OUT OF FOCUS AND IN THE WAY
Meet the photographer prepared to battle the patriarchy in the music photography industry
Written by Emma Canning
The lights flash in a cold, musty warehouse in Okehampton in mid-February.
The sound of the rain hammering on the roof being drowned out by the clicking of the camera and the band laughing and joking, enjoying their evening studio shoot for their upcoming singles. The band is Quorum. A young, four-piece, all-male, indie band popular in the local gig scene. The photographer is Chloe Pollard: a 20-year-old Press and Editorial Photography student looking to make her mark in the male-dominated world of music photography.
Ever since her first live show at a local festival in Yeovil, Somerset five years ago, she has had a love and passion for studio and music photography. “To me, it’s a way of preserving memories,” she says. “When I see a photograph that I’ve taken I can see the moment I took it as if I was there… I really love representing other talents, especially musicians so that others can feel as though they’re there too.”
Even though Chloe has a clear idea of where she wants her career to go, that wasn’t always the case. “I didn't study it at school and was pretty adamant I didn't want to… I started taking photos on my old iPod touch but didn’t think I was particularly good.” But as she was progressively encouraged by family and college tutors photography snuck its way in and now, Falmouth-based, Chloe has goals greater than a local gig, “the main goal is to be a music tour photographer and to travel the world photographing in some of the most amazing music venues in the world. That’s the dream!”
The Rezner © Chloe Pollard Photography
The Rezner performing at The Junction in Plymouth © Chloe Pollard Photography
Jordan Hookway (Quorum) at ShebFest 2019 © Chloe Pollard Photography
That’s the dream, but the reality is the struggle has only just begun. Photography remains stubbornly male-dominated even though women were some of the industry’s biggest pioneers, such as Anna Atkins, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Virginia Oldoini. In 2019 data collected by Women Photograph – an initiative launched to support and promote female photographers, shows that between April and June of that year eight of the world’s leading newspapers printed far fewer lead photographs by women than by men.
It was shown, in British and American censuses, that by 1900 there were more than 7,000 professional women photographers. It was a time when women having a profession was unusual and yet they made up 20% of the photography industry. Now, when more women than ever are putting their careers first, it is estimated that 75% of photography students around the world are female, yet only 15% of those students are successful in turning those skills into a profession. In her five-year career, Chloe has said to have "only met one other female music photographer."
While the photography industry’s lack of diversity is undoubtedly a bad thing, for Chloe it occasionally has its perks. “Your typical music photographer is a middle-aged white man which, to be honest works in my favour because it means bands remember me.” Standing out in such a competitive industry is no small feat and will be an advantage, however, is it worth dealing with the sexism and discrimination that certainly comes with it? Most women have or will face discrimination in the workplace with a survey showing that around 81% of women have been victims of sexist jokes at work and 51% experiencing unwanted sexual touching and for Chloe and other female photographers that can mean, “getting searched a lot because it’s an opportunity for men to touch a younger woman.”
Not only is that disgusting and derogatory but it can affect women on an emotional and psychological level. One hundred years ago people on the outside didn't know what went on behind closed doors and could likely get away with a lot more than they could today. Now thanks to movements such as #MeToo, the sexual imbalance couldn’t be more apparent and because of this many women may think twice about going into a profession, such as photography, that is so heavily dominated. For Chloe the choice to move forward with photography has resulted in her needing to develop a thick skin to help her cope and hopefully thrive. "I was well aware, coming into this career, that I'd have to work twice as hard as a man to get what I want.”
Chloe's career is only just beginning but it is clear the inequality isn't reserved for those at the top of the profession. "Last year I was hired by a band that I'd been working with for three years as head of their media team. I was the only woman on the team, and the youngest. Four of the five lads I was working with weren’t happy about it and one of them took it upon himself to take my job title and order me around. That really hurt at the time, especially when I stood up for myself and still wasn't listened to by both my colleagues and my friends within the band.”
Behind-the-scenes shot of Chloe shooting Quorum for their new singles
Quorum © Chloe Pollard Photography
Single cover © Chloe Pollard Photography, Quorum
Despite this, which ultimately resulted in Chloe and the band parting ways, it gave her experience and helped her build a portfolio that not only helped her get her place at university but aided her in building a name for herself in the southwest. It was working with this band at a gig last year that ended with her meeting Quorum. It is clear when watching Chloe interact with Quorum that there is a level of mutual respect and admiration for each other’s work. Quorum trust Chloe’s vision and art direction for their shoot as they are eager to hear her ideas and are thrilled with the pictures they see, with frontman Jordan Hookway stating, “you know what you’re doing, we trust what you’ll come up with.”
No matter the industry, women are likely to always need to work harder than men to get where they want and make their mark, but that is something Chloe is 100% prepared to do. “I love my job too much to quit over a petty man who’s scared because a young woman can do the same thing he can. Perseverance and a thick skin are needed in this industry it’s just about having the courage and faith in yourself to get through the hard parts but for me, it’s definitely worth it.”
Chloe is currently in her third year at Falmouth university during which time she is building her portfolio through a multitude of shoots which can be seen on her website chloepollardphotography.com. Her recent collaborative project Chalk Magazine, an online publication featuring reviews, interviews and gig guides for local music in the South West, can be found at officialchalkmagazine.com.
Interview by Emma Canning
Emma Canning is the creator of Emma's Chapter, which is primarily a book blog consisting of book reviews, cover reveals, blog tours, weekly memes and lots more!
Emma is currently a third-year student at Falmouth University where she studies Journalism and Creative Writing with the hope of going into pop culture journalism and the world surrounding the film and television industry.
Check out some of her reviews here!
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