Women Photographers: what the guide books aren’t telling you

Women Photographers: what the guide books aren't telling you

Angela Nicholson

Angela Nicholson is our head of testing and one of the few women involved in camera testing and reviewing. Before joining Future she was Technical Editor at Amateur Photographer and she is well respected with the photographic industry.

Women Photographers: what the guide books aren't telling you

Angela testing the Canon EOS M

I’ve found the majority of the photographic community extremely warm and welcoming towards me, but that’s not to say that some people haven’t expressed surprise that a woman might be quite so interested in the nuts and bolts of a camera.

I’m lucky enough to have interviewed some of the top engineers from many of the camera manufacturers, and on more than one occasion they have turned to a male colleague, clearly expecting the technical questions to come from that direction. The look on their faces when they realise I’m not there to take the notes is a delight.

I think the first time that it occurred to me that I might be doing something that was considered a little unusual for a woman was in the initial few weeks after I joined my first photography magazine and saw that the front cover of the latest issue featured portraits of two much older, highly respected male colleagues. They were the faces of the magazine and I wondered if the readers would accept mine.

Fortunately, the vast majority did seem to, although there were a couple of rather patronising letters when I reported that a film camera had jammed under test. A couple of ‘helpful’ individuals wrote in to explain how to remove the film and outline where I might’ve gone wrong.

It didn’t seem to cross their minds that I might be fully conversant with how to load and unload film. I doubt they would have written if they had known that it was actually one of my esteemed male colleagues who had experienced the problem.

I think one of the differences between men and women when they start out with photography is that men are often driven by a desire to master the technicalities, whereas women are more inspired by a potential subject.

I have taught photography at adult education centres and whereas the women tended to show me a shot and explain how the light or the colour or their emotion had inspired them to take the shot, the men were often a bit more interested in the settings that they should use than the subject itself.

Over time the women learn to control the camera and the men develop a better understanding of what makes a good image, but at the outset the difference in approach can be quite marked.

I don’t think that my career has been adversely affected by the fact that I am a woman. In some ways it may have helped me because being one of a small number tends to mean that your face is remembered. I think that’s a good thing…

PAGE 1: What are the differences between men and women photographers?
PAGE 2: Angela Nicholson, Digital Camera World’s head of testing
PAGE 3: Kelly Weech, wedding and portrait photographer
PAGE 4: Annabel Williams, portrait photographer and trainer

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