What’s wrong with this picture? Bridging the gender gap in professional photography – Klaire Cole

For me, one of the greatest features of the Fuji X Aus Facebook group is the diversity it invites and creates amongst its members.  People from all walks of life are embraced and welcomed, not out of charity, but out of equality. It is a genuine desire to see the diverse range of styles that have been influenced through cultural heritage, years of experience and worldliness – regardless of gender, ethnicity or belief system. In writing ongoing blogs for the Fuji X Aus website I have found this to be a cornerstone of what makes our community so great. It is this unmistakable mix of individual uniqueness, that gives us such a broad and open awareness of the photography world around us. And it is a safe environment to express yourself and your photographic work.  

But in the broader photographic industry there is still an equality gap that exists despite the movements that publicly call out old school stereotypical gender ‘norms’ – especially in the professional photographer arena. Hell, it still exists in most arenas. Professional or otherwise! So what is wrong with this picture? Is it just that more men are interested in photography than women and so more men become professionals? Well, if that were the case then what happened to all those young women I attended art school with? Exceptionally talented photographers.  Or is it that perhaps the clients are the old fashioned ones and they prefer a man to do the shoot? That would be pure ignorance on a scale that is unthinkable in our society. It is like someone saying men make better pilots! Or is it that it is tough to break into the ‘boys club’ of professional photography. Sadly, this is a very real theme that we are seeing more and more lately in society in general. Movements across the world have been calling out gender inequality and abuse of power against women in many fields of work. The days of the ‘boys club’ are finally coming to an end. But it is a slow movement.  And it takes powerful and proud individuals to make a difference.  

In this article today, and in future blogs in the coming weeks, I want to address the issue of gender inequality in the professional photography market.  I want to speak to the professional photographers in our community and see what challenges they faced because of their gender.  But equally what they have achieved despite this? What inspired and drove them?  Some may ask why a 45 year old white guy is writing this blog. Why shouldn’t I? Why should the issues of equality only ever be addressed by those most impacted – those with a minority voice? Why should I not role model to my sons that the responsibility for equality and a fair society sits upon everyones shoulders? Why should I not demonstrate to my daughter that I will fight for a fairer world than her mother and grandmother lived in?  I love this community, so why should I not be a part of the solution to make it greater and stronger?

To kick things off, I got in touch with Klaire Cole. Klaire is a Sydney based creative with an eye for bright and vibrant colour usage in her photography and design work. Let’s take a look at what Klaire had to say.

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Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? Where do you live now?

I’m a Sydney based creative working in the tech media industry. I spend my days creating video & still content for my brand with my husband Nick. Living the dream really! I’ve got a background in design and have always been a creative person with a passion to create bright, vibrant images. I really love creating anything from digital art to graffiti and of course photography/video. I just want to make the world more colorful and fun!

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When did you first pick up a camera and show an interest in photography? 

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment I’d shown an interest in photography but I’ve got the same memories most kids have; being shipped off to school camp with a disposable Kodak in hand ready to take on the world. My mother is an artist, who always encouraged me as a kid to explore my creativity. As a teenager being in the era of the Mavica, I dipped my toe into shooting digital & film through photography classes and ended up falling in love with being able to save my memories even more.

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At what point did you choose to become a professional photographer? Can you tell us about that part of your journey?
I’ve always shot for fun, but realized that photography was my passion when I started to get a lot more inquiries for portraiture & lifestyle shoots.That pretty much cemented that I could combine my love for creating images, with a full time job. I’d always doubted my talents as a professional but soon realized that the only thing stopping me from shooting professionally was myself so I took the plunge, closed my design business and started shooting full time.

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Tell us a little about your photography now? What sort of professional work do you shoot and what gear to you use to achieve this?

Originally I was doing a lot of portraiture and lifestyle types of shoots; which are always great fun for me but my work has evolved into product photography which I absolutely love. I feel like I really get to include my love for colour and vibrant themes into the images I shoot for the brands I work with.

Gear wise I’m shooting daily in my studio with the Fujifilm X-T2 & Fujifilm X-T20 with the Fujifilm XF35mmF2 & XF18-55mmF2.8-4 lenses. I do own and use a lot of other systems for our video content (Gh5 & Blackmagic being the main contenders) but when it comes to stills side of things I can safely say the XT2 with a few lenses is really all I need.

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As the introduction to this blog suggests, I wanted to address people’s experiences in facing gender equality issues throughout their photographic journey.
Can you share any experiences you have had in this?  Especially those in breaking into or remaining in the professional photography market?

I’ve been fairly lucky in my path to not have experienced too many issues when it comes to my gender in photography compared to what others may have. For me the main negative side of being a female in photography is having things “dumbed down” to me or just not being taken seriously and looked at as a girl with a camera. I’ve had occasions I’ve been in store purchasing equipment only to be told things like “This camera is great for selfies” when I’ve clearly stated I shoot for a living, or even having staff speak directly over me and direct information to my husband about a product I’ve inquired about. It’s the small occurrences that add up to the larger picture of females in photography not being heard.

With the industry that I work in I sometimes find it very hard to be taken seriously as a photographer or a creator. Tech itself is a very male dominated field (but it is changing!), and daily I’ll  have people challenging me or belittling me when it comes time to get down to business or talk shop, purely because I’m a woman and women “don’t know about computers.” I’m not a numbers kind of person and I couldn’t really care what lenses someone has or what kind of camera they use, as long as they are shooting and enjoying it is all that I worry about; But part of being a female in the industry to me is feeling like I’m constantly being judged based on the gear I own or what technical specs I know as a female, instead of the quality of my work.

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How do you think your experiences in pushing into a male dominated industry has shaped you as a photographer and as a professional?  What has inspired you?

I feel working in a male dominated industry, it’s given me a tough skin by way of rising above and not worrying about what everyone else is doing. It’s forced me to focus on what really makes me enjoy shooting the most, to be unapologetic-ally proud of my work and to block out any negatives that come along as part of that. Inspiration to me is the bigger picture, I wake up everyday with the goal for our business in my mind and I let it push me to keep creating and to not let anything stop me from getting there.

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Where do you see a shift needs to be made to support more women to become professional photographers? And what can all photographers do to support this?

To me the shift needs to focus from the gender of the person behind the camera, to the actual work that person is putting out. We don’t recognize people’s photography based on the camera they use, so why should we recognize it based on their gender? It’s irrelevant.  I feel the best way to help women in photography is to be supportive and include us, not because we are women but because we are good at what we do.  We don’t need things dumbed down, we don’t want accolades just because we’re women that have a camera in our hands. We want our art to be enjoyed on the basis of what the viewer is seeing and the feeling they get from the images in front of them.

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What advice would you have to women trying to enter the professional photography market today? 

Just do it. Don’t hesitate, don’t worry about what others are doing and concentrate on your art, grow and learn more everyday and aim to evolve as a photographer. There will always be the negatives to any profession, you just need to have faith in yourself that you possess everything you already need to create.
So basically, just go shoot!

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Where can people take a closer look at your work?

Web: http://klairecole.com

IG: http://instagram.com/klairecole

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