Sexism in Photography: A Story Told Through SEO

Sexism in Photography: A Story Told Through SEO

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ll know that I often write articles about women and the photography industry. As a woman in the photography industry myself, I know that it can often be a harsh and unrelenting place that frequently favours men and their viewpoints.

Things are changing. Slowly. And that is a positive thing that we should all remember. But occasionally I am reminded that the world at large is still a difficult place to be if you’re a woman involved with photography.

To run my online blogging income streams, I use a tool called Ahrefs. It enables me to see who is linking to my websites, what keywords I’m ranking for, and what my competitors are up to. It also allows me to explore new ideas for articles through the use of their keyword explorer tool. Essentially I can put keywords into the tool, and it’ll tell me how many people are looking for that term on Google, as well as giving me a whole load of other data about both that keyword and related keywords.

I’ve not written about women photographers for a while, so I sat down at Ahrefs keyword explorer and entered the phrase “women photographers.” I wanted to see who people are searching for, what kind of articles they’re looking for, and if there are any interesting takes that I could use to inspire some articles of my own.

I don’t know why I was surprised at the results of my search query, but I was. Apparently, I am not yet jaded enough. There were some lovely ideas like “women photographers of WWII and their cameras”, and I was pleased to see the term “black women photographers” moving up the ranking. It is good that people are interested in black women photographers now more than they were before. I’m delighted with that.

But then the uncomfortable related phrases started to come. A question asking how to get women to pose for you. Another about if playboy photographers get erections when photographing beautiful women. Then “woman on woman photographs,” “beautiful women photography,” and “pretty girls photography” amongst others. The list goes on.

I know that these lists of search terms that people are using just reflect the wider world, but the point is that they are indicative of what people are looking for and I find that profoundly frustrating. What these related search terms suggested by the keyword explorer tell me is that people are more interested in women as a subject of a photograph than women as the taker of photographs.

I was heartened, at least, by the fact that people seem interested in the percentage of sports and National Geographic photographers who are women. And there were other interesting questions in there too – women photographers (I assume) are searching for how they might take maternity leave and how long they need to wait after giving birth to go back to work.

Honestly, I was hoping for more issues like this when I brought up the keyword tool. These are the real issues that should be coming up when we’re looking for information about women photographers. Not questions about how to get large groups of women to pose nude for you, or where to find nudes of “young girls” [sic – not my choice of words].

Hopefully, in time we’ll start to see change, and this will be reflected in the internet browsing and searching habits of the world. But until then, I guess I’ll be stuck looking at these frustratingly male-centric SEO suggestions.