Dec. 15, 2018
Recently, Sony announced its winners of the inaugural Alpha Female Creator-in-Residence Program, which is a program whose premise is to improve access to the media industry for women storytellers. While there was some effort at diversity among the five awarded photographers, the results failed to consider key aspects of what is destructive in photography today. Several images by the awarded photographers indicate Sony and its contest judges lack insight and the necessary perspective to recognize problematic imagery.
For example, one of the awarded portfolios included a prominently featured wedding photo that uses an apparent wildfire as a backdrop for a bride and groom. This was an egregiously tone-deaf choice as wildfires destroyed thousands of California homes and lives in the same week as Sony’s announcement. Another portfolio featured images of black and brown people from impoverished nations that exoticized those individuals and communities, rather than telling complex and compelling stories from their perspective.
Disappointed by this announcement, we researched the current state of mentorship and grant programs funded and produced by other camera companies. We found the representation of people of color and women behind the camera to be abysmal, despite decades of calls to make photography more equitable and inclusive. Most concerning, the images themselves lean heavily on stereotype and, as such, are lacking in nuance as photographers continue to regurgitate one-sided understandings of issues, people, and places.
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