October 26, 2017

Women of Photojournalism: A Crisis of Representation

Words : Danielle Maczynski

Gender inequity in journalism is by no means a new topic to the media landscape. As women are outnumbered 4 to 1 in most newsrooms and on assignments around the world, it’s hard to ignore the statistical unbalance. But with the help of organizations like Women Photograph, founded by photographer, Daniella Zalcman, the conversation around underrepresentation has already stepped into the spotlight.

Inspired by this movement, we recently reached out to a handful of leading women in the photojournalism field. It was a truly meaningful experience to hear their thoughts and stories about why they pursue photojournalism, the future of the industry, and mobile photography's place in journalism. 


Nancy Borowick, Guam

Nancy Borowick is a humanitarian photographer based in Guam. She is a regular contributor to the New York Times and has been featured by the CNN, National Geographic, Time Magazine, and many more.

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Even at a young age, I was always telling stories and trying to advocate for others. I was called a “tattle tale” in elementary school, and I have to believe that this was because I felt a strong sense of justice, fairness, and understood the importance of getting to the truth of things. Knowing this about myself, I am not surprised I found my way into the world of photojournalism. The camera, and photography, became the tools through which I could call attention to the injustices around me, while also raising awareness about causes and issues I cared about. The picture could tell a story my words could not, and I feel lucky to have found a means of communication that allowed me an opportunity to try and amplify the voices, and the stories, of those not being heard.

I am very aware of the difficult path that was paved by the women in the industry before me. Because of them, I have been able to take advantage of many opportunities they may not have had access to, and I am so grateful for that. Women bring a powerful and important perspective to this industry, this life, this calling, and while there have been these advancements, it still feels uneven, with our male counterparts continuing to get certain types of assignments over their female colleagues. I think the result of this has been us women creating opportunities for ourselves and lifting each other up, which is a pretty beautiful thing, but we still have stairs to climb (and we will climb them).”

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Emily Garthwaite, United Kingdom

Emily Garthwaite is an award-winning British photojournalist and street photographer based in London. She has worked with The Independent, Moroccan Tourist Board, Suitcase magazine, and many others.

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“I first established an interest in photography when I was 15. There was a forest fire near my family home, and I remember watching the fire destroying the woods that I played in and feeling the need to document it before it disappeared. I sent my photos to my local newspaper, and they were published the next day. My love of photography blossomed from that point.”

“Mobile photography is an ever-growing genre. I believe that, if a photograph is impactful as a small thumbnail on your phone, then it will continue to be [impactful] as a print on a gallery wall. I like to use my phone alongside my Leica camera. For example, I use my mobile phone camera for pre-shooting interior and lifestyle shots. It's a tool that I use for much of the work I do. I can compose images as references and log which ones I wish to use. When on assignment, I use my phone to photograph scenes as a reference point for writing and as a means to piece together a photographic series.”


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Jeenah Moon, New York City, NY

Jeenah Moon is a photographer based in New York. She was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. She is a contracted photographer at New York Times, Bloomberg, and Reuters.

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“For many decades, photojournalism existed as a notoriously male-dominated profession. Today, as an Asian female photographer, I sometimes can’t help but feel that I have to work and hustle twice as hard as some of my male colleagues. It is frustrating, but I embrace the challenge and continue to maintain enthusiasm, especially since I believe that the battle for gender equity is gaining traction, thanks to all of the other women in this industry – past and present – who have labored so tirelessly to establish their work as relevant. 

I think women have a tendency to observe and discern the world differently than men do, and that our contrasting vantage points can provide valuable insight. Fortunately, my impression is that editors and readers alike are coming to terms with the fact that women have an equally important perspective to lend to photojournalism. I have high hopes for the future.”

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Stephanie Keith, Brooklyn, NY

Stephanie Keith is an award winning news and editorial photographer. Working for Reuters and Getty, her work has been featured in many international publications and media outlets.

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“In terms of long-term influence, I'd say my Reuters assignment to cover Standing Rock was the most important assignment I've had. I went to Standing Rock not on assignment, but thankfully after three days, Adrees Latif at Reuters called to put me on assignment for the breaking news I was already photographing on the banks of the Missouri River in North Dakota. Adrees Latif believed in me and ended up assigning me for 6 weeks.

Reuters was the only wire service to embed a journalist long term during that time at Standing Rock. My photos were extensively published in the media's stories. My photos of the November 20th nighttime water cannon battle between the water protectors and police were some of the first to get out about the event and were very influential. One of these photos was published on the cover of the New York Times on November 22, 2017. This photo also won a spot in the pictures of the year from the following news organizations: Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, The Atlantic and RT.”


Erika Larsen, Florida and Peru

Erika Larsen is a photographer, videographer, and writer, based in Florida and Peru. She's been featured by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, National Geographic Society, among many others.

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“I don’t believe I have some unusual clarity in regards to the future of journalism. I think storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communications and undoubtedly will continue to reflect the zeitgeist of the feminine journey.

I use my phone to interpret situations around me. I post to Instagram when I want to communicate to a larger sphere.”


Carolyn Van Houten, Washington, DC

Carolyn Van Houten is a staff photojournalist at The Washington Post, based out of Washington, DC. 

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“For the past year, I worked on a project about the landscape of abortion in South Texas. The project looked at how women on both sides of the issue are affected by bills coming out of the Texas legislature, in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court decision about a Texas abortion law last year. Working to gain intimate access to photograph women, clinics, and organizations in small communities on both sides of one of the mostly hotly contested topics in American politics was trying and incredibly difficult, but it opened my eyes and heart to the complexities of fighting for what one believes is right. It was imperative to listen to and try to empathize equally with both sides in order to portray the nuances of the issue.

I primarily use mobile photography to promote stories or connect with a community; however, I have found myself often feeling as comfortable and fluid shooting with my phone as with any of my regular gear. It is a great way to be unobtrusive in certain situations as well.”

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