Tired of the marginalization of female photographers in the commercial world, Jill Greenberg decided to take matters into her own hands. The prolific photographer, whose work went viral for her photos of crying toddlers, has launched the Alreadymade directory. The site aims to take away any excuses for clients who feel they can’t find talented female photographers for high-end commercial photo shoots by providing a platform for these talented women.
Although women are responsible for 85% of consumer purchases, most entertainment shoots and advertising campaigns overlook female photographers. This means that male photographers shape the way we see and perceive the world most of the time (up to 90%).
Greenberg, who has often spoken out about the glass ceiling women face in their work, decided to take concrete action in 2018 by founding Whilemade. Along with an advisory board that includes high caliber artistic directors, photo editors and talented advertising executives, female photographers who have at least one major shoot to their name are selected for inclusion.
As Greenberg notes, the exclusion of female talent is not a matter of quantity—the vast majority of art and photography students are women. But somewhere between graduation and hiring comes a roadblock. Why is that important? “Because those who are paid to create the images that shape our culture have real power,” writes Greenberg. “Here’s a dirty little secret about what photographers do: We do image propaganda!”
By uncovering this open secret, Greenberg shines a spotlight on another industry’s gender bias and takes concrete steps to eliminate excuses for progress. We had a chance to chat with Greenberg about her own experience as a woman in the industry and how she hopes Made can do its part to bring about change.
Jill Greenberg began Already done– an online directory of female photographers – so no client can ever use the excuse of not finding talented female photographers.
What inspired you to found already made?
Gender equality in the workplace is finally being seriously discussed. In creating Alwaysmade, I wanted to bring this discussion to the very important imaging industry.
Images have all but replaced our modern language; Images, memes create a visual propaganda that prevails across cultures with particular hegemony. And the still image has retained its power despite the advances in video. People have been fired for pictures. No one can argue that who takes the picture is central to who influences the outcome of those pictures.
What experiences have you had in your own career as a commercial photographer that have convinced you that a directory like this is necessary?
For many years, starting as a young woman, I had no idea that this continued to be an issue. I think this will continue to be the case. And even people who work in the industry have turned a blind eye to it. Evidence of how long it took Terry Richardson et al. to finally throw him out of the industry despite his reprehensible behavior towards the working women he paid for his work.
Incidentally, in this scenario, these women had 6 levels of power dynamics to deal with, which is why they often did what he asked:
He was the boss and they were the employees, “do what he says”
He was a man and they were women, women are socialized to say yes, to be pleasant
He was older and they were younger, “Respect your elders”
He was famous and they were new on the scene.
They were models and he was a photographer, “turn left, shirt off”
Their modeling agency told them to do as he said. That’s the worst, the women in the agencies who didn’t protect the young girls.
So when someone said to me, “They knew what they were getting into and they have no defense for going along with these work-sex crimes,” I say, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
(Continuation) The act of photographing is full of power dynamics, who can take the picture, who can tell the story and frame the subject, edited from thousands of images so that the emotions felt while viewing are exactly as they wish, from their point of view is an extremely powerful thing.
I spoke at Semi-Permanent in Sydney about 8 years ago and was asked in a follow-up question what it was like to be a photographer. My answer was, “How should I know otherwise? That has always been my reality and I have nothing to compare it to.”
I’ve noticed that many clients don’t hire women.
Many of the streaming networks — not Hulu — and the TV stations and movie studios don’t hire women, or maybe one or two a year, to do their advertising when they’re doing hundreds of big shoots. A lot of magazines don’t hire women to photograph their covers – can you believe Oprah hires all sorts of men to photograph her for the covers of her magazine, but no women? One of the men had just shot a softcore film love magazine, where they all said the images empower women. It was beyond absurd.
This didn’t seem right, especially considering that women make 85% of the purchasing decisions in the market. We give up our power if “we” continue to support mostly men.
The casual statement from clients that there are no female photographers for these jobs is simply untenable.
In your opinion, how do women in decision-making positions contribute to the prejudice of female creatives?
First, let’s be clear that prejudice is natural. The human brain cannot work without prejudice. We take in so much information and only a tiny fraction of it is actually processed, bias is part of the human operating system. The problems that arise from prejudice can be culturally regressive or downright dangerous.
I have to say that I find it disappointing that there are some female clients who never hire women. For many reasons, they hire men who they suspect are more capable because of prejudice, or the fact that women who don’t get hired that often are out of practice, or just plain and plain hiring hot guys who they want to spend the day with. Sure, as a straight woman it’s fun to hang out with hot guys, but that’s not a good reason to screw other women.
There are many initiatives that draw attention to gender disparity in STEM professions. Why do you think the creative areas are often overlooked?
First, I think these initiatives are just beginning. Second, these initiatives are almost all started by women themselves, who are already juggling far too many balls. Letting the “persecuted” lead change is often the case. For example, women are pushing for equality in the constitution, not men – that’s the way it is. Nobody wants to give up their privilege.
How do you think the proliferation of male photographers in the commercial world is contributing to the general public image of women?
It can easily maintain the status quo. We all need to push for new stereotypes, new shorthand ways of telling stories.
How do you hope Ownmade can help break the glass ceiling?
Hopefully the very existence of the site and regular reminders of our point of view should shake things up a bit. I’ve heard from agents that women are being approached more and more specifically. Clients are realizing how out of place a direct male gaze is on set when dealing with rape, sexual assault or female executives who have broken through years of sexism in their field.
Shooting a woman can be almost violent — to paraphrase Sontag — so while that metaphor has been abandoned by Sontag, the idea of the male gaze is softened, a male take on the story of a woman who has been demonized, who has such attacks survived has no meaning. What matters is the compassionate gaze of a comrade who understands what it’s like to go through life in a woman’s body.
What is your message to young women who want to get into commercial photography?
Think again! You have to devote your whole life to it and give up everything. You will never control your schedule. That’s fine when you’re young; but when you’re older it’s rough.
Watch Jill Greenberg’s TEDx talk on what it means to be a woman working in the photography industry.
Already created: Website | Facebook | Instagram
Permission has been granted by My Modern Met to use photos already taken.
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