Equal Lens Seeks to Tackle The Gender Imbalance in Photography

Words by Majken Hansén

While there is a considerable number of talented women in the photography field, they seem to be excluded when it comes to commercial work. The problem is part of a larger structural imbalance across a plethora of industries, where the potential of women is underestimated and their competence overlooked. That this sort of discrimination is prevailing in 2019 is, frankly, outrageous. Thankfully, new platform Equal Lens seeks to remedy the gender gap by spotlighting women photographers and call attention to the overall disproportion, which is deeply rooted across a wide range of fields. 

Behind the initiative stands founder Jaki Jo Hannan together with a team of female creatives, who after flipping through the books of over 70 leading commercial photography agents found that women barely accounted for 25% of those represented. They decided to take matters in their own hands and champion equality for women photographers.

”Having worked in commercial photography for over a decade, I was aware of an imbalance in the number of women being put forward for commissions,” Hannan explains. ”I wanted to give women a level playing field when it comes to bidding for work, and shine a light on the incredible fresh talent available.” 

So far, the platform features 100 underrepresented photographers as well as more established names, specialising in anything from fashion and food to cars and landscape. Equal Lens hopes to encourage commissioners to acknowledge the many talented women photographers and include them on the lists that clients and agencies select from. Its long term goal includes putting an end to women being excluded from commercial commissions, and in turn reach an advertising industry which sees equal representation behind the lens. 

”We want clients to ask why women aren’t being included in bids when they are creatively right for the briefs,” says Hannan. ”It feels like the industry is not actively looking for female talent, which is something we are addressing.”

To call further attention to the cause, Equal Lens introduced its social media campaign in conjunction with launching its website last month. Mentoring programs and exhibitions are also in the making, as well as plans to visits universities to support emerging women photographers.

We want to create a supportive framework and network for the current and future generations of women photographers, and help open the door to developing their skills and commercial opportunities.

Jaki Jo Hannan

”People need to become aware of their own unconscious bias,” says Hannan. ”Our platform shows women can do all styles of photography, from underwater to cars to food to fashion. We want to create a supportive framework and network for the current and future generations of women photographers, and help open the door to developing their skills and commercial opportunities,” she adds.

The project draws inspiration from Free The Bid, a non-profit organisation which launched last year and raises the voices of women directors in advertising and film. Similarly, by putting more women in front of commissioners, Equal Lens aspires to tackle the gender imbalance largely prevalent in the industry, so that women photographers are given a fair shot.

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