Seeking Diversity In The Media Industry
It’s a very sad truth that sexism and racism is rife in the media. As a British photojournalist born in Iran and off Armenian descendants, I have lived in the UK since the age of eight. It’s very much my home and I’m extremely proud to be British and to contribute to society through my work, both professionally and in various volunteer basis, as well as numerous charitable contributions.
Through various publications, competitions and awards over the years, I have proven my ability as a photojournalist, yet sadly have never managed to make it past being a casual freelance photographer (meaning being commissioned daily) for the newspapers and agencies. I have several talented colleagues who are of various ethnic backgrounds who have the same struggles. The same discrimination is shown towards white, English female colleagues when contracts and big projects are filled. It is indeed rare to see someone of ethnicity or female photographers in good contract positions, the recipient of the top commissions or in possession of staff jobs (even when these were more abundant).
It truly is a shame that one’s ability and skill is often overseen, in place of one’s ethnicity or sex. After all, the reader or viewer sees the work, not the author. Its quite bizarre that over the last year, I decided to grow a long beard. Instead of this being seen as a trendy or hipster type thing, because of my slight tanned complexion, I could see a lot of people were judging me as some sort of religious extremist. Since shaving it off a couple of months ago, the reaction of the same people when seeing me is the polar opposite. Its quite sad really. Ignorance is most often not bliss.
Picture editors, editors, publishers and media owners need to look at the quality of work and ability of the photojournalist, not their ethnicity, sex, cultural background or religion. I’m definitely not one to condone positive discrimination either; quotas shouldn’t be filled based purely on one’s ethnicity or sex. I just think that the best person for the job should always get the job regardless of the colour of their skin or their sex.
The NY Times has this excellent article, which is well worth a read: Seeking Action — Not Just Talk — About Diversity in Photojournalism. Even more importantly, at the end of the article is a link to a survey for working photojournalists. Please put aside five minutes and fill in this Reclaim survey. Hopefully it’ll benefit the industry and our readers too.