Interview with Journalist, Editor, and Photographer, Angela Nicholson
Angela Nicholson is a journalist, editor, and photographer, as well as the director of Camera Jabber and founder of SheClicks. SheClicks is a Facebook community for female photographers. I spoke with Angela about her work and plans for SheClicks.
Thanks for chatting with me Angela. Let’s start with your background and how you got into photography journalism?
I actually started out working in environmental science and worked for the Environment Agency. But I was always interested in photography and felt that I had taught myself as much as I could. By this point, I had switched to working two part-time jobs and when a friend mentioned a part-time degree, I knew I needed to have more formal training. I stopped one of my jobs and did a part-time photography degree at the University of Westminster in Harrow.
After graduating I did event and freelance photography alongside my job, before applying for a job as the technical writer at Amateur Photography Magazine. I was promoted to Technical Editor, before moving to Future Publishing in 2010 as the Head of Testing for their photography portfolio. In August 2016, I went freelance and set up Camera Jabber with two friends – a photography news, reviews, and tutorial site. SheClicks came into fruition in August 2018.
What made you decide to start SheClicks?
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My partner had been saying for ages that I should do something specifically for women and I had been thinking about it for a while. I knew it would be difficult to do, but a client and friend in the States gave me a nudge and told me about communities in the US that worked. #MeToo had started to make an impact and I felt there was a place for a Facebook group for women interested in photography.
Women want to engage via social media. I was talking to the team at The Photography Show and they said that 36% of their online followers are women. But not even a third of the visitors to the show are women! As a journalist I find that at a lot of the press events I go to, I’m the only woman. One launch I went to had over 100 journalists and only two of them were female.
I had a light bulb moment when I led some photo walks at Wilkinson Camera’s show, ‘Digital Splash’. Most of the walks consisted of ten men and two women, but one walk was reversed with more women than men. When I asked the women why they’d all signed up with me, the overwhelming consensus was that I wouldn’t patronise them. It made me realise that women feel more comfortable learning from other women. SheClicks is designed to be a resource – women asking other women for assistance.
As a fellow female journalist and photographer, I’m interested in your thoughts on sexism in the industry. Do you think, as I do, that it’s still an issue in certain ways?
I think there is sexism in the industry but it’s casual, not deliberate. Events are geared toward men. Look at The Photography Show (and other industry shows). They are working hard to improve things, but it used to all be booth-babes. Even today, companies make mistakes. One manufacturer recently put up pictures of a model dressed as Ariel (from The Little Mermaid) pouting at one of their lenses. To be fair, they have come back and apologised but it’s a lack of thinking. I tend to draw the analogy of someone suggesting a fun workday and deciding on a crazy tie day. It automatically rules women out.
How do you think women differ from men when it comes to shooting?
Women have an emotional connection to images, for men, it’s more technical. So there’s a natural inclination for women’s photography to be more interesting. But there are always lots of conversations on SheClicks about women not having confidence in their work. I personally am always excited by new technology and what you can do with it. However, while you need to understand your camera, you don’t have to know everything!
My advice for those starting out is to strip it back, start with a few aspects of your camera and then add things in. For example, you could set your camera to one Aspect Ratio and experiment with that for a week, or use one lens and shoot with one aperture and one shutter speed. And develop your compositional skills and be aware of composition. An image has to have a great composition.
Moving back to SheClicks, what are your plans for the future with the group?
The group was set up to be a resource for women. We’ve now over 4000 members and we’re only a year old. It’s a safe and supportive space, without negativity and I don’t need to police the group – women get it! We started out as a core group of enthusiasts but we’re now recruiting lots of pros, as well as beginners who have bought cameras and discover that they need help.
Olympus UK is sponsoring an exhibition of the group’s work at the end of September, which is really exciting. We want to help women get access to kit and experiences that they might not feel comfortable asking for and I’d like to help more women become ambassadors for manufacturers.
We have a website in the pipeline, which will basically make some of the content we create in Facebook easier to access. There are going to be opportunities for people to submit blogs, which will be public but we will also have a private section of the site to post meet-ups and webinars. The website will complement the Facebook group, which will continue as a place for conversation, image sharing, and support.
I would like SheClicks to achieve things – we need to grow and get people to notice. I want to see parity between men and women and see more women gaining in confidence. Let’s see more female pros doing talks and being ambassadors, alongside manufacturers including us in the consultation process.