If you know me, you’ll know I love taking photographs.
I mean, I really love taking photographs. I don’t quite make it the centre of my life, but it’s certainly very important to me.
Photography has shaped my life. It has touched almost every choice I’ve made over the past ten years. It’s the reason I’m at university studying history of art. Because I wanted to understand what drives humans to make pictures.
Over the years I’ve become frustrated though. So many photographers just seem to be living back in the 70s with their attitudes and world views.
So this morning I decided to log on and watch the www.engagelive.co “What Women Want” session with Brett Florens. You see, he’s talking at the convention this year that I’m working and I’ve heard that he’s pretty awesome. Certainly I know that he’s popular within the society that I work for and so I figured I’d like to see what he’s all about. The problem was, it was just sexist drivel. Right from the start.
Florens immediately used the bigender paradigm and gender stereotypes. ‘Men are more technical and women are more creative’ was the gist of the first hour. Even suggesting that there are more women in the industry now because they don’t have technical barriers to entry. You know what he picked as his example of a ‘technical barrier’? Loading film. Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve been loading films in cameras since I was about five years old. It’s not fucking rocket science.
The problem is, that Florens has some great ideas. It’s quite clear that he is at the top of his game photographically and he does shoot great work. He also has a serious attitude problem. Every single bit of his advice seems to be framed as ‘women like this’ and ‘men do this’. And it’s frustrating. I had to turn it off after an hour or so.
Framing success in your field as gender-based is problematic.Florens seemed to be largely saying ‘men – you need to be more like women. Women photographers are emotional and in touch with other women. And your clients are mostly the Brides, so you need to learn this shit otherwise you’ll fail.’ Of course the big irony here seems to be that Florens isn’t in touch with what the woman-hivemind thinks at all, otherwise he’d know that this kind of gender stereotyping isn’t helping anyone.
There are some very real problems with gender based social conditioning in the world. For instance, our Western society teaches boys to value themselves highly and girls to value themselves less than boys. We grow up with these ideas and they become a part of our expected adult behaviours. It’s well documented that these behaviours shape our society – for instance in the gender pay gap, and the lack of women in top job roles.