Sunday, June 7, 2009

$1,000 v The 800lb Gorilla

I know there are those out there who think this whole passive racism charge and Duckrabbit's ensuing $1,000 Competition are making a mountain of a molehill. Certainly the people in the photo/art world are amongst the least biased, least prejudicial, and most liberal and progressive on the block. Probably, perhaps... And I'm certainly not accusing anyone at PDN of being an outright bigot. That said, doesn't the very sound of a "24 Member All White Jury" seem just a wee bit out of place in the 21st Century? Personally, it still makes my hair (those remaining) stand on end.

Unconvinced? Let me ask you this- do you think it's pure happenstance that 9 of the 24 (over 1/3) of the judges were female? Or was this the secret trade off for Hillary not being the Democratic Candidate? No, it's certainly not reflective of 50% of the overall population, but it is a very sizable presence. Fortunately, the effort was made. What effort at inclusion was made for people of color, if any? Not even the undisputed solitary token we've all become accustomed to since the sixties- even he or she was not there to relieve the hierarchy of the burden.

Photojournalism has a long history of featuring images of non whites, and while there are now more people of color behind the camera- it's also well past due that we see their faces in positions of decision. That's why we need people of goodwill in all areas of photography to speak up- from publishers and working pros, to the average everyday enthusiast (PDN certainly hasn't). We need Conscientious bloggers everywhere to address the 800lb gorilla. It's the only way to affect change.

And thank you, Benjamin Chesterton, for having the consideration and courage to bring this to the forefront...


Stan B. said...

It's getting kinda lonely here- lotsa hits, but no comments. So I'm compelled to borrow one of duckrabbit's, whose compelling logic I'll assume does PDN proud (unless of course, they explain otherwise):

Photo Grapher:
June 7th, 2009 at 16:31

Dear Mr. Banos,
I don’t even know where to start… Ok, I’ll start where it’s obvious: You are a racist!

You want affirmative action? do you really believe people should get things they don’t deserve just because other people of the same color got the short end of the straw?

Do you want black judges to be chosen just because they are black? How about we make photographers write what race they belong to in their application just so that there are black winners as well?
How about we distribute stamps and make every black photographer stamp his photos with “Black” to make sure a fair number of black photographers get published!

How about the simple fact that the judges in all major competitions never see the name, sex or color of the photographer? Yet, very few photographers or photo editors are black. maybe there are less black people than white people in the world and photography is an international market? Maybe there aren’t as many talented black people in the photo industry as non-black talented photographers?
Where’s the outrage at the under-representation of black classical music conductors?

I tried to think of other examples to slam you with, but all i could think of was Formula 1, Golf, Ballet…

There’s a thing called CHOICE, people chose to do what they want or can do in life, and guess what, most photographers are non-black because more non-black chose to be photographers and got good at it than black photographers.
How about forcing the NBA and NFL to take on more white players? does that make sense to you? how about T A L E N T?

How many famous black photographers do you know? How many of them live in the US (no you can’t use African photographers in your argument since ALL PDN judges live in the US)
Photography is maybe the one profession where your color has 0 impact, please don’t change that. Competitions and editors choose photos, not photographers.
The judges don’t represent the world, they represent the world of photography in Obama’s 21st century. (BTW, is Obama’s photographer black? no. if he was, everybody would say he was chosen for his color)

Choosing to look at everything is terms of color, is, quite simply, RACISM.

Now send me that check you bigot.

BTW, where’s your outrage at the over-representation of women in the judges panel this year? (do the number even closely represent the real ratio in the photo industry?) Where’s your outrage at women-only competitions?

shawn rocco said...

all comments are being left in other places, ie: aphotoeditor, duckrabbit. as the web will have it, the discussion is taking on a life of its own. which is a good thing, no? more places, more talk, more information and education being disseminated.

Stan B. said...


dean powell said...

Hey Stan
Good job! The fact that pdn chose 24 white judges is for sure a blind spot for pdn! It's just the way they operate. It may be true that pdn and others can take this as an opportunity and take another look at their operations, to look at it with a new eye, a new perspective! Thank you for providing that opportunity Stan! Your a good man!!
Dean P.

Stan B. said...

Thanks, Dean! We'll see, we'll see...

Stan B. said...

BTW- The bulk of conversation can be had at Duckrabbit (links- stage right) and at:

Anonymous said...

Stan, a hugely important issue. And there are many ironies. Check out PDN's own November 2000 issue featured an excellent article by Jimmie Briggs, "Whiteout: How the Media Ignores the Perspectives of Minority Photographers." Passive racism, although Briggs doesn't use that phrase, meant that minority photographers were less often hired and that the concerns of minorities were less often address. Briggs and the minority photographers that he interviewed said that the problem stemmed from the lack of people of color in decision-making positions, the lack of mentoring for minority photographers, etc.

Great article, but little has changed even at the magazine that published it.

Another irony... PDN's blog, PDNPulse posted last week on "Documentary Photography's Diversity Problem," which addressed the difficulty that photographers of color have in getting their work noticed and published.

I'll be at Look 3, the Festival of the Photograph, in Charlottesville, Virginia, next week. If the program is anything like those of the first two years, there will be plenty of black, brown, and yellow subjects, and exceedingly few black, brown, and yellow photographers.

Ellen Rennard Photography said...

I'm glad you noticed that women are underrepresented on this judging panel. But here's my question: when panels are made up of a 2/3 majority of men, will work by as many female as male photographers be selected? My best guess is that all to often, it will not. If the jurors are all white, will work by non-white photographers be overlooked? My bet is that it will, if anything, be more likely to be selected. To my mind it gets down to whose work is chosen, and that's where panels have to make sure they're giving women and non-whites equal opportunities.

Stan B. said...

Ellen- Any insight into the reasoning, logic, statistics used to reach your conclusion?