It is no surprise that models working in the fashion industry book jobs based primarily on their outward appearance and are expected to uphold near unattainable beauty standards that often lead to eating disorders and health issues. What is perhaps more shocking is that the unrealistic expectations extend to the women who capture the photographs.
In the wake of the scandals surrounding the sexual misconduct cases filed against Harvey Weinstein, the fashion industry was forced to acknowledge that systemic sexism and the perpetuation of misogynistic values are directly linked to repeated sexual harassment against women.
Although the majority of advertisements put forth by the fashion industry feature beautiful women and are intended to appeal to female consumers, those working behind the scenes are predominantly male. The National Endowment for the Arts estimates that men account for 55.2 percent of the photographers working in the fashion industry.
Celebrated photographer Kristiina Wilson has experienced the harmful effects of the preferential treatment that male photographers generally receive. On multiple occasions, Wilson has been taken out of consideration for a job solely due to the fact that she is a woman. She relayed a specific incidence to Racked where a PR agency told her, “The client really loved your work, but they’re just not comfortable with a woman photographer. It’s a technical job, and they feel more comfortable with a male doing it.”
Wilson, 40, has been working in the industry for more than a decade. She cited that, similarly to models, female photographers must adhere to specific beauty regulations in order to be considered for some jobs. She has faced criticism regarding her age, weight, and even her clothes.
“I’m a normal-sized lady, but I had a client tell me I’m not getting bigger ad jobs because of how I look,” Wilson told Racked. The client continued to tell her, “You’re not on brand. You’re overweight, and you’re too old.”
There is a blatant double standard regarding the physical appearance of photographers. Wilson stated that male photographers are forgiven for scraggly beards and poor clothing choices while she is scrutinized for her looks nearly as much as the models she photographs.
Not only do female photographers book significantly less jobs than their male counterparts, they are also paid significantly less for the jobs they do book. The National Endowment for The Arts reports that female photographers earn just 74 cents per every dollar that a male photographer would earn.
“I can’t figure it out,” Wilson says. “It’s not like you need to technically be stronger to be a photographer. It’s not like sports. There is a pretty even playing field. I think there’s somewhat of a boys’ club. Men are seen in a different light.”
The camera-making company Nikon has recently come under fire for the launch of a new campaign in which they hired 32 photographers from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa to test their new D850 camera. Out of the 32 individuals selected for the project, none were women.
The company issued a statement on Twitter defending its project and claimed that it had, in fact, invited women but that “the female photographers [they] had invited were unable to attend.” London-based photojournalist and creator of an online database of female photographers, Daniella Zalcman, told New York Times, “We’re here. We’re working. We exist. The problem is the organization is not making an adequate effort to include us.”
Some models have expressed that they would like to see more female photographers behind the camera at their shoots. However, the enabling of blatant misogyny presented in the fashion industry results in the widespread acceptance that male photographers are the industry standard.
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