30 Female Photographers Sound Off On Fashion's Gender Imbalance

In 2017, just 13.7% of magazine covers from the top 10 American fashion publications were photographed by women. It's time that changed.

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In 2017, just 13.7% of magazine covers from the top 10 American fashion publications were photographed by women. Disappointing, yes. Surprising, no. Fashion, despite being an industry catered primarily to females, has always had a gender problem. Though women have a global spending power of $20 trillion, men dominate leading positions at labels, from creative to corporate. They’re the decision makers for product and branding. It’s their job to figure out what women want — and sell it to them.
For an industry that recycles through trends every six months or less, fashion doesn't favor change. It mourns the changing of creative directors. It shuns the reworking of a brand’s name and logo. It prefers to hire internally, cycling through the same pool of talent. Which is how we ended up at 13.7%.
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That's why past years have seen so few female photographers earn nearly as much recognition as their male counterparts, save for pioneers like Annie Leibovitz, Ellen von Unwerth, Petra Collins and Collier Schorr. But things are changing, thanks in part to the democratization of social media as well as the #MeToo movement, which has seen allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct against photographers like Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, and Patrick Demarchelier. Finally women are being given the chance to explore and develop the female gaze on a broader scale. Photography can no longer ignore its gender imbalance. As London-based duo Lobster Eye says below: “Without women, the world has no future.” The same goes for fashion.
The 30 women below work with publications like British Vogue and i-D and brands like Nike and Prada — and they should be working with so many more. Accompanied by an image they think best represents their vision, we spoke to them about why it’s important for labels and publications to actively hire more female photographers, and how women are changing the future of the industry for the better.
Photographed by Amanda Charchian.
Based In: New York & Los Angeles
Has Worked With: Vogue Italia, Garage, i-D, Gucci, Bulgari, Chloé, Cartier
“I find that women have an amazing capacity for empathy and connection that is conducive to prescient and timely content creation. Not that men lack these qualities overall, but women will change the future of the industry by bringing their particularly empowering viewpoint to an industry that was otherwise capitalizing on ideas of lack and insecurity. Things have been changing in a positive way, especially now that diversity and heterogeneity are being championed as the way forward.”
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Photographed by Lobster Eye.
Based In: London
Has Worked With: LOVE, AnOther, Gareth Pugh, Louis Vuitton, Lady Gaga, Kanye West
"Brands and publications should be hiring talented photographers from all over the world regardless of their gender, race, age, or religion. To us, it is clear that women should be included in this group. There needs to be equality. Empowering women is essential for productivity, love, art, and growth. Without women, the world has no future. This may seem obvious, but it sadly needs to repeated again and again. Having more female strength, energy, and instincts onboard will definitely help brands and magazines to push onwards and upwards into a brighter future! We’ve chosen this image of Lady Gaga from the Joanne World Tour; we love working with Gaga because she embodies the true meaning of individuality and never excludes or judges anyone."
Photographed by Annie Collinge.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: Vice, Flaunt, Dazed, The Fader
“It’s important to judge female photographers exactly the same as men — not by gender, but whether they’ve taken an interesting picture or not. I want a photograph to move me in some way and have mystery; whether it's taken by a man or a woman is less important to me. I want brands to hire more women just so things are more equal.”
Photographed by Arielle Bobb Willis.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: L'uomo Vogue Italia, W, Hunger
“Representation of female photographers of all colors is what inspires generations to value diversity and continue to fight for equality. It’s important my younger siblings don’t grow up in a world where their aspirations are ostracized, marginalized, or compromised because of their gender.
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"As a Black woman in the photography world, I never want to let society's boundaries rewrite my story or determine my future. When it comes to continuing the push past those confinements and breaking free from the mold, I hope to uplift all women to be heard, know their worth, and never take no for an answer!”
Photographed by Autumn de Wilde.
Based In: Los Angeles
Has Worked With: L'Officiel Italia, Rodarte, Prada
"It doesn’t make sense to only put faith in one gender to produce visual ideas for the fashion and advertising landscape. It was accepted for some reason that there were only one or two slots available for female photographers and the rest would be handled by men. When I think of it, it’s kind of ridiculous. Why would you want a quarter of the possibilities and a quarter of the visual potential?
"Photographers are supposed to create an environment for playing pretend. Humiliation and intimidation are shortcuts. I don’t need to do that. I feel like if you are insisting that this is the only way you can make a sexy photo, then maybe you just aren’t good enough? What is a sexy photo? Should we only cater to one set of tastes? Sexy can be funny, sexy can scare you, the absence of sexiness can turn you on, sexy can be touchable, and sexy can be someone you are dying to touch. This is all achievable in a safe space if you are a truly creative photographer of any gender, of any sexual identity. I think we need more female photographers because people are repeating themselves. Frankly, I’m bored with it. Turn me on fuckers, and do it without any prisoners."
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Photographed by Carlotta Manaigo.
Based In: New York & Paris
Has Worked With: T magazine, Interview, InStyle, Chloé, Jill Stuart
"Women have a very sensitive vision: They go deep beyond the surface, they try to understand situations and personalities, and they are quite honest. They can be bold or reserved, but never too loud or indiscreet. They are able to address themes like beauty, sensuality, and social issues with a gentler point of view. For these reasons, fashion photography is becoming more genuine — the subjects are people with imperfections, the mood is natural."
Photographed by Dafy Hagai.
Based In: London
Has Worked For: Teen Vogue, Dazed, Vogue.com, The Gap, Levi's
“A lot of female photographers in fashion are interested in creating images and narratives from new perspectives of the female subject and female representation. I see women changing the future of this industry by creating images and narratives that are empowering for other women.”
Photographed by Daria Kobayashi Ritch.
Based In: Los Angeles
Has Worked With: i-D, Wonderland, Opening Ceremony, ASOS, Marc Jacobs
"For me, it’s not so much about male vs. female, but giving everyone an equal voice. Hiring more female photographers will support inclusivity and diversity for all. Women are not the only underrepresented voices. We should strive to give everyone a chance to share their views and stories because the first step to understanding one another is listening and seeing life from each other’s perspective."
Photographed by Driely Carter.
Based In: New York
Has Worked For: W, Paper, High Snobiety, Pyer Moss
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"I actually get really annoyed with the entire concept of the 'female gaze.' It often feels like a way for brands to use me to check off their HR boxes, and I don't appreciate that at all. I also find it to be such a disservice to women photographers because it was meant to take women outside of a box, but it just ended up putting them in another. There is this idea that women only shoot pastel colors, glitter, fruits as vaginas, period art, naked everything, and anything derivative of Petra Collins (I love her work, and this is by no means an attack on her. I'm just stating the obvious). It's annoying because that is not the kind of work I am attracted to, but brands will still ask you to change everything about the way you shoot so you fit this aesthetic in order to come across as woke. There are so many ways to be a woman and experience womanhood, and for that reason, we need to have space for these images to exist and conversations to happen so we can become better at understanding each other as human beings."
Photographed by Elizabeth Wirja.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: British Vogue, The Fader, Nike, ASOS, Barneys New York
"Female photographers are often underpaid compared to our male counterparts, especially in an industry that is built on a patriarchal foundation. We deserve to be compensated and hired for the work and art we provide to the world.
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"Women are revolutionary, period. Hopefully, we will extend empathy and fair treatment to every aspect of the industry (while also leaving egos outside the door). When women come into positions of power, we can finally cast and put others in positions of power and eventually bring forth equal opportunities."
Photographed by Frederike Helwig.
Based In: London
Has Worked With: Harper's Bazaar, Purple, i-D, Esc
"Shooting this feature with Lily [McMenamy] for Purple in 2014, she asked me casually what it was like to be a female photographer. My response was spontaneous, honest, and jokingly: 'I don’t know…I am half a man most of the time…' What I meant to say was that my personal experience of the work environment as an editorial photographer over the last 20 years required certain behaviors and keeping in line with certain expectations.
"People on shoots still often think I am a man and often take my assistant for the photographer, which in return made me work with all-female teams for a while. I guess my name could be read as misleading, but I wonder if my relatively graphic and sharp aesthetic are the reason for this presumption. The industry misses out on 50% of talent in not hiring female photographers. But most importantly, it misses out on a different point of view in portraying the female and male body."
Photographed by Hedvig Jenning.
Based In: Stockholm
Has Worked For: ODDA, MatchesFashion.com, Rodebjer
"We need a diverse perspective to photography, from women, the LGBTQ+ community, and photographers of color, and brands need to make a better effort to find us, because we are here. Female photographers are needed to understand and show identity, sexuality, beauty, and bodies. When we have a diverse perspective on that, the industry will change."
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Photographed by Kanya Iwana.
Based In: Los Angeles
Has Worked With: Ford Models, Swarovski, Warner Music Group, Warby Parker
"Women in a biological and physical sense may have or are able to go through certain things that men will never experience — pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, periods, lactations, and all the mental bearings that come with them. We embody a perspective that is more three-dimensional, affecting how we view the world through our eyes. The photograph of a woman in lingerie or nude taken by a fellow woman will translate differently than that by a man — not to mention the process of the shoot itself will certainly feel different. In the fast-paced fashion world, we still want to be able to also portray true narratives and emotions — to access that, you need a safe space. With more women in the industry, we'd have more safe spaces, more truths, and more perspective."
Photographed by Kelia Anne MacCluskey.
Based In: Los Angeles
Has Worked With: The Fader, Nike, Atlantic Records
“The inclusion of female photographers of all ethnicities should be widely accepted — not as a public pat on the back, not as an apologetic gesture, not as a way to ‘sell feminism.' Female photographers have been busy making images despite a lack of exposure and recognition. We’ve been busy perfecting our craft and perspective with a solitary, quiet passion that's reflected in every image. We’ve had to work a little bit harder to get to where we are. Every moment of recognition and illumination is considerably overdue.”
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Photographed by Lauren Ward.
Based In: New York & Paris
Has Worked With: Allure, i-D, At Large, New York, Levi's
“Females represent half of the population: It's important for our perspectives to level the playing field and offer an authentic view into what it feels like to be us. We need more women involved, telling their stories and sharing their vision. This will change the larger public consensus in the ways we look at femininity in art, photographs, films, and society as a whole."
Photographed by Linda Brownlee.
Based In: London
Has Worked With: AnOther, British Vogue, WSJ, Anthropologie, Miu Miu
"We need more female storytellers and female perspectives to make fashion more creative and representative of society. If more brands and publications hire more female photographers, the standard of female creative output will improve, with more sustainable careers and the necessary income to fund and entertain personal creative projects for development and growth."
Photographed by Lois Cohen.
Based In: Amsterdam
Has Worked With: ODDA, Vogue Italia, Nike
"For a long time, image culture was completely dictated by white heterosexual men. Over the last few years, female photographers have been coming more and more to the foreground. Even still, the typical western male gaze is overly dominant.
"But the visions of women and those from the LGBTQ+ community and people of color bring so much refreshment, positivity, and awareness of how we view the world, ourselves, and others. That's why we need way more diversity not just in front of the lens, but also behind it. These voices have been oppressed for so long, but these are the groups that can really make a change."
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Photographed by Lysa Thieffry.
Based In: Paris
Has Worked With: i-D, Wonderland, Opening Ceremony, ASOS, Marc Jacobs
"Fashion is usually group work. The best projects I've worked on were diverse and inclusive, where everyone could bring their full authentic self to the creation. I feel like women are much more daring, loud, and assertive than before; we are becoming fearless, which is a great quality for creating imagery, and being a storyteller. Women in fashion have the opportunity to shout out to the world that gender-specific is expired and they'll reveal a new 'woman,' free of all conventions and stereotypes."
Photographed by Olivia Malone.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: L'Officiel, The New York Times, Interview, Adidas, Nordstrom
"Unlike ever before, we are inundated with thousands of images a day, so there is an appetite for new kinds of imagery. There has been a gigantic shift in the consciousness of the power of a woman, as both global citizens and as consumers in the market. I think female customers want a more realistic and intuitive picture of the clothes they are buying on different kinds of models. Our so-called 'feminine ideal' is changing, with customers gravitating towards more diverse bodies and away from the antiquated dream girl. While there are many talented male photographers out there making fantastic images, I think female photographers can honestly capture the strength and sensitivity of women with a kind of ease that just makes sense right now."
Photographed by Ophélie Rondeau.
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Based In: London
Has Worked With: Nylon Japan, Miu Miu, Weekday, H&M
"Hiring more women is a simple task considering the amount of talented female artists out there ready to change the advertising landscape to make it healthier and more inspirational. The issue is not the lack of choice or talent; it is the people who make these choices. We need more women in charge of hiring talent, giving greater chances for the female gaze to establish itself in a man’s world. This will automatically translate into a healthier and more inclusive media landscape for young girls and women to grow up and evolve with.
"More women involved in the industry means an accurate representation of us within the media, a safer environment for future generations to grow up in, and a normalization of the human diversity — two major improvements that will reduce bullying, mental health issues, and suicide rates."
Photographed by Pamela Hanson.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: Vogue, Glamour, Elle, Vanity Fair, J.Crew, Reebok, Warby Parker
"I like to be considered a 'photographer,' not a 'female photographer;' people don’t make the distinction between 'male photographers.' Not all women and female photographers see the same and produce the same type of images — thank God! — and being singled out as a 'female photographer' is annoying; I think all of us feel the same. Society is changing, and it has changed so much since I first started. There are so many very talented female photographers today with so many points of view. I think it’s wonderful. The more, the better.”
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Photographed by Peggy Sirota.
Based In: Los Angeles
Has Worked With: GQ, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Vogue Italia, Levi's, Glossier
"I can’t speak for all other women photographers, but I have heard from a number of women who I’ve photographed that it was a relief for them to find out that a woman would be shooting them, particularly in sexy situations. They thought it was cool and a refreshing change; they said they felt like they could be more natural."
Photographed by Rebekah Campbell.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: The New York Times, Puss Puss, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Pat McGrath
"The female point of view and gaze should be deemed incredible in the universal sense, just like the male point of view has been in the past. More importantly, a woman's take on how a woman is in images should be broadcast to everyone. How can one story be so one-sided? This is a flourishing world that's racing with us all."
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: The Fader, Oyster, Teen Vogue, Tiffany & Co., A$AP Ferg
"To quote Beyoncé, ‘Run the World (Girls).'"
Photographed by Samantha Casolari.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: LOVE, Apple, GQ, AnOther, Prada, Arthur Arbesser, Nowness
"As a female photographer, while generalizing, I feel that we woman have a more nurturing and encompassing view of the world. A female’s gaze is normally softer and more enveloping and not as objectifying. It can grant access to places where a male sometimes would not be allowed, it has the potential to show a deeper degree of intimacy with the subject, and it has its unique feminine strength. These should be enough qualifications for brands and publications to hire more women who come equipped with these qualities. The change needs to happen now."
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Photographed by Stef Mitchell.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: British Vogue, i-D, Document Journal, Barneys New York
"It’s important for brands and publications to hire more female photographers if they want to stay part of the new reality. It would be nice to see some balance in our industry and, aside from the moral aspect, everyone who falls outside the category of 'white and male' has a perspective that hasn’t been seen before. And that’s exciting for everyone to be exposed to."
Photographed by Tiffany Dawn Nicholson.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: W, Glamour, Ssense, Club Monaco, Opening Ceremony
“Brands like Glossier are a perfect example of how to break the male gaze and create a female-first narrative. It is truly an exciting time to be a female photographer, with more and more brands becoming conscientious of the female perspective. I’m excited to see what the future holds."
Photographed by Zoey Grossman.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: Elle, Porter, Paper, Numero, Reebok
"I hope that one day, work will be based on pure talent and creativity, not gender. I think it’s important for brands and publications to not be afraid to use female photographers simply because they are women, and to work with who they think is best for the job based on their work. I know that’s an idyllic way to think, but I don't want my success to ever come at the expense of someone else's. I have always felt empowered by women and inspired by women; I think a woman's point of view and eye for detail is unparalleled!"
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Photographed by Zora Sicher.
Based In: New York
Has Worked With: Dazed, AnOther, New York, Vice, Pringle of Scotland
"It's important for women — every type of woman — to be hired everywhere, for exactly the same reason I think it's important for our lens to be used equally if not more in the industry. The majority of what we've been exposed to and conditioned by has been led by men; one could say that since the beginning of time they've tried to force us to just be 'great muses and great observers.' It's important for us to be able to show and speak for ourselves, to provide a greater spectrum of examples and representation for growing generations of people."
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