Last night’s special event at the PhotoPlus conference in New York was a panel discussion called “Women Behind the Lens: A Female Perspective of Professional Photography.” But the discussion—moderated by critic Vicki Goldberg, and featuring fashion shooter Barbara Bordnick, wedding photographer Bambi Cantrell, photojournalist Deanne Fitzmaurice , documentary photographer Lauren Greenfield, and artist Joyce Tenneson—was really just a panel of successful photographers in different fields showing and talking about their work. There were at least 600 people in attendance—both men and women
Greenfield’s comments at the beginning of her presentation summed it up: “I usually hate being ghettoized onto panels like this, but looking at this crowd, it looks like the ghetto has become the mainstream.”
Each photographer showed work from throughout her career and very briefly discussed some of her keys to success. There was an occasional mention of gender being an obstacle (Bordnick mentioned that when she started in the ’60s no one could be a fashion photographer unless they were a former model, fashion editor, or a photographer’s assistant—and “no one wanted a girl assistant”). But, for the most part it seemed as if most of the trials these women faced are common among successful photographers of either sex.
Certainly, the discussion gave a lot of hope that the biases in the boy’s world of photography have diminished. As Goldberg remarked, 60% of the members of the American Society of Magazine Photographers are women. And, refreshingly, not all of the panelists shoot traditionally “female” subjects. Fitzmaurice, for example, has done a lot of sports shooting, even getting behind-the-scenes access to Barry Bonds that other photojournalists were denied.
Still when the floor was opened to questions, most came back to how being a woman affected being a photographer. The question inevitably came: “How to you juggle being a wife and mother with being a photographer?” The answers varied across the panel, but it left me with the question: would anyone think to ask successful male photographers how they juggle being husbands and fathers?
_ —Kathleen Davis