Last week I read an article by the wonderful street photographer Elizabeth Gray, in which she asked the question; Do female street photographers see differently?
Female street photography is on the rise, with more and more organisations representing the excellent high standard of street photography that women are bringing to the table. With the conversation of female representation ever growing, it is natural that someone should make a comparison on the potential differences men and women have in relation to how they see a frame that they are shooting.
Here is what Elizabeth had to say about her question in the piece.
“So do I see things differently? Sometimes I think I capture the world from a softer perspective than a man. I am always looking for expressions and emotions. Motherhood may have helped me become more in tune with subtle nuances in people’s gestures. I don’t intentionally try to capture sexy images of people unless they tell a story.”
Whilst it is a good question, and a thoughtful answer, realistically there is not enough information presented to really establish a clear outcome as to whether or not woman see the world differently to men in regards to street photography. However I would argue that having a softer perspective and being able recognise the emotions of others is not exclusive to gender, and is more likely related to our unique life experiences and how we empathise with others.
Many avenues of life give you your eye.. and there are too many variables to generalise. Our socioeconomic backgrounds, the relationships we have with our family, the behavioural traits we have as individuals and how we identify. All these things and more shape who we are and the way we shoot.
If you look at the work of Robert Frank, his images were full of empathy and had a gentle touch to them. From photographs of children, couples embracing and racial tension - he really had the ability to hold you to an image and make you feel. Just take a look at his work in Paris - Robert Frank, Paris
In terms of my answer to the question, my instincts would say that no gender does not make us see differently as street photographers. Of course as one group we do have a wide range of eyes and a variable amount of ways that we all tell stories through our work. However, I feel our gender does not play as much of part as does our life experience - which is extremely complex in comparison to what sex we were born.
I’m glad the question has been asked though. It created an excellent conversation amongst a section of the street photography community, which for me is always a positive thing. And whichever side you are on, right now neither can be fully sure of the answer.
So, how could we get the answer?
Discussing the topic with my girlfriend, who has a degree in psychology, she came up with this suggestion…
“You could get a collection of photographs, half taken by male street photographers and the other half by female. Put together a large group of people and present the images to them, without disclosing the gender of the photographer, and ask them if they thought the image was taken by a male or a female. You can then analyse the data and look for trends. This way you would be closer to getting an answer”.
So, Elizabeth what do you say? Fancy working on this together so we can show the street photography world the answer? I’m game if you are.
One thing we can all agree on at this stage, no matter if you’re female or male - from both genders there is some quality work being put out there which puts the field in an extremely healthy place.
To see more work from Elizabeth, be sure to visit her website - https://photographybyelizabethgray.com
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