Nikon USA is a company known for many things. They are one of the top of camera companies in the world with everyone from amateur and consumer photographers, to full time professionals using their products. Nikon is also the chosen system of myself and the Daily Campus.
Recently Nikon released a new flagship camera, the Nikon D850. The D850 is a stunning professional camera boasting high-class specs that would make even the most hardcore pixel peeper ecstatic. The camera, however, is not the only feather in Nikon’s cap this week. While promoting the camera, Nikon revealed that they are as sexist as the rest of the photography industry.
Most people have no idea what this is about, so here is a little background. Nikon recently released the much anticipated D850. The camera was so fantastic and so many people preordered, creating a backlog that kept many professionals from getting their hands on it. You could say it was a big deal. In order to promote the camera, Nikon grouped together many different photographers to participate in tours and show off what the camera can really do.
For the Africa, Middle East and Asia component Nikon put together 32 professional photographers to tell their stories with the camera on the Nikon website. One thing Nikon missed… all 32 photographers were male.
Nikon tried to weasel out of things and half apologized while also basically blaming the women they asked, saying that none were able to come. They said they value women photographers and were quick to remind everyone they used female brand ambassadors in the United States.
Before the trolls come in and attack me for diminishing the accomplishments of these men, I want to say all of these photographers are more than qualified to show off the camera. They are all masters of their craft. That is not at all the point. The point is, out of all the photographers in the in the Middle East, Asia and Africa they could not find one female photographer who was free to try out the D850. As a female photojournalist put it, “Seriously, three continents and not one woman could attend? You didn't try hard enough, @NikonAsia. Disgraceful. How will you make amends?”
This might seem like a small thing to get angry about but the move actually reflects a larger issue within the professional photography community. Contrary to popular belief, there are not fewer women photographers. We just hear about them less because there is always a man around to steal the spotlight. Women, as a whole, face numerous challenges when trying to excel as photographers. Like all women they face harassment from bosses, sexual advances and even customers and non-industry members try to mansplain to them how to do their jobs. At the photojournalist level, many women have had to fight for stories and only moved up by picking up the stories their male counterparts didn’t want to cover.
Seeing the challenges women in photography face is especially difficult for me to watch because I want to be a professional photographer one day. I’m a brown kid from Mystic who spends his free time running around with a camera. Sure I’m going to have some challenges getting into the industry but all of them will be professional. I’m never going to have to worry about my boss propositioning me for sex and telling me that getting assignments depends on me going on a date with him.
The real worst part, though, is all of these professional female photographers are so incredibly talented. This weekend I covered The Meadows Music and Arts festival in New York City. Every single day I interacted with amazing women photographers who are one hundred times better photographers than I am and have fought greater hurdles than me to get where they are.
But you don’t hear their names. You don’t hear about the countless women photographers who risk their lives in warzones to make sure stories get told. You hear about photographers like Chris Burkhard and Adam Elmakius and Steven Curry who are amazing photographers but no more amazing than their female counterparts.
The question now is where do we go from here? Nikon can’t just name a few new female ambassadors and call it day. Nikon’s choices clearly show the sexism is very rampant within the photography industry. If Nikon really wants to right their wrongs then the only path forward is to truly invest in female photographers. There are legions of female photographers that need real help in the industry and it is up to camera companies like Nikon to help. The time to invest in women in order to invest in the future is now.