Men and Women in Photography
This age-old fascination makes sense. Not just about photography, but just about anything that once men ever dominated until very recently… at the turn of the 20th century probably. This debate gets fiery when it turns into boys-vs-girls. The reputation of men being photographers are being challenged especially when more & more women take up photography. In recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of female photographers… which probably started off as being courses in photojournalism & art schools, more & more ladies are turning to photography to express themselves. On the flip side, men normally dwell into photography not from being forced to, but rather as a form of hobby at the beginning.
So who makes better pictures? Some folks say women make better photographers… some say nay…better pictures are made by better photographers. We live in a society that is gender divided, unfortunately. There is rarely a sport today which combines both men & women in competition. Part of the reason why Nicole David wins tournament after tournament, quite easily & expectedly, is probably due to the reason that her opponents simply aren’t in the same league as she is. If she were to pit her skills in the men’s tournament, she’d probably give the guys a run for their money! So the million dollar question is… Is the division between men/women in sports because we think there is a distinct difference in skill & strength between the sexes? Or is it simply because the men who control these rules are simply afraid that one day, a girl is going to upstage the men & beat them at their game? Really….???
Let’s ask ourselves more pertinent questions….
Do men & women see the world differently?
The answer might be a resounding yes.
I have yet to interview “control subjects” (friends & colleagues) on a recently published report on the Online Journalism Review in 2007, apparently when presented with an image of a figure, women most often focuses on the face of the person in the photo. Men on the other hand, also look at the face…but briefly, then often find themselves moving their eyes more frequently over the entire image at a much quicker pace. Women tend to look for longer periods of time at fewer places on the photograph. This is clearly apparent that women connects to the image at a more personal level, while trying to feel the emotion which is being portrayed by the figure in the photo. While women look & admire at the beauty of the image, men look for reasons how the photo came to be & what technique or equipment was used to create the image. Quite similar to watching a street magician do his trick… women just awe in wonder & applaud at the tricks performed, when the males ponder over how the performer was able to trick him into believing the unbelievable.
In photography, women are more flexible in terms of their interpretation of what looks good & are able to previsualize easier. Men often fall to the technical approach of making an image, often asking themselves, how much equipment can I leverage on, can I light it this way, frame it… what camera to use? Men talk about the dimensions of a photograph, technical aspects & composition. Women on the other hand, talk about the story of an image… the emotion or impact.
A different approach
If you send a bunch of photographers into a war-torn country, like Afghanistan for example during the war or post war, you may see very different results from the men vs. the women. If given a choice, the women wouldn’t even go to these locations let alone take photographs there. The act of aggression & war is more of a male thing.
Being a man myself, the approach I would take in a series of photographs would depict the devastation of war, the damage it did to architecture & the inhumane acts people do to each other during these troubled times. But give a women a camera, the photos created would rather take a very different view of the situation. She would be more fascinated about the children & women of war: How does war affect family life? What are the consequences towards a child’s upbringing in the thick of war? The images created by a female photographer would have a tendency towards the more sensitive nature of what’s happening, caring more about the civilian victims of war rather than the physical damage or injuries.
A different reaction
In essence, the sex of the photographer matters because the subjects react differently to men & women. Models (male or female) behave differently in front of male photographers compared to female ones. Depending on the situation, this can be quite an obstacle when trying to obtain results. Imagine taking photographs of children at the park… while men will certainly have their motives questioned, women will absolutely not have an issue at all. 70% of professional models prefer women photographers to men because when asked, (1) they felt more comfortable with women photographers, (2) communication was much better, (3) a keen eye on the overall picture which leads towards an end result a stronger photograph of the models.
I’m not saying that all men & women photographers look at the world in the way in which I described above. Are women drawn towards beauty, emotion & “the story” behind the image? Probably. Are men always about the technicality of photography & action? Possibly. But for each cliché stereotype, there are those who defy the norm. These are the photographers who transcend the average photographer often creating astounding quality images which are unique in their own way.
I often find my photos void of emotion & dwell too much on the technical aspects rather than asthetics. I go for the well composed image or a properly exposed background… very typical of the male photographer. I envy many of my female counterparts who seem to be able to capture joy, love, passion or sadness much more readily & easily then I can ever be able to. Breaking away from stereotypes is hard work & at times we must learn to unlearn our ways & embrace change. This is true vice versa for women to learn the technical aspects of photography to strengthen what they already have as an advantage to men in terms of previsualizing the final image.
I guess there is always a need for those on Mars to understand a little of what goes on in Venus….& ditto!