The industry of photography is growing every day. Every day we are bombarded with images, and these images are overwhelming sometimes. Social media is a big part of this growth, very sudden in some cases, as exposure to work through ‘hash tagging’ images on Instagram can gain a big following very quickly. Through this exposure, a very modern way of networking becomes available, prominent young photographers can start getting commissioned by street wear brands, collaborations with bigger brands start becoming much more achievable for smaller up and coming artists.
For example, Vans involve themselves with smaller artists, turning street photography and documentary into a genre of fashion photography very easily, imitating real life without the spontaneity, these campaigns are often geared back out towards the big following of ‘street wear’ that is growing in popularity. Streetwear originally stems from surfing/skating culture in California, but overtime has become a staple of high-end fashion that is available to wear as a fashion statement on the street. Brands such as Supreme, Hypebeast have a large media presence, using photography and digital design to create accessible fashion.
This new genre of photography and way into the industry is a very modern way of being commissioned and earning money. The demographic however, seems to be mainly men, women used in streetwear advertising merely as modelling oversized men’s t-shirts that reach their knees – it becomes cliché the more you research into it. The ‘all boys club’ that seems to stem from the whole industry of streetwear and especially in their advertising shuts a whole demographic out, where they could be capitalising upon. The way women are portrayed within the images used in advertising campaigns grow repetitive; women as plain body parts, highly sexualised images. This then extends the thought – if this is the way we are portrayed in these images, what are the messages that we are putting out into world about how we want to be seen within this industry? Also, what does it say about the women working within this industry – is there enough women working in this industry?
And then this brings the question of women in photography into play. According to Morag, in her final year of university in 1998, there were very few women graduating from the photography course, and even then, the women would go into subfields of photography, whilst the men would take the ‘photographer’ roles within the world. Looking around the course I am currently on, my whole group is female, out of 35 people, maybe 6 are male… In 20years, a lot has changed within the industry.
But this is not just something we see within just our university, over the country, the gender gap between men and women on creative courses is crazy high – as much as 60-75% of students are reported to be women. So why then do we see so little women’s work in galleries? Why is it still a talking point if an exhibition contains mostly female work, why is it still something that plagues our artistic world?
“Exactly why that is? Sexism,” says Reilly (Maura Reilly, a curator and writer based in New York City.) “As far as women being encouraged to pursue their careers, they absolutely are. They are pursuing them as vehemently and as adamantly as male artists but are just not being given the same opportunities. If you are trying to break into a market that is already predisposed to men, 70 percent to 30 in the gallery world, for instance, your chances of success are significantly less,” she concludes. “The entire system is already stacked against women artists.”
So, although the industry is becoming more open to women artists, the job opportunities don’t seem to reflect this – the number of women still being asked to choose between having a family and continuing with their career
(“In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children—a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.” – Marina Abromavič).
This then opens up a whole new can of worms – is our society still predisposed to offering job opportunities based on gender and their stereotypes? ‘Men = technically charged, Women = academia’? These stereotypes are damaging, and I am so glad that I’m even starting to see a shift within this society that we live in, but as far as the art world goes, there is still a matter of very low representation of women.
In the World Press Photo ‘State of News Photography’ report in 2016, this was reported under ‘key findings’:
Though the sample is almost a third larger, the spread of age and gender is almost identical in 2016 as it was in 2015, confirming the heavily male-oriented constitution of the profession, with around 85% of respondents’ male.
This leaves 15% of the photojournalists within this to be women. We are not 15% of society. We are 50% of society, it is time that this starts to be reflected. I find it genuinely hard to believe this statistic. It makes me feel slightly sick, as my future as a potential photojournalist grows from possible to 15%, in what world is this acceptable?
Change is happening, alongside the #MeToo movement, and similar campaigns started by feminists (women and men), the industry is changing, and the most recent ban on including blatant gender stereotypes and sexualisation in advertising is a massive step for how the advertising world will have to operate, and definitely in how women and men are portrayed within gender stereotypes.
On 14 December 2018 CAP announced the introduction of a new rule in the Advertising Codes that requires that ads ‘must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence’.
I suppose my conclusion is one of a few different strands of thoughts. One, this makes me quite angry, especially misogynistic imagery within advertising, but also looking at that statistic and realising what a challenging path working and going into the industry actually is. You gotta have passion and dedication and make a stand for yourself within this world, otherwise you get crushed… One way of doing that is learning all you can about the industry you’re going into – hence now I see the absolute need to have a module such as professional contexts integrated within the course – it makes things a lot more real… You gotta know your stuff…
- Discussion in class surrounding this debate
- Streetwear was built on sexism — now women are shaping its future
- Why Streetwear’s Sexist Imagery Is Letting the Whole Scene Down (NSFW)
- (all images taken from this article)
- Streetwear – Wikipedia
- Women Outnumber Men At Art Schools — So Why Isn’t Their Work Being Shown In Galleries Once They Graduate?
- Male Photographers, Take A Seat
- THE STATE OF NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY 2016
- Offence: Sexualisation and objectification – ASA