We’ve written many times about the role of diversity in photography and how camera brands represent themselves through their ambassador programs. In the past, the statistics have been grim. Part of the bias towards older white men is an echo of the legacy and historical reality of professional photography. But with the democratization of photography resulting from digital photography and the spread of camera phones, one could argue that the current male dominated ambassador programs simply showed a lack of imagination and will.
There are those who will say, “Who cares about the the gender, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation of a photographer? Shouldn’t photos be judged on technical merit, artistic composition and a certain je ne sais quoi that speaks to the viewer?
Yes, of course. But that is not the issue at hand.
Even from the most capitalistic point of view, a brand is best served economically by having spokespeople who represent their potential customers. Photography is not about a globetrotting National Geographic photographer capturing exotic lands. It’s not about a food photographer. It’s not about a transgendered individual shooting LGBTQ stories. It’s not about a concert photographer, or a vainglorious social media star who excels at selfies. Photography is about all of it. Photography captures the lives of billions, and consumers want to connect and be inspired by people like themselves. Smart brands embrace this fact as a part of their marketing.
With that in mind, I was inspired to see the announcement of Nikon USA’s newest Ambassadors: 6 women and 4 men, of which 3 are people of color. In the entire program, 13 of 33 (40%) Nikon Ambassador’s are now women. Four of 33 (12%) are POC. One is an Iraq War veteran. They shoot everything from hardcore photojournalism to boudoir.
Yes, the entire ambassador program could be more diverse. But the selection of the most recent 10 is a stake in the ground that shows that Nikon has been listening and is willing to commit to diversity in the faces of the brand. If you think diversity doesn’t matter, don’t worry – you’re not the target demographic. But for many, the announcement is near picture perfect.