‘Women Photograph’ Honors The Female Photojournalists Documenting Our World

Photojournalism is far removed from its glory days ― the so-called Golden Age of the 1930s to 1960s ― when photographers toted Leicas and experimented with the first flash bulbs. Back then, behemoths like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and other founding members of Magnum Photos dominated the field, delivering onto the public historic images of military events, far-away countries, and images of the world people would otherwise never see.

Decades later, after magazines began to decline in popularity, so too did the prestige of photojournalism. Nonetheless, those left on the front lines of professional photojournalism are still responsible for capturing some of the world’s most captivating images. Take, for example, Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici’s photo snapped seconds after the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey

“Photojournalism is responsible for dictating how the general public sees the rest of the world,” documentary photographer Daniella Zalcman told HuffPost. “The photos in our newspapers and magazines expose people to issues and places and individuals they’ll likely never interact with personally.”

However, much like the early days of Cartier-Bresson, Capa and co., another aspect of the photojournalism scene has persisted: The majority of our chief storytellers are also still white men, Zalcman explained.

According to The New York Times, women have consistently accounted for only 15 percent of the entries to the prestigious World Press Photo awards in the last five years. Furthermore, around 80 to 100 percent of the images contained in publications’ roundups of most significant photos in 2016 belonged to male names. Incredible (and mostly white) female figures like Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange and Inge Morath managed to overcome the stale assumptions of their time ― that women couldn’t handle the necessary equipment or fend for themselves in conflict-ridden areas. Yet their success stories can register as outliers today.

Women in the 21st century aren’t getting the most valuable assignments from wire services, newspapers or magazines, Zalcman told the Times, suggesting that gender disparities in the industry are alive and well. She cited a few obstacles contemporary women photojournalists face in particular, such as biased hiring practices, a gender-based confidence gap, the difficulties of balancing personal lives with careers, and sexual harassment in the field. 

In an attempt to help women overcome these obstacles ― and educate publications unaware of the many, many female photojournalists available for hire ― Zalcman founded Women Photograph, a database promoting 400 women photojournalists from 67 countries across the globe. Described as “a resource for female* documentary and editorial photographers and the people who would like to hire them,” the site links directly to the portfolios of women from Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Cameroon, Chile, Russia, Canada and beyond. It also provides resources and grant information to aspiring photographers who might frequent the page.

(The asterisk denotes that “gender nonconforming, transgender, and genderqueer friends are all welcome” on the site.)

“We can’t just look at war and politics and human rights stories through the eyes of men,” Zalcman told HuffPost. “If we want to be responsible storytellers, our community needs to be as diverse as the voices it represents.” 

Zalcman is aware that a mere list of female photojournalists won’t erase the gender-based obstacles women encounter in their line of work. But “Women Photograph” is a succinct retort to any editor who claims not to know any women in the business. 

Below is a preview of some of the photojournalists on display at “Women Photograph.” To see more photojournalism from women today, head to the database here

All captions were provided by “Women Photograph.”

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