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Welcome to Women’s History Month!

By March 5, 2021No Comments
Hey girls! Don't be afraid of getting a little dirty or looking a little less than feminine. I may not look the prettiest in my mud-stained waders, but I sure do like staying dry when getting low-angle shots in water. © Dawn Wilson
Hey girls! Don’t be afraid of getting a little dirty or looking a little less than feminine. I may not look the prettiest in my mud-stained waders, but I sure do like staying dry when getting low-angle shots in water. © Dawn Wilson

By Dawn Wilson, NANPA President

There have been numerous female photographers who have paved the way for other photographers by taking thought-provoking and emotional images from the early days of photography.

Inspirational Female Photographers

Dorthea Lange, a documentary photographer during the Great Depression, has been recognized for her influence on photojournalistic styles.

Other inspirational female photographers include Anna Atkins (published the first book with photographic illustrations), Christina Broom (first female press photographer), Virginia Schau (first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography), Annie Leibovitz (first woman to have an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery), and many others.

Do a Google search for percentage of women in photography, however, and you will get pages and pages of articles and reports about how underrepresented women are in the industry.

Kering, a Paris-based luxury-goods company that owns Gucci, among other brands, provided a quote for a 2019 New York Times article that stated, “About 75 percent of the photography students around the world are women, but only about 15 percent manage to turn their skills into a career.”

Another article published in Time in 2015, discussed how women photojournalists were more educated, more likely to grow a following on social media, and more digitally savvy, yet the authors presented data showing that women were less likely to be employed as photographers, and those that were, made less than their male counterparts.

Nature photography is no different.

Look at highly respected photo contests. Historically men have been the recipients of the highest-level awards. The first woman to win Wildlife Photographer of the Year was NANPA member, Wendy Shattil. This didn’t happen until 1990, 25 years after the contest started, and only two other women have achieved this coveted prize since then.

Images in photo contests are judged without knowledge of who took the photograph, so the question I ponder is, “Why, then, do so few women get represented in the top prizes?”

I don’t have a specific answer for this, but it certainly is an interesting observation.

This low-angle shot of a willet feeding in the shallow water was just one of many I took this winter along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi while wearing those pretty waders. © Dawn Wilson
This low-angle shot of a willet feeding in the shallow water was just one of many I took this winter along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi while wearing those pretty waders. © Dawn Wilson

NANPA’s Female Members

NANPA members, like Susan McElhinney, Jennifer Leigh Warner, Kathy Adams Clark, Michele Westmorland, and Alyce Bender, to name just a few, work with Girls Who Click, an organization founded by NANPA member Suzi Eszterhas, to encourage and inspire young female nature photographers.

Her Wild Vision, a directory of professional women conservation photographers and filmmakers, was recently launched by NANPA members, Jaymi Heimbuch and Morgan Heim.

Every NANPA Board of Directors since our founding in 1994, has included at least one woman, with four boards being majority women and eight years being led by a woman president. And for almost ten years, Susan Day has been at the helm as Executive Director.

Many female NANPA members lead teams for unique, original, and impactful conservation projects. For example, Krista Schlyer has developed several projects raising awareness about human impacts on wildlife, including one about the issues caused by the U.S.-Mexico border wall. And NANPA member, Amy Gulick recently released a book — The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind — talking about the connection between Alaskans and salmon. 

But there is still more to do. There is still more that can be done. And there is still a lot to accomplish.

There is no reason us girls can’t get dirty out there with the best of the boys taking nature photos.

What does that Jeep bumper sticker say? “Best things in life mess up your hair!”

I live in Colorado where we have a lot of big mammals. Although I am not the only woman that photographs charismatic megafauna, I am definitely one of a few in larger groups of men. At first this was a little intimidating, but over the years I have become very good friends with the guys I have met in the field who I share my interest with for appreciating the beauty of these majestic animals of the Rocky Mountains. © Dawn Wilson
I live in Colorado where we have a lot of big mammals. Although I am not the only woman that photographs charismatic megafauna, I am definitely one of a few in larger groups of men. At first this was a little intimidating, but over the years I have become very good friends with the guys I have met in the field who I share my interest with for appreciating the beauty of these majestic animals of the Rocky Mountains. © Dawn Wilson

Ways to Get Involved

So here are a few ways to make your impact in the world of nature photography — whether you are a man or woman.

Host a Sip and Share, or sign up to participate in one. These free, informal events are a great way to connect with other NANPA members about various topics. You can see a complete list of upcoming dates and submit your own idea here.

Attend Summit. This bi-annual event is going virtual this year, and that means you can learn from the best nature photographers in the field and network with others passionate about the outdoors from the comfort of your own home. Check out the list of events for this two-day online program (April 29-30, 2021) here.

Listen in to The Nature Photographer Podcast. Now in its fifth month, this bi-monthly program connects you with inspiring nature photographers. Upcoming topics and guests include Suzi Eszterhas, Steven David Johnson, Krisztina Scheeff, and your questions answered. Subscribe through your favorite podcast platform or listen here.

Want to get involved? Consider volunteering for a committee. There are numerous options available for a variety of interests. One of our newest is for the development of a new NANPA website. For more info about volunteering, click here.

Keep letting our membership and marketing teams know about your projects. There may be ways to share the news, like writing a blog or being interviewed on the podcast.

Do you have ideas for events or topics you want to learn more about? Reach out to us.

“A woman is like a tea bag; you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” ~Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

Let’s stay positive. We are in this together.