NUJ women’s photography conference a hit

The panel

Event organiser Natasha Hirst with Celia Jackson, Adrian Hadland and Pennie Quinton on the panel

The NUJ Women in Photography conference was an inspiring one-day event bringing together industry experts and photographers to examine the current state of the industry on women's careers as photographers.

The panel was chaired by Natasha Hirst - chair of the NUJ Photographers' Council - with contributions including one from myself in my professional capacity as a photographer and researcher and as London Freelance Branch chair.

I showed examples of photographs I had taken in different conflicts, discussing the various levels of support or hostility I received from my fellow male photographers while doing so. I described two occasions in the UK in which I was assaulted by male photographers trying to grab my pitch. I concluded by calling on the NUJ to establish a code of conduct on male photographers treating their female colleagues with respect.

We also heard from Celia Jackson, founder of Phrame, a Cardiff-based organisation that offers support, including portfolio reviews, to people of all ages and backgrounds working in photography. She discussed the barriers to entering the industry.

Adrian Hadland, professor of communications, media and culture at the University of Stirling, is one of three authors of the report The State of News Photography (www.bit.ly/FL-PhotoReport). This examined the impact of the move to digital in the photographic industry.

Adrian said that the digital era has had a harsher impact on women than on men in the photography industry and that he and his male colleagues had found that 54 per cent of women respondents said that sexism was a barrier to their careers. The report's key findings included:

  • Professional news photography is dominated by men: 85 per cent of respondents were male.
  • The majority - 60 per cent - of photographers who responded to the survey were self-employed.
  • Three-quarters of the respondents work full-time as photographers.
  • Photographers largely work alone (80 per cent of respondents).
  • Photographers' earnings are very low: one-third make $10,000 per year or less. Despite this, most say they are managing financially or are feeling good about their financial situation.
  • The unauthorised use of photographs without payment is widespread. An overwhelming majority of photographers in this study have been affected by this, most received no compensation.
  • Photography is a potentially dangerous occupation, with more than nine tenths reporting that they felt vulnerable to the threat of injury at some point during their normal duties. South America, Central America, and the Caribbean are felt to be the most dangerous regions to work in, while Europe and North America are the safest.

Charlie Booth, one of the founders of Redeye in Manchester, spoke about barriers that prevent women and ethnic minorities from establishing a career in photography. Redeye is conducting a survey to learn more about the barriers to progress as a photographer. This will collect data on how Redeye can improve support to all photographers across the industry. They want to understand what more needs to be done to create equality in the photography world.

Following the panel the afternoon flowed with positive group discussions and networking.