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What We Learned This Week: How The SF Chronicle Puts Women Photographers On Page A1

By David Schonauer   Thursday January 24, 2019


More photography by women is making the front page.

But not everywhere. And photography by men still predominates newspapers' A1 pages.

According to data compiled by the organization Women Photograph, the San Francisco Chronicle was far and away the leader among major newspapers in publishing A1 lead photographs shot by women in 2018: Forty-one percent of the Chronicle’s A1 images were shot by women, which nearly doubled the newspaper’s 2017 mark of 23.4 percent.

“According to Women Photograph, which promotes women journalists, other publications showed slight increases in 2018, but most continued the practice of publishing A1 images made by men more than 80 percent of the time; for several publications that number was more than 90 percent,” noted PDN this week. “At 26 percent, The Washington Post had the second-highest percentage of A1 lead images by women. Just 5.4 percent of The Wall Street Journal‘s lead images were by women, according to the Women Photograph data.”

“We made a conscientious effort to recruit staff photographers and freelancers that look more like our city,” explained the Chronicle’s director of photography, Nicole Frugé, in an interview with PDN. “Our daily pool of locally produced images is more balanced than in the past. But we don’t choose A1 images based on gender. We do work hard to make sure women are always in the assignment mix for big news stories and freelance gigs.”

The effort to bring women to the Chronicle’s front page began after Women Photograph released data for the year 2017.  “[W]e were surprised to see that even though we did better than other papers, our numbers were much lower [23.4 percent] than they should be,” noted Frugé. “But it helped us figure out that many of our best long-term project shooters are women. Their work, which is some of the best and most important work that we do, was keeping the numbers [for A1 photos] lower than the real gender composition of our staff. So we quickly realized that we needed to be more conscientious about getting female photographers more A1 opportunities when they were on dailies.”

The work by women photographers on the front page of the newspaper changed the Chronicle’s coverage of the world, noted Frugé. “There is a much greater representation of women and people of color in our 2018 Year in Photos than in years prior,” she told PDN. “So yes, I think a diverse team definitely changes the look of a publication like ours.”

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:
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1. After Injury in Libya, Guy Martin Looks at Fantasy in Turkey

In April 2011, photographer Guy Martin was seriously injured in a mortar attack while covering the conflict in Libya. (Two fellow photographers, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, were killed.) It was a year before Martin could walk again and another six months before he wanted to take pictures again. By the end of 2012 he had moved to Istanbul to start a new photographic project, but his experience had changed him, notes the British Journal of Photography, and he began investigating Turkish soap operas. His new book, “The Parallel State,” examines truth and fantasy in Turkey.


2. Dawood Bey Imagines The Paths of Slaves

When Chicago-based artist Dawoud Bey traveled to the outskirts of Cleveland in late 2017, he found a landscape largely unchanged since thousands of slaves had crossed it 200 years ago, seeking freedom in the north. “I ranged far and wide out there,” Bey told Art News, which featured his series “Night Coming Tenderly, Black,” now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. In the work, Bey imagines what escapes slaves might have seen. “The actual path that fugitive slaves took through the landscape was—of necessity—never known,” he said.


3. Heather Perry's Portraits of Maine Shipbuilders

Heather Perry is known for her underwater photography, which has appeared in National Geographic and Smithsonian. But her latest series was shot on dry land: In collaboration with audiographer Hopper McDonough, Perry shot portraits of workers outside Bath Iron Works’ South Gate shipbuilding facility in Bath, Maine. The duo set up a makeshift photo studio across from the shipyard after realizing they lived near the yard but knew nothing about the men and women who worked there. The work is now on view in Maine, noted the Bangor Daily News.


4.  The Lost Paradise of Florida in the 1980s

In 1981, while on assignment for National Geographic, photographer Nathan Benn returned to his home state of Florida, which at the time was seeing a wave of immigration, construction of sprawling tourist destinations like Disney’s Epcot theme Park, and a bloody drug war centered in Miami. Benn’s images of the era are collected in the new book “Peculiar Paradise: Florida Photographs” (powerHouse). Hyperallergic called the monograph “a timely return to this decades-old work” capturing the “dreams and debauchery” of the Sunshine State.
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5. Kate Stanworth Follows a Murga Dance Group in Buenos Aires

Largely unknown outside of Argentina and Uruguay, murga is street theater with an edge, combining dance and percussion. London-based photographer Kate Stanworth first encountered murga in a Buenos Aires park and later, on an assignment for a Buenos Aires newspaper, she began following a murga group as it prepared for carnival. "The project looks at how being part of the group is a kind of salvation, and about their shared dreams of escape and the love and dedication they have for one other," she told us. Her series was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 7 competition.
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At top: from Nathan Benn

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