In a time when it’s getting more obvious that women are working their asses off but not getting the same amount of pay or recognition as their male peers, women are taking matters into their own hands and championing each other instead.

For photography – a profession for some and passion project for others – the imbalance between men and women is prevalent and sparked Aussie photographer Cybele Malinowski to dive deeper into the issue to figure out exactly how she can shift things and ultimately tip the scales when it comes to photographers getting jobs further into their career.

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#freethemuse in collab with my muse @halcyonpowe Between having two babies over the past three years I’ve been working on another baby that is coming to life today! @agender_au is a celebration of the talent and success of some of Australia’s most revered female photographers. Please pretty please add @agender_au 👍 Through celebrating and exploring how these women got to where they got I am hoping we can learn how we can get more women to the top. We’ve come a long way from even when I started photography 12 years ago, but we’ve still got a long way to go for wage parity and equal opportunities for women within photography. Through banding together with agencies, magazines, big companies, let’s work out where the gaps are, and how we can bridge them. Women consume the ads, the fashion, the magazines, but there simply aren’t enough women shooting it. @workhorse_studio @canonaustralia

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In March, Cybele launched AGENDER – a collective of photographers from art, fashion, and advertising industries (aka the commercial ones where photographers are paid well, but are less likely to be women), kicking things off with a big exhibition in Sydney on International Womens Day, where works from the country’s most talented female photographers like Michele Aboud, Danielle Harte, Liz Ham, Carlotta Moye, Cara O’Dowd, Anna Pogossova, Juliet Taylor, and Petrina Tinsley were featured for five days in Hyatt Regency‘s heritage-listed cafe.

The main objectives of AGENDER are to not only champion women in the industry, but to also help maintain and support women in the commercial industry when their careers naturally plateau.

PEDESTRIAN.TV recently sat down with Cybele to chat AGENDER; what was the moment that made her realise something needed to change, her goals for the year, AGENDER’s purpose within the creative world, and how they’re shaking things up from deep within the advertising and commercial photography industry.

There was a day when a thought turned into an action – Agender. I picked up an Aussie fashion magazine, they had a ‘Womens Issue’, awesome! I picked it up and on the cover was a prepubescent girl representing ‘women’ and I just turned the page, dealt with that, and every single editorial in the magazine was photographed by men, and yet all of the models were women. There were a couple of female writers and a couple of female stylists – I think most of the hair and make-up people were women – but there was not one female photographer. 

I put the magazine down and was like “Oh, maybe it’s all just a coincidence, don’t think too deeply into it” like I always have to tell myself. Then I went to a massive photography event that day, and some of the best photographers in Australia were there – it was a room full of about 60 people or so. Out of those 60 people, six of them were female, and three of them worked for the company. So there were three female photographers in the room and it was that, with the magazine happening in the same day, I was like “This isn’t in my head. This is for real.”

After realising the severe under-use of women behind the lens in commercial shoots, Cybele began to research what exactly was happening that edged women out of the competition when it came to the commercial side of the photography business.

If you look at the trajectory of men and women within creative industries, you see that men’s wages are slightly above women when they’re 18, and then their incomes increase and the gap starts to open up. But something crazy happens just before 35 – both of their careers start to plateau. That’s because you’ve kinda reached the pinnacle of that industry. But interestingly enough, a man’s income continues to slowly increase, whereas a woman’s full-time income decreases. So we’re not talking about the fact that they’re working less, this is FULL TIME work, it’s that their perceived value has decreased. This is insane!

She also wants to see AGENDER become a support network of mentors and younger photographers, and says that she’s also working on some scholarships for regional and rural photographers, who might be missing out on commercial-level opportunities because of their location and access to equipment – which easily gets very expensive.

We definitely are looking at some mentorship programs and we’re looking at some prizes for less-advantaged photographers. Most inner-city people who know the right people, have the right gear, have parents who have gear – we’re just perpetuating the same story as image makers. I’m really excited about actually tapping into young female photographers outside of urban areas and seeing their story.

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@moses #mosessumney #moses #laneway

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Cybele doesn’t want AGENDER to just be a once-a-year exhibition that packs up after International Womens Day and comes back the next year. Her plans for the rest of 2018 are to focus on working from the starting point of campaigns with agencies in Australia, making sure that women are not subconsciously (and consciously) being removed from the creative process.

After the opening, I did quite a few presentations to a few big companies – yeah, really scary for me. I mean I’m a photographer and I’m really comfortable behind the camera! But it’s triggered interest in quite a few different big companies, and that’s what I’m finding really exciting. At the moment we’re in talks about how they can implement change in their companies.

Starting to work with big brands is a real push of mine. AGENDER isn’t about ‘us and them’. We wanna work together with the powers that be – whether that be big companies or men – it’s about raising awareness, that’s the first step and that’s what we’re doing right now. The next step is actualising change, which is why I said before…AGENDER will definitely be a platform of some sort to showcase women, and most certainly for suggesting women and pushing them forward for different jobs, but we actually really want to help create change within these bigger powers and work with them to create that.

You can follow everything that Cybele and the AGENDER team are up to over on Instagram, and get inspired to stick it to the man.