Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Op-Ed by Ellen Rennard

Today we are proud to re-post a recent entry from Ellen Rennard's Blog Quinntessence as part of our Op-Ed Series.

Johanna tracking © Ellen Rennard

"Eliminating Gender Bias in Fine Art Photography"

Here's what I think: the art world needs to take a page from the blind auditions used to hire musicians for many symphony orchestras. Starting in the 1970s, symphonies revised audition procedures for job applicants to include the use of "screens" to prevent audition committees from actually seeing the musician whose playing they were evaluating, and, no surprise, more women were chosen. Why not adopt this kind of an approach to the visual arts? For example, in juried shows or for grant competitions, jurors could select images or portfolios without knowing the artists' names. It should go without saying (but probably doesn't) that every effort must also be made to select jurors with some eye toward gender equity -- equal numbers of men and women on panels, or a man one year and a woman the next, and so forth.

In case you are irrational enough to think that gender bias doesn't exist in fine art photography, check out this paragraph from a recent review by Alex Hanson of a current photograph exhibition at Dartmouth's Hood Museum:

"Much of the reportage and fine art photographs are by men, while most of the female photographers' work is relegated to a small section grouped in the guide as 'Picturing Childhood.' This appears as a gaping oversight that neglects such serious journalists as [Mary Ellen] Mark, Esther Bubley, who shot more than 40 assignments for Life after 1951, Susan Meiselas, Eve Arnold and Martine Franck."

Ellen Rennard is a photographer, a writer and teacher of literature and writing at Groton School in Massachusetts.

1 comment:

Colleen Plumb said...

Ellen--Thank you for this post. (and for your superb blogging). Have you seen the documentary 'Who Does She Think She Is'?
Speaks beautifully to this. Check out their blog: http://www.whodoesshethinksheis.net/

Pass it on so that this film is seen by more people. It is screening in Canada right now.