Do Female Street Photographers See Differently?

Apr 18, 2018

This month, some of my work is featured in the print edition of “The Site Magazine,” along with the work of five other incredible female street photographers from across Canada. It is an honour to have my images showcased alongside Dzesika Devic, Angela Gordon, Maria Ricossa, Siri Thompson, and Louise Verdone. So this got me thinking. Do female street photographers “see” the streets differently than our male counterparts? And why are female street photographers not recognized for their work as frequently as men? So without trying to offend half my peers, I thought I would explore these questions.

On Being a Female Street Photographer

Firstly, I’m not one for labels. I consider myself a photographer and artists first and foremost. It just so happens that I love to capture life on the streets and I’m female. As a woman, I think I have it much easier than my male colleagues. Most people do not find a female with a camera a threat. On the other hand, people may perceive a man with a camera hanging out on a street corner to be creepy! This is especially true when photographing children. I don’t usually shoot children without a parent’s permission. But getting that permission is often as simple as a smile and a gesture towards my camera. I have spoken with several of my male street photographer friends, and it sounds like they get questioned about what they are shooting far more than I do.

Do Female Street Photographers See Differently?

So do I see things differently? Sometimes I think I capture the world from a softer perspective than a man. I am always looking for expressions and emotions. Motherhood may have helped me become more in tune with subtle nuances in people’s gestures. I don’t intentionally try to capture sexy images of people unless they tell a story. Although when I was in Cuba two years ago, I captured a street portrait of a fellow who was understandably proud of his body! I also like to photograph bold images, with strong graphic lines and geometry. Are these images similar to what a man would take? In general, I don’t think being a female makes me see or shoot differently than a man. I shoot what moves me, as I believe all artists do. And I definitely don’t take the time to think about my gender when I release the shutter.

Where are all the Female Street Photographers?

This brings me to my second question and the more interesting one. Why isn’t the work of female street photographers recognized as much as work by men? When I went through university for my degree in structural engineering, I was one of nine women in my class of 110 students. I am used to being in the minority. What was interesting back then was the nine of us were in the top 20% of our class! Sometimes I think we had to work twice as hard for the same recognition as our male classmates did. Unfortunately, I believe this is true in street photography as well.

I follow the work of many remarkably talented women, yet when you look at the many lists of “top street photographers,” or peruse the street photography collectives, there is rarely more than one female listed amongst the dozen or so men. Maybe we are a smaller group than our male counterparts? No, I don’t believe this is true.

I think the main reason you don’t see the work from female street photographers is that women don’t promote themselves nearly as well as men. We tend to stand back politely and smile a lot. We are not good at standing up and yelling “look at my photography; it is thought-provoking, powerful, and creative!” Many of us have social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook, but not as many female street photographers as men have a website. Even fewer post a regular blog. There are lots of exceptional images created by female street photographers out there; however, they are hard to find hidden in the shadows of men’s work.

The Future

I am a firm believer that a photograph should be able to stand on its merits, not on the shoulders of the person who shot it. Whether a man or woman created the image is not relevant. I do not want my images to garner attention because I am a woman. I want them to receive accolades because they are compelling, well-composed images that draw the viewer in and make them think about my subject. Nevertheless, I hope that more photos from female street photographers find their way into the public eye. Because for our art to be acknowledged and recognized it needs to be seen first.

Here (in no particular order) are a few websites that you should check out. I picked these ones because not only are the images from these artists inspirational, but they also have excellent blogs.

  • Teresa Pilcher Photography. Teresa is an artist based in Brisbane Australia. Her blog posts are both informative and motivating.
  • Ana F Martin. Ana specializes in street and urban life. Her blog includes writings on techniques, inspiration and her latest images.
  • Linda Wisdom Photography. Linda is a London photographer specializing in social documentary, street photography & fine art urban cityscapes. She has exhibited in galleries in the UK and around the world.
  • Jill Corral. Jill is a Seatle based photographer and writer. 
  • MarieLaigneau. Marie is a London-based street photographer. Her blog covers street photography news, tips and storytelling.
  • Valérie Jardin. Valérie is the host of the podcast “Hit the Streets with Valerie Jardin.” She is an educator, author, and visual storyteller.
  • Women in Street. This website is a community for woman street photographers founded by Casey Meshbesher. It showcases, promotes, and is a resource for emerging and established artists.

I would love to know what you think. Feel free to drop me a note. Cheers until next time.