who tells those stories? Men, mostly. And photojournalists are no different.

“With a few exceptions, much of human history has been told through the eyes of men,” photojournalist Katherine Lotze told Wired. “The ability to see what women see, what affects them, what is important to them, is so valuable.”

The New York Times hired its first female photographer in 1973. Forty-five years later, only about 15 percent of photojournalists are women.

Most female photographers are self-employed, which means lower incomes and less safety.

As Women Photograph creator Daniella Zalcman tells The Guardian, the excuse that qualified female photographers are “impossible to find” rings hollow. From the Times to National Geographic, outlets need to go out of their way to employ more female — not to mention non-binary – photographers.

Here’s why gender diversity matters to tell the truth accurately and fairly.

1. Access Matters

In some cultures, women can gain access to subjects that men wouldn’t otherwise cover.

Take Afghan journalist Faranza WahidyAt the time the documentary “Frame by Frame” was shot, she was the only woman photojournalist in the country.

Capturing women’s lives was important because she saw no one else telling their stories. Wahidy’s gender helped her get into burn units to photograph victims whose families set them on fire, as well as capture the day-to-day lives of sex workers.

The world underestimates women, and photographers can use that sexism to their advantage.

“I think the ingrained sense of women being seen as less threatening can help open doors,” U.S. photojournalist Laura Morton told WIRED. “It might be harder for a man to just show up with a camera, quickly introduce themselves and be welcomed into some of the situations I have.”

2. All Stories Need Telling


Good photojournalists tells stories that either haven’t been told or need to be told in a different way. Even when journalists try to approach their subjects objectively, their own experiences inevitably inform what they notice.

Gender, race, sexual orientation and other identities all shape people’s reporting. Because of this, diversity is essential on all levels.

The Houston Chronicle’s Marie D. De Jesús followed the devastation faced by undocumented survivors following Hurricane Harvey. As a native Puerto Rican, she used both her background as “an island girl” whose culture was intertwined with hurricanes and her fluent Spanish to bolster her reporting.

3. Sexism and Violence Persist

In 1973, cub photojournalist Sarah Krulwich heard from a newsroom that hiring a woman was like “hiring half a person.” Fast forward to today, and those attitudes still linger.

Workplaces that are predominately men feed into a culture of exclusion and discrimination against women. Those who are targeted by violence on assignment or in the newsroom don’t have enough support.

“We hear stories about our colleagues whose pregnancies rendered them radioactive. When clients find out, assignments dry up, it never gets much better,” says photojournalist Melissa Golden to TIME. ”There are constant threats of sexual harassment and violence, often with no [Human Resources] department to appeal to. We’re surrounded by damaging and diminishing words and actions.”

“I can’t count the number of times a male photographer will physically take my camera from me, adjust the setting and then hand it back to me as if [he is] doing me some great favor,” adds Daniella Zalcman to the Guardian.

4. Future Generations Need Inspiration


Annie Leibovitz is one of the most successful photographers of all time.

But according to ArtSlant, perhaps one of her most cherished compliments was when a friend’s daughter saw her new “WOMEN” series and said, “When I grow up, I want to be a woman.”

Most photojournalism school graduates are women, and they need all the role models they can get.

5. Cutting Down on Inequality Lets Outlets Report Better on It

In the end, we need more women photographers because we need to report the truth.

Women Photograph creator Zalcman tells The Guardian:

If we ever hope to make journalism a source of diverse storytelling, if we hope to report on different communities, we need a diverse range of perspectives and that’s not happening right now. To some extent, photojournalism is this deeply colonial practice. The disproportionate percentage of people going out into other nations and reporting on their socio-political-economic situations are white men. We need to make a bigger effort to change that.

Zalcman, for one, gives news outlets a good place to start.

Started in 2017, Women Photograph runs a database of more than 700 women photojournalists who news outlets can enlist for projects. The organization also offer grants, mentorships and other funding to grow new talent.

Photo Credit: NeONBRAND/Unsplash

47 comments

Chad A
Chad Anderson1 months ago

Thank you.

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Shirley Plowman
Shirley Plowman3 months ago

THANKS FOR ARTICLE

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Angela K
Angela K3 months ago

I agree 100% with my previous commentator !

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no M
no M3 months ago

If they have necessary qualifications, why not? if they want to be hired just because they're biologically female, it's nothing but the usual hypocritical sexism from the so-called "feminists".

Just like in business, employers want to hire the best person for the job--make yourself that person and doors will swing wide. Make your choice.

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thank you

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Barbara M
Barbara M4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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