I studied to be a photographer. meaning I actually went to a school, applied to be allowed to go there, went through a home exam and a couple of interviews, and then when I thought I would die they let me in and I cried and was happy and then went to school and went into debt, but we won’t talk about that. What we’re focusing on is that I actually went to school to learn how to take photos (and write coherently and do graphic design) because that’s how I wanted to make money.
I picked my job. I just didn’t know you needed a penis to do it.
I started studying in the late 90s, before digital so I actually had to go in the darkroom, develop film, print images etc. I was lucky enough to get internships at two major studios, the second one in the equipment room. I can actually set up and break down large amounts of photo equipment alone. Like, all by myself with nobody helping me. I can use cameras of varying sizes (35mm, medium format, 4×5) all by myself. I’m proud of this.
Unfortunately photography is not something that you do all by yourself all the time. At some point you have to work on a team and that means working with models, makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists and photo assistants. Even without a client and editors, If the photographer and staff each have two assistants that’s 15 people on board.
I’m pretty sure that I could handle that. I love bossing people around almost as much as I love taking pictures.
But I wonder sometimes, is my vagina stopping me from being successful?
I’ve assisted male photographers, and they don;t get treated the same. I mean, so yeah, you can’t flirt with me, but does that make me any less of a photographer? Ok, no I can’t date you, but am I less of a photographer? I once saw someone grab a male photographer I knew and beg to work with him. It’s ok if I was standing right there and had been building a realtionship with them in order to get work. I mean, don;t mind poor vagina having me when you can get a MAN.
I once assisted for a male photographer who did high fashion. I had to access and answer his email account and It was devastating. People offered him mansions to shoot in, tons of emails from models and stylists, and all of it was ‘you’re so amazing! let us give you money!!!’. I mean a lot of emails and emails from other mail photographers offering him help, looking to hang out, asking for advice…
At that point I wanted to have a sex change operation because my email box is tumbleweed city. At that time I was actively seeking work and promoting myself, and I got a job every so often. One year I made $5,00 and I considered that amazing. If I had a penis it would have been $5,000,000. I know it.
But funnily, I don’t blame the guys. I know for a fact that a female makeup artists will get a man work before she’ll help a female photographer because I’ve seen it happen. A female editor or client will go with a male photographer. Why? Hormones. he’s cute, omg look at those eeeeyeeeesssss… and he’s hired. Me? let’s not go there, ok?. And men will hire men because they’re men and they can all hang out and be men together and look at nekkid models and ten marry them and have model babies.
Me? I’m sorry, but male models make me feel weird, like- you are not gonna be prettier than me. So it doesn’t quite work like that for me.
Now, I have good ideas- but I am a 5’2″ black woman who wears overalls to shoot in because I’d rather be ready to crawl on the floor adjusting cables or smoothing out backdrops than trying to look cute. I think my work is good, but I’m not paying me. I don’t flirt because, hello? I’m a stinking photographer and my photoshoot is not where I look for dates or husbands.
I am probably doing this all wrong.
I started blogging because it was a way to keep taking photos, even if I had to take them of myself. Through blogging I’ve learned how much I love product photography, which you can do all alone, and how much I love getting dressed up to go to events. I do squirm a little, thinking that I’ve sold myself out just so that I can get free lipstick and wrinkle cream. I do wonder why it’s so much more acceptable for me to be ‘stylish’ than to be a paid photographic creative. I’m taking pictures, but are they the pictures I set out to take all along? Did I do all that model casting, thinking, plotting, planning, lighting, location scouting, wardrobe styling, and fighting just to wear cute clothes and go to blogger events?
I hear a lot about gender inequality in fashion, and I think that by hiring female imaging professionals (aka photographers) to shoot those fashion shoots and ads we can start closing the gap. I think more black editors should hire black female photographers for their magazines. I think female wardrobe stylists and makeup artists should recc their female photography associates and pass on jobs to them. I think gender and racial inequality can only be addressed when everyone, not just the men, are in there pitching whoever is best for the job.
If I’m that person, don’t go through my portfolio and earmark pics to show to a man to re-shoot them. Hire ME. And yeah, stuff like that happens, to men and women.
I’m a good photographer. I’m not flashy about it and maybe I need to be. I don’t say other people suck (men will do that, and I hate it. “Oh, that guy sucks” just because you want the job), and I think I bring a lot to the table because I’m fun to work with but my main objective is to get the job done. I will do the art direction, creative direction, write the copy, do the styling, do the makeup, hold everyone’s hand, make sure they get fed, make sure we get the shot, make sure to clean it all up afterwards. Cuz I’m awesome, and because that’s what needs to be done.
Since everyone is out there screaming about inequality, I’m going to test the fashion and photo industries. I am going to put my portfolio together and I am going to get back out there and market myself like the guys taught me to. I will make 2016 my year to make it as a photographer in New York. I’m gonna go hustle and see what happens. Because if people are really about change, I should be the perfect person to hire. Right? We’ll see.