Sex and photography?

The Influence of Sex on Photography

This has been a topic I’ve wanted to address for some time now, because I think gender does have an impact on how we look at, and how we capture imagery.  We all know that men and women are different, so it should come as no surprise that we see the world differently.  Thus it also naturally would follow that we take pictures differently too.  So, can we really break down how men and women take pictures differently?
Probably, given a scenario, anyone could devise a set of criteria to measure how people see the world.  In fact, a recent article in Popular Photography (the one that inspired me to finally write this actually), suggests that men tend to think of images in technical terms (the geometry, the depth of field, the aperture, the shutter speed, the lighting, etc.) while women tend to look at images in terms of the impact and the meaning of the image.  I am very much oversimplifying things here, so would highly encourage you to read the article at Popular Photography, but it does give us an indication that not only do we view the world differently, but that the world reacts to us differently as well.

I found the latter statement to be profoundly interesting… the world reacts to men photographers versus women photographers differently.  It makes sense once it’s said, and you think about it.  But are we aware of how we are impacting the shot?  This is particularly a useful question to ask if we are taking portraits.  People respond to genders differently all the time – call it a gender bias.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing (though it can be if taken to an extreme), but it is something that we as photographers should try to get a sense of as we capture our images.  So, put your radar antenna up – and look at how people respond to you.  Are you getting the reaction or the expressions you want?  If not, it might be simply the gender bias factor coming into play.  Since there’s not much you can do about your own gender (at least not without a serious fiscal investment in some extensive medical procedures), about all we can do is be aware of it, and when possible mitigate the bias when we do encounter it.

For me that means talking to women and men, and working collaboratively when the situation permits.  Surely though, there are other ways to address role that sex plays too.  So, now that I’ve got your radar up – think about it, and consider these questions:

  • Are people reacting the way I want them to, and if not, could my gender be a factor?
  • How can I mitigate that?

Share your thoughts and answers in the comments!

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1 comment for “Sex and photography?

  1. December 16, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    I found that article interesting, too. I was thinking about it in terms of child photography (which is my specialty, if I have one). I can’t really walk up to a kid on the street and start shooting away, but I suspect a woman could. People don’t assume a woman is a pervert, so that gives women access to images I might not be able to get as a man. The area of war photography is a fascinating one as well. Thanks for the post! You have a new reader.

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