Last year, World Press Photo and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published the results of an online survey of 1556 photographers who entered the 2015 World Press Photo annual competition, and the results are fascinating. The report, entitled The State of News Photography: The Lives andLivelihoods of Photojournalists in the Digital Age (← pdf), looks at the demographics of photographers, how for whom they work, how much they are paid, how the ethics of journalism and manipulation figure into their work, and other topics. The whole report is worth a look.
Particularly interesting in the report are the breakdowns of photojournalists by gender. Of the respondents, only 15% were women. Self-employment is much higher among women; 79.2% of women who responded to the survey are self-employed, while only 55.9% of men are. There is a higher percentage of female photographers than men in the lowest income bracket, earning between $0 and $29,999 from photography, and likewise proportionally fewer women than men in the highest income bracket reported in the study.
Of course, this is not a new problem, nor, frankly, is it surprising. I wrote about the issue in 2013, when a tumblr post by Daniel Shea, called On Sexism in Editorial Photography, went viral. Shea’s post has disappeared, but it’s preserved on the dvafoto tumblr, and it’s worth revisiting. Likewise, some of the links in my post about Shea’s piece have been lost to history, but many still exist and still deserve consideration. Looking at the WPP/Reuters Institute survey, it seems like things haven’t changed much since 2013.
Despite the disappointing results of this survey, it’s worth celebrating the tremendous work done by women photographers around the world. ViewFind recently published a great collection of what they call The Mighty 15%. The New York Times’ Women in the World earlier this month asked, “What’s at stake when so few of [stories from around the world] are told by women.” The Photo Brigade held a panel discussion in February about women in photojournalism. Last year, BuzzFeed posted about 12 Kick-Ass Women Photojournalists To Follow On Instagram. Ruth Fremson wrote an honest and thought-provoking piece on the subject in July of last year. And organizations such as Firecracker, the Inge Morath Foundation, and Women Photojournalists of Washington, provide vital support to women in photography.
There is one possibly positive note on the gender disparity in photojournalism in the WPP/Reuters Institute report. 49.6% of women who responded said that they “mostly” have control over the editing and production of their work. Only 37.9% of men said the same. The report attributes this to the self-employed/employee results in the survey, but it’s nice to see that 88.7% of women report “sometimes” or “mostly” having authority over their own work.