Walking around the Captiola Art and Wine Festival where I was exhibiting my own photography I noticed something: there are a lot of photographers these days. There were probably 10-15 landscape photographers exhibiting there as well. And at the close of the show on Saturday I realized something else: not a single one of them was a woman (at least that I saw). And reflecting upon my experiences with photo-sharing sites like flickr and 500px I noticed the same pattern: an overwhelming majority of landscape and nature photographers are guys. Of course there are women nature photographers out there, and some extremely talented and successful ones at that, but they are still a tiny minority.
The question I have is why? The way I see it, you have to have three things in order to want to become a landscape and nature photographer: 1) Access to the technology. 2) A desire to make art. And 3) A love of the outdoors. Yet none of these seems to be a valid reason for the small number of women photographers. After all, the explosion of digital technology has made photography accessible to everyone, and we are seeing DSLRs everywhere these days. And I know first hand how many women are involved in art; stroll the aisles at any art show and you will see women painters, women sculptors, women jewelers, and women printmakers. As far as the outdoorsy thing, I think I know just as many girls as guys who like to camp, hike, travel, and adventure. So why hasn’t the digital revolution produced more women landscape photographers?
I don’t have any answers to this question. It’s just something I’ve been pondering and I’d love to hear from the ladies out there: why aren’t more of you involved in nature photography? Let’s get a discussion going. Use the comment section to chime in.
Hi Josh! Here we are several years later, and I’m struggling, trying to get my stuff out there. I was wondering if you are seeing any change in the amount of women in this field? I know that I have not run across any in my studies.
Nice to hear from you. I am sorry to hear you are struggling getting your stuff out there! Photography has certainly become a very competitive field. However, I’m happy to say I have seen a huge upswell of women nature photographers in the past few years. Personally I believe they were always there, but have recently been getting a lot more visibility. I have definitely seen more women on workshops, more women leading tours, and more women speaking at conferences.
I’m curious, have you ever attended a conference like those from Out of Chicago? They typically have a very high percentage of women speakers. And they also started a new feature this year called the Attendee Spotlight, where the conference attendees could potentially speak to the whole conference. That was a really cool way to give exposure to some very talented folks. Could be worth considering!
As a woman photographer, the reality for us is that a lot of these landscapes are remote areas. As much as I believe in equality, it’s simply just naive to think that the world out there is kind to us. Carrying expensive gear through these areas, alone or with one or two others, or even being the only woman in a group of guys just constantly compromises our safety. There are some women who are brave enough to go for it, have the means, the group, the support, but it takes a lot and not everyone can. It’s unfair for sure. In the end it’s art over safety or try to find something else you can do with photography instead and just take the landscapes where you can.
I was pondering this exact question when searching out photographers to help me kickstart my own journey. As a woman, I just noticed that of the photos that caught my heart and following those photographers for inspiration and possibly even some intro advice, only one happened to be a woman. I will say that for myself, I know that one of my biggest struggles will be finding the time to catch the moment. Dinners, kids functions, downtime with the hubs… they require so much time above and beyond the full time job I have. Passion calls though, and that includes nature and telling the story, so I’m chasing those two things more now because they are what add to my energy. With a husband and kids who love adventures nearly as much as I do, I have faith that they will be supportive and even choose to join in the journey. Hubby just told me the other day not to buy anything because he’s getting me the tripod I want (my first now that I see how essential it is). So, even though I am in the baby steps of just starting, count me in as another woman to help add to the diversity. 🙂 Hopefully I will be at one of those booths in the future. Dreams happening every day! Also, kudos for noticing and asking the question. Appreciating you from a distance, both in your talent and your observance of those around you.
When I was 20 I did not have money to buy pro equipment. Nor was I a techie but more artsy. When I was a child I was kept from exploring. National Geographic and Nature TV shows were my forays into nature. Women born in cities might not have opportunities to go out into the wildreness unless she knew others who did. Although we had parks. Also backpacking and gear weight another if going deep woods and alone. You need to be survialist level if any thing should happen. Like a run in with a bear. Yet…I go to parks and you would not know it. My camera is light Canon HS 60 sx and no I am not in any magazines. I love the outdoors and having a partner would be ideal yet photography..we are increasing and I see young women doing amazing things. I think I was born 30 years too soon? Maybe I have 30 years to go or more be God willing to get out and travel. However travel is…funded…. Maybe we need to teach girls to budget for dreams not fashion trends?
I don’t know the answer either, but I have an idea: Most landscapes are best taken at dusk or dawn when the light is great. Also, most photographers go out alone and not with friends. Unfortunately in today’s society, it is usually not a good idea for a woman to go out alone at night (or dusk or dawn), and add to that the expensive camera gear she may be carrying around – the ultimate target for a human predator or thief. I realize that the chances are slim, but just take a look at the staggering amount of women who go missing (or get killed) due to going out alone at night – and even in the daytime. I actually cannot go to the local (less populated) lake near me to take photos at dawn or dusk due to the stories I have heard on trusted review sites . No major crimes yet that I know of, but that alone keeps me away because I am a woman and I have to consider these things. Men seem to have it easier in this regard, and thoughts like being kidnapped or raped may not even enter their mind when thinking of locations to go shoot. They just get their gear and go. Sad, but true, and it may be a part of the reason that you don’t see as many female landscape photographers.
I am coming to this discussion quite late but wanted to share my observations. First, although I have learned to enjoy being by myself and shooting alone in nature, it is not my first choice. I like having someone (preferably my husband) with whom to share beautiful moments. After 30 years of marriage and a quarter century of parenting, landscape photography has helped me to branch out personally in a whole new direction and I love it. I go on hikes and visit destinations I would never have had an interest in before I put a camera in my hand. Being raised in American suburbia, I spent a lot of time outside as a child but rarely out in remote areas. That said, even though I enjoy the outdoors, it definitely takes me out of my comfort zone. That in itself is a good thing, but it requires not only effort but it takes its toll in mental stress for me. Having spent years with an anxiety disorder the idea that I can do this at all is pretty amazing. As far as women landscape photographers being everywhere, I have not found them so easy to find. I live on the northern coast of California and there are photography and art galleries on almost every street corner. And although there are many painters and sculptors represented with women, there are NO female landscape photographers. This search just started so I could find someone I could go shooting with. Due to the human element, real or imagined, there are places I do not go alone at sunset. Also because beach photography can be a little tricky depending on the tides, there are locations I don’t go to alone partly because I get too caught up in capturing the moment and neglect to pay enough attention to my surroundings. Thank you for even having this discussion. I appreciated reading everyone’s comments and I am glad to know others are working through the same issues.
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