Tag Archives: inequality

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

18 Jan

Normally, I’d post a Dr. MLK Jr. quote about the complexities of love and hate, and leave it at that. A quote that’s profound. Powerful. Inspiring.

But this year, with all of the problems America is facing right now? How could I just add another meme to the slush pile of the internet? Who would that help?

No one, is the answer. It wouldn’t encourage you to think about the context of those quotes. How they came to be. How poorly received they were and how poorly treated he was. The uphill battle every BIPOC (black, indigenous, person of color) faces every day in the United States, from its founding to now.

Nor would it encourage you to think about the divided state of our country and how we can heal those wounds. How unproductive extremism and hate is. How beneficial moderation can be.

It certainly wouldn’t get you to think about how WORDS MATTER. Rhetoric matters. Lies told are lies believed, and so, honesty matters. Not cherry-picked truths, mind you. No. The bald face of a situation, followed by productive conversations, active and compassionate listening, and beneficial solutions.

So today, instead of just a quote, I ask that you do the hard work. Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by really learning about his journey, no the history softened by time. Read some of his works that make you uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to be better. Because better is the only viable way forward for our country.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The time is always right to do what is right.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness..

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Where Do We Go From Here?

3 Jul

2020 has been a wild ride so far. A year of more change than most ever expected to happen at once, but some of it was/is so sorely needed.

On a grand scale, a spotlight has highlighted the cracks in our foundation as a nation, and it’s up to us to address these problems. To become better people and a better country for it. Our healthcare system is struggling. Our economy is struggling. American citizens… your fellow brothers, sisters, wives, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children…are (once again) asking for equality…to be judged on their character, not their skin color, gender identity or sexual orientation.

On the small scale, we’ve had to look at what is important in our own lives. How we spend our time. Our money. Many have said that the lockdown opened their eyes to the importance of family and friends, as the fear of loss loomed over everyone’s heads. Many have recognized the restorative nature of the arts, exercise and time spent outdoors, as people turned to those things for solace over their disrupted lives.

(Personally, as we are encouraged not to travel out of state and be a strain on/danger to other communities, I’ve been spending more time focusing on the little moments, the local wildlife, the flowers in my yard or along the dog walking trail… I’m trying to be more present in the moment and be grateful for the small blessings I still have.  To that end, I was super excited when I started seeing birds at our backyard feeder. The feeder, mind you, was put up so the cat would have something to watch through the window during the day….because I’m a crazy cat-mom, I guess? lol  Hence, the bird photos.)

Anyway…..  Where do we go from here? Problems don’t improve by ignoring them. Addressing them is inevitable, as difficult and overwhelming as it may seem. After all, change is the only constant in life. How you react to it…that’s the part you have power over.

Only time will tell if we make the right decisions as a nation. If our elected leadership works for the people–all of the people–and steers the ship in the right direction. I hope we, as a nation, come out of this challenging time on the right side of history. But that starts with you.

Speak your truth, and more importantly, listen to the truth of others, even if…especially if…you have a hard time understanding their life experiences. A bridge must be built on a solid foundation. And remember, compassion. One of the most beautiful things in our world is the diverse tapestry of humanity. You’ll only enrich your life by embracing it. As heard during a panel on racism hosted by a local university: “We need acceptance, not tolerance.” ❤️


I’ve been pretty terrible about updating this website.  I’ll try to do better. lol  But you can follow me here, on instagram, for slightly more current images.

An Image of Inequality

28 Dec

Today, I did something.  Something important, because talking about the things that matter *is* one of the most important things we can do.

Normally I try to stay away from controversy, so I’ve been sitting on this for a while, trying to find the right words, or the right way to approach it.  But eventually, you have to just speak from your heart and hope it’s enough.  Problems don’t get better by ignoring them.  They don’t improve with silence.

Hopefully, after giving this a read, you’ll have a little more insight into how nuanced inequality, in it’s various forms, can be.  Hopefully, you’ll feel inspired to ask yourself, “What can I do?” and have some difficult conversations.

This article is published in an iOS friendly digital magazine, called Light & Landscape, and I *highly* encourage you all to read it there if you have an iPhone or iPad.  I recognize that not everyone does though, so for those of you without iOS, I’ve included the rough draft of the article here.  The final copy has a few changes, more pictures and abbrieviated brand stats, but the bulk of it is the same.  Again, if possible, please go to the magazine copy first!  The magazine owner will like that. 😉

Here ya go!


We live in a divisive world. The air is tense. People are afraid. Facts are spun and cherry-picked. Issues are viewed as black or white, with nuances completely ignored. Charged words trigger people to outrage, which discourages conversation. The art of reasonable discourse is all but lost.


As I typed that, I imagined that being narrated during an opening scene of the Twilight Zone. I wish I had just described some fictional dystopian future.  I wish that were some alternate reality, in which discrimination, violence, anger and war could be turned off in an instant, by closing a book cover (remember those?) or changing the channel.


Unfortunately, these are real challenges our world faces. Most of the hot button issues around the world are multi-faceted, muddied by layers of culture, religion, fears, anger, power struggles, innate selfish or survival instincts, comfort zones and conditioned discrimination, to name a few. There are countless reasons for compromise to fail. How do you find common ground when chasm between sides – racism, LGBTQ rights, gun rights, religion, etc – is so vast? When both sides of any given issue are insulated, unwilling to listen to the other side, unwilling to sympathize, or more importantly, compromise?


How do you approach a difficult topic, in hopes of having a conversation? When the idea of broaching the topic of gender bias in photography came up, that is the question I asked myself.


And then it occurred to me. You solve problems by focusing on a solution.


So what would be an ideal scenario? A conversation where all sides are acknowledged? Mutual respect? Recognizing that gender bias and inequality, much like most issues of discrimination, are nuanced problems attributed to more than one cause? Recognizing that discrimination, even if it’s unintentional, will only improve if it’s worked on from all sides?

Most people I know are willing to admit that cultural expectations for women exist, and those expectations vary internationally. From there, it’s not a huge leap to see that those cultural lenses can affect people’s perceptions of a woman’s capabilities, motivations, and limitations. Then, take that one step further, and it’s easy to see how cultural expectations and norms can influence a woman’s access to opportunities.

I’m not much for cherry picked facts, but I do think we need to clearly illustrate the problem so I’m going to give examples based only on personal experiences I or some of the ladies I am close with have had, and some verifiable brand stats.

Let’s start with the idea that landscape photography involves not only the technical knowledge of photography – iso, aperture, time values, gear limitations and artifacts, techniques to compensate for those limitations, some knowledge of editing software, etc – but also requires a fair amount of physical effort to arrive at your locations lugging anywhere from 5 to 25lbs of gear and considerable investments into equipment, travel, and presentation of the final product. From start to finish, a landscape photograph generally involves a planning stage, a travel to location and capture stage, a post-processing stage, and then a presentation stage. I’ve been un-lucky enough to either hear of, or personally experience some negative gender-based interactions that would leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth during all of those stages.

One of the most rampant issues women run into may seem innocuous; patronizing comments and being talked down to.  When I was first planning this article, I was hesitant to include too many examples of this, because I am not interested in man-bashing.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I strongly believe that these sort of issues will only be resolved with an attitude of mutual respect.  However, a good (male, landscape photographer) friend David Pasillas said, “It would be easier for men, and some women that haven’t had any issues, to understand there’s a legitimate problem [with examples].”  I was also concerned that examples of being patronized and talked down to would be perceived by some as a non-issue.  David responded, “That’s part of the problem.  Talking down to implies they are less than.”


Accepting or dismissing patronizing comments perpetuates the idea of inferiority, rather than equality and respect.

Jill Sanders, a photographer out of California, owns her own gallery and her husband manages it for her.  People frequently come in and assume he is the photographer, despite the large Jill Sanders labels.  “When he points them in my direction, men have actually asked numerous times if I take these photos all by myself.  When I reply with an affirmative they state that I must have a great camera,” Jill explains.

Another landscape photographer, Melissa, recently took a trip out to Austin with her husband.  She has been shooting for over 12 years, and is experienced in wedding, portrait and landscape photography.  Her and her husband, a non-photographer, were visiting a waterfall, and she had her tripod set up to take some photos.  Another male photographer approached and Melissa tried to strike up a conversation.  The gentleman not only dismissed her, but said to her husband – who was holding Melissa’s large camera pack so it would be out of the way of traffic – that Melissa must not be up to the task of carrying her own gear.


Heck, even bringing up a conversation about the challenges our industry still faces garners negative, and dismissive comments.  Marie Gardiner, a photographer out of the UK, wrote an insightful blog piece about the topic, and was asked to then write a follow-up a few weeks later for a camera retailer’s website.  Many of the comments on the post range from derogatory to downright hostile.  


One gentleman complained, “What a load of rubbish, I am fed up with this crap, first women wanted equality, now they want more.”


Another gentleman ranted that he worked with female photographers, and “you don’t hear them moan about sexism, they get on with the work and deliver super images!…Utter crap in my honest opinion.” That, of course, ignores the cultural nuances in most places where women are taught from an early age that they shouldn’t complain, or speak up, or defend themselves when being treated unfairly.


There were also a number of people who either outright said, or implied, that because they had not personally experienced a discriminatory attitude, then it must not exist.  Instead, the lack of female representation in things like publications, as brand representatives, as presenters at events, as members of the jury for events must instead be due to other factors.  Some suggested the mathematical improbability that there “are not as many female photographers doing the work to a standard the magazine publishers want”, and that “equal representation assumes equal numbers of people of both gender of equal skill and equal interest in achieving the same things.”  Other people implied that this lack of representation was solely based on “who’s right for the job”.  One said that he personally was the only male photographer he knew in his genre, so insinuated that the lack of representation in the aforementioned areas couldn’t possibly be true.  Although some of those comments were likely meant to suggest that sexism, both intentional and ingrained/habitual, may not be the only reason women are underrepresented, by their very nature, those comments also dismiss the idea that sexism IS most definitely part of the reason.

That all being said, there were a number of people in the comments who agreed that sexism was a very real problem and were interested in improving the culture of photography, which was heartening to see.  At least one gentleman acknowledged that these conversations were helping.


Unfortunately, the challenges our industry faces are deeper than just derisive and condescending comments.  The long-time accepted culture of stereotypes, gender roles and appropriate gender-based interactions frequently leads to a loss of opportunity for female photographers, both directly and indirectly.  Personally, I have faced difficult decisions and lost work because I am female.  When releasing a book co-written with David, we actually had to put a lot of thought into whose name was listed first on the cover, or if I should list my full name rather than a first initial because there have been correlations between female author names and reduced sales.  Some women go so far as to take gender neutral pseudonyms.  Another time, I wasn’t hired for a photography gig because I was told, “we didn’t think you’d be comfortable traveling with a bunch of smelly dudes for the whole trip”.  I’ve had other male photographers refuse to go shooting with me because “their wives wouldn’t be comfortable”, and that’s just local day hikes, let alone something that involved travel and overnight accommodations.  On the whole, I’ve been understanding and tried to keep some perspective when these moments come up.  But if I had been male, these opportunities for networking and income wouldn’t have been jeopardized.

The reality of landscape photography is that it involves travel.  Some of us are lucky to live smack in the middle of a photographer’s paradise, but many of us are not. That means driving, flying, more driving, maybe some sleeping, probably some hiking, possibly some camping, questionable showering habits and a whole lot of shooting at crazy hours. I promise you, it’s rarely luxurious and almost never glamourous. Mostly, it is a bunch of sleep deprivation and snacks at odd hours. It is also a challenge to the standard cultural expectations for interactions between men and women.


The hike/trip will be too difficult for a woman. That’s too far for a woman to carry her gear. The men on the trip have wives who won’t be comfortable. It runs counter to some religious beliefs about gender interactions. Extra accommodations may be needed. There may be personal liability concerns. Men may have been conditioned to feel like they have to censor themselves and may not want to deal with having women on the trail with them. And so on, and so forth. Really, I’ve heard all of the reasons, and I can think of very few other professions where those ideas would even be entertained, let alone be accepted.


Here’s the thing. I’m a professional. And other female professional photographers are also…well…professional. I understand that landscape photography and the resulting travel, hikes and overnight accommodations present a unique speedbump to social conventions, but ultimately, a professional is a professional and gender shouldn’t matter. Did I mention the word professional? That means we ladies aren’t there to ruin your marriage. We are there for pictures. That means we won’t sign up for a hike if we don’t think we can make it. That means we want an opportunity to succeed or fail based on our merits, not on the number of Y chromosomes we carry.


Since the landscapes are our office, in reality, these sort of preconceived ideas about what a woman can or should do may significantly affect our income long term. There is a tendency in all humans to stick to what is familiar and comfortable. That means it’s easy for guys to compliment, network with and share the work of other men, but they may not always be comfortable reaching out to a woman because of cultural stigmas.  That means when opportunities do arise, a man may think first to invite or hire the guys he’s been traveling and shooting with for years, rather than an equally qualified woman who was never invited on such trips because she was female. That means that “the old boys club” mentality is a very real thing.  In a world that lives by, “It’s who you know”, this can have far-reaching consequences.


As was mentioned before, this manifests as missed job opportunities, as well as fewer invitations to speak at and to jury events. It also manifests as less exposure. It looks like fewer ambassadorships, which are mutually beneficial partnerships that ultimately also increase exposure. That in turn may equate to fewer offers for work or sales.  Overall, gender stereotypes and accepted gender roles/interactions can perpetuate a vicious cycle.


But how do we know this to be true?!  We wants facts, not accusations! Well, this is where the easily verifiable numbers come in, because despite the personal accounts many women give, there will still be people who don’t believe that gender bias exists. I’ve learned, after many loud and frustrating conversations, that the best thing to do in that case is to present some numbers.


Canon explorers of light USA
7 out of 42 total
1 out of 9 in the landscape genre

16 out of 62 Canon Europe

Nikon Ambassadors
7 of 23 in US
4 of 13 in UK
0 of 4 in Europe
0 of 7 in Australia
0 of 4 in Singapore
0 of 1 in Hong Kong
0 of 1 in Middle East

Sony Artisans
10 out of 59

1 our of 8 induro tripod team members

5 of 26 manfrotto ambassadors

Formatt Hitech featured artists
4 out of 41


As was alluded to earlier, I am 100% certain that there are a lot of reasons for why there are not as many professional women photographers representing brands. Every issue is nuanced, right? It may have to do with marketing demographics, based on local culture. Or perhaps marketing decisions based disposable income along gender lines (that is a whole other topic, though, right??). It may have to do with a woman’s need to juggle a full time career and family obligations, which in turn may affect her ability to dedicate time to building and maintaining brand partnerships (because despite both parents ability to help with things like family sickness or child-rearing, the responsibilities fall primarily on women.) I suppose, as mathematically impossible as the suggestion seemed, it could be due to a lack of talented females to choose from. (Yes, impossible. Because I personally know hundreds of talented landscape gals from all over the world.) It could, in a more likely scenario, be due to a lack of exposure to the many, many talented female photographers out there. Ultimately, there are many non-malicious, circumstantial reasons that could directly affect why there is such disproportionate representation along gender lines (and if we’re being honest here, along all other demographic lines that aren’t “white males”). The end result, though, is a significant cultural and economic problem.  It exists.


Why is disproportionate representation important?


Well, first and foremost, it shows that women aren’t making this problem up. I’m certain that at least 80% of the female photographers (a conservative estimate, but I’m playing it safe here), across all genres of photography, could relay stories of discrimination. Some stories would be clear cut, some might live in a gray area of interpretation. But if at the end of the story, you can say, “Would it be different if I was a man?” and the answer is “Yes”, then we have a problem. We have HAD a problem. A collective problem that can only be solved if everyone embraces the idea of solving it. That means a willingness to have uncomfortable conversations and listen to the other side’s perspective. That means committing to a culture of respect, and calling out offenders. It also means speaking up when something is wrong. That means BELIEVING a woman who says something isn’t right, and truly wanting her to have an equal shot.


That is, quite possibly, the hardest part.  Historically, whistle blowers had a good chance of suffering for doing the right thing. It wasn’t until recently that we’ve begun to see significant support for women who have asked for equal opportunities and justice without being disparaged, discredited, and told to “stay the course”. In my mind, some of these significant changes came about with Emma Watson’s speech at the UN in which she invited everyone to participate in a solution. More recently, the political climate in the United States, which likely helped bring the #metoo conversations (and their international counterparts) into the limelight, has also created a social shift away from gender bias.


These psychological shifts are important, because without them, there can never truly be equal opportunity. When brands don’t represent demographics, they are sending messages about what is or is not acceptable. Now, many people make the argument that companies aren’t in business to change the world, and they are within their rights to market as they please. That argument falls a bit flat, though, after the Nikon-Asia d850 fiasco. Earlier in 2017, with the release of a new camera, the company’s “Nikon-Asia” region picked 32 men to be the face of the d850. There were no women.  The outcry across the world was swift and loud.

Nikon briefly suggested they did invite women, but none participated.  That was debunked quickly by women who do have ambassadorships with Nikon within that region who said they weren’t even approached and asked to participate. Nikon then went on to apologize profusely.


How could this sort of thing happen though?  It is 2017!  Was it cultural since there are some male-centric countries in that region? Or marketing based on the male-centric cultures in the region? Was it an oversight? Was it that mathematical impossibility of no talented female photographers to be found in all of Asia, the Middle East, or Africa?


Mostly, it was a big mistake. You see, a company doesn’t have a responsibility to change the world. But if it wants to keep its market share, alienating half of your consumers is generally considered a bad idea.


As a Nikon user, I was disappointed in the message they sent. The apologies helped, but effects of these sort of thoughtless campaigns are far reaching. They greenlight micro-aggressions. They send messages about the worth of a demographic. They feed a gap – emotional, psychological, cultural, and economic – between the sexes that doesn’t need to exist. They normalize behavior that is now not considered acceptable in many countries throughout the world.


So the real question is, how and why do we fix it?

As for the why?  A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain. – William James

There are so many cliché sayings that sum this idea up nicely, but they all pretty much say the same thing.  If we all thrive individually, then as a whole, society thrives.  It will take work, compromise and a willingness to understand other people’s point of view, but I believe that we are up to the task.

The first step towards an attitude of mutual respect and equality is recognizing there is a problem both in landscape photography and in society as a whole.  That means continuing these conversations, and having teachable moments.  It means taking personal responsibility for your actions, and holding others accountable for theirs.  My hope is that this article will encourage you to try listening to other people’s experiences, and bridging the gap of opposing viewpoints so that eventually, we aren’t chained down or held back by gender stereotypes.


Choose Life, Choose Love

18 Jun

Emerge :: VT

Emerge :: VT

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – MLK, Jr.


The Charleston shooting is horrifying and tragic on so many levels.  I find most violence difficult to swallow, and this even more so because the victims were spending their energy on prayer.  It is just one of many world-wide incidents that continue to sadden and frustrate me.


It saddens me that one human can feel so filled with hate, fear, a need to feel power over another, etc that he or she can feel justified in taking the lives of another living being.  At what point do we sit down and have a talk with our children about the root causes of violence?  At what point do we address the fear and the hate, regardless of its source, that we hold in our own hearts?  At what point do we encourage love instead?  At what point do we take and expect personal accountability for our actions?  At what point do we acknowledge the wrongs done to us personally, and accept that one incident doesn’t need to define us OR our interactions with people who weren’t involved?  At what point do we base our assessment of a fellow human on their character and actions alone?  At what point do we ask our fellow citizens to take a look at themselves and do the same?


It frustrates me that these continued acts of violence are polarizing our country, when the only way to bring about equality for every human is through unified purpose.  There is only one race.  No matter where you were raised, your gender, what circumstances you were born into, what religion you embrace or whom you fall in love with, we are all brothers and sisters.  You don’t have to like your siblings to respect their rights to live, to choose, to opportunity and to peace.


I am afraid for our country and our world.  I think a lot about the brave, vocal leaders our world has seen who have worked tirelessly to advocate for their fellow man.  Beacons of love, equality, education, acceptance and understanding like MLK, Ghandi and Mother Theresa have been bright lights in the dark and violent history of mankind.  When do we take it upon ourselves to light our own candles?  When do we put aside our differences and embrace civility?


The path to peace is built on equality, and paved with both determination and hard work.  The cost of living in a society is responsibility.  On a personal level, you are responsible for your thoughts, your actions and your willingness to work towards a better life.  But there is more to it than that.  Ultimately, choosing to live in a society means you are part of a whole.  There must be an understanding that your choices affect the people around you.  If you choose to live in a way that negatively impacts the people around you, including encouraging hate and fear in others (including your children), what incentive is there for society to continue to support you?  Even if you choose not to actively raise other people up, you have a responsibility not to tear them down.


Our actions now will shape the future.  There is no need to drag around the choking weight of hatred, misunderstanding and intolerance…they only serve to poison your life.  You can acknowledge and respect our collective history while still choosing to rise above unhealthy fears.  You will find the world to be a brighter place when you are working towards a better tomorrow.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of all of these sort of tragic events around the world.  #PrayersForCharleston