Featured image: Photo by Keren Dobia. This portrait of artist Valerie Richardson was one of the entries submitted which contributed to Keren being awarded 2017 AIPP Professional Photographer of the Year. ‘I AM’, Keren’s series photographing creatives is ongoing and saw her win Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year in 2019.
Although AIPP has never officially recorded gender breakdown of membership, there are a lot of anecdotal memories of the board and committees being majority-male, as well as a general understanding that the profession, like many creative industries, has a history of being male-dominated.
The ratio differential of men to women working as professional photographers and video producers has narrowed significantly. Women are also more widely represented across many facets of the larger industry spectrum. At AIPP, we are proud of the significant role and contributions women bring to our membership, our operations, and our industry more broadly. In this post, we share the reflections of just a few of the women in the organisation about where we have been and where we are heading. These women are among equals when it comes to setting the highest standards within the profession. They are leaders, mentors and fiercely passionate about their chosen vocation.
In recent years the cumulative membership of AIPP has shifted and now appears to be closer to gender parity. Former AIPP National President Kylie Lyons notes how digital imaging positively affected the industry, observing that the smaller studio and home studio model allowed for more flexible working hours, providing a sustainable work-life balance for women caring for children while progressing as professional photographers and video producers.
Among the many observations shared by female members was an overall celebration of the talents, strength and tenacity of female imaging professionals, many of whom are setting the standards within their chosen discipline. It was also stated that within the industry there is a strong sense of support and solidarity, not only among women, but also from their male colleagues.
Of note are the many new AIPP Chapters being led and driven by female members. As Lyons states, “generational change is underway and this is leading to greater diversity. It’s great to observe more women having the inclination to take leadership roles within our institute.”
Many of the women who contributed to this article stated that they have never had to ‘fight’ for a photography or video commission because they were female, and that they had not felt a strong sense of gender inequality within their respective professions. Some did note however, that their experience may be a reflection of having worked outside of the traditionally structured work environment or a result of bringing in externally learned skills to the imaging profession. It was also noted that by encouraging equal representation the organisation has often seen gender equality outcomes manifest themselves organically.
While the current board is not at gender parity, AIPP encourages any member to become involved, including where eligible, volunteering for board membership.
Former and most recent National President, Louise Bagger, makes no reservation about the commitment to being a Director. “It’s not for everyone and we understand that. We are extremely grateful for our representation across all areas; this includes our volunteers who give their valuable time and skills for the benefit of others, and also our dedicated administration team.”
In a piece published by The Conversation in 2019 (“Women were photography pioneers yet gender inequality persists in the industry today”), it was argued that the photography industry remains male-dominated, and that “in terms of commissioning, exhibition and publication of work, there is a conspicuous lack of equality in the industry.” The same article notes that what could help equality within the industry is “more assignments” for women, as well as mentorship that can help grow confidence and develop professional networks. Accessing this kind of networking and mentorship is one of the major benefits of AIPP membership.
AIPP will continue to represent, support and strive for equal opportunity for women in the photographic and the videographic industries. We hope this article opens up further conversation about the role of women within the organisation and the industry. We’d love to celebrate the success of women in the AIPP, so share your stories in the comments. If you have any suggestions on how we can improve AIPP please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.