With the digital platform Elles font la culture, the French Ministry of Culture intends to help women and gender minorities develop their careers.
While they are the majority in photography school (68% between 2018 and 2020), women photographers tend to disappear afterwards (38% of French photographers are women). For Laurie Chapotte, co-leader of the Ministry of Culture’s Digital Workshop and a member of the Elles font la culture team, “there is a real knot around the age of thirty, often linked to motherhood, at which point we see a dropout on the part of women.”
In order to combat this withdrawal and keep women in the profession, the Ministry of Culture and the Digital Workshop launched the digital platform Elles font la culture in January 2021, whose five members are working to determine appropriate solutions. Initially a survey was conducted among photographers, galleries, institutions and associations in order to define the problems encountered by women photographers but also the solutions already in place, notably thanks to the association Filles de la Photo and the collective La Part des Femmes, which have been actively working on this subject for several years.
The difficulties identified are varied, as Sarah Witt, in charge of deployment for Elles font la culture, points out: “the user clubs we organized highlighted several problems, related to precariousness, isolation, low visibility of opportunities, lack of legitimacy due to the absence of female role models in important positions, lack of technical and professional resources when leaving school, as well as gender-based violence and harassment.
Based on these findings, several initial digital tools were developed, some still in the testing phase. A Resources page with several articles and videos provides advice for the daily life of a woman photographer, whether it is time management during motherhood, pricing, organizing a first exhibition or joining a collective. A list of grants, calls for projects and residencies offered in France has also been put online, allowing a better visibility of available support.
In order to encourage mutual aid and to reinforce the link between women photographers, portfolio readings are proposed. Time for exchange has also been organized through webinars and online conferences. The topics covered range from the legal and accounting options available to the status of photographer to the behind-the-scenes of fashion photography, including explanations on how to put together an application. Sample applications have been gathered in an online library, accessible to all.
The first feedbacks encourage the members of Elles font la culture to continue on this path of digital tools that facilitate the process. Nevertheless, the question of the institutions’ share arises. The structures that host and exhibit these photographers must also take a step towards more parity. To challenge them, the platform of the ministry has designed a parity index which Chloé Witt and Laurie Chapotte have “great hope that it will move things.” Recently published, it indicates for now the proportion of women in management positions and photographers exposed. Their incubators hope to get more details on the organizational charts to make it more accurate.
By setting up this efficient platform, the Ministry of Culture is betting on digital technology to make the profession less permeable. Will the mentalities follow, we hope so. In any case, Elles font la culture seems to have proven itself on the side of women photographers. The wish of its creators is to expand to other professions.