BENGALURU: It’s no secret that photography is a male-dominated field. But Anna Fox and Karen Knorr, leading documentary photographers from Great Britain, have art and photography in their DNA. At a discussion at Cinnamon Boutique, Ulsoor, organised by Museum of Art and Photography, the duo voiced concerns about lack of opportunities for women who want to pursue a career as a documentary photographer/photojournalist. “I cannot think of going away to Afghanistan in the blink of an eye without making arrangements back home,” says Fox. “Magnum agency, the biggest photo agency in the world, comprises only 6 per cent of women, of whom only one is a mother.
Royal Photographic society in England has 11,000 members, of which only 2,000 are women, including me. I am the honorary chairman for women in photography,” says Knorr, who was born in the US but raised in Puerto Rico. To help her take her journey further with the history of arts, her father sent her to France, where she took up painting lessons. Once, she attended an independent workshop, which was started especially for women in the 19th century as women were excluded from the fine arts academy in those days.
“These classes included nude life classes and women who went anywhere close to nudity were branded ‘loose’,” she says. Eventually, she moved to London and started collaborating with photographers and attended a part-time school to pursue higher studies.
UK-born Fox used to join her father, an amateur photographer, in printing his black and white images, which got her excited about the art. She took it up seriously and her mother’s literature background helped her structure and narrate stories.
Knorr and Fox agree that fine arts help understand photography better. Knorr says it helps one absorb the finer details of lighting and long drawing sessions give you an eye for detail. “Many photographers refer to painting for lighting and framing as well. A reflection of my favourite artists can be found in my work,” says Fox.
Talking about the challenges of women in photography and why the gender ratio is so skewed, they say the society is patriarchal and the role of women in a society is defined quite differently. “In economically challenged sections of the society, women are doing all kind of odd jobs to make ends meet. This does not leave them with enough time to think about themselves. All well-known women photographers don’t have children, which feels like a sign,” says Fox.