It’s 2021, Canon


CHINA CONSTRUCTS | Louise Nichole Logarta

The creative industry in the Philippines is packed with journalists, writers, content creators, videographers, photographers, graphic artists and everything in between. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, genders…and it should go without saying that none of these things can or should define or predict the kind of work we produce.

Camera and electronics brand Canon Philippines recently unveiled their lineup for the Canon Crusader of Light Brand Ambassador Program. I admit I don’t know a lot about the photography industry, but they must be exceptionally good in their respective fields to have been chosen. There’s just one problem—they’re all guys.

In this day and age, a company or an established brand would have to be suicidal to make such a gaffe. Particularly a brand which has as its users an industry teeming with Filipino female talents. It should also be noted that Canon prides itself in its diversity and inclusion and that their core value is “kyosei”, which they described in their statement as “living and working together for the common good.”

Take note that one of these selected ambassadors is a foreigner (their pick for the Travel category), a slot they could have saved for at least one female or LGBTQ+ photographer.

Apparently the only diversity and inclusion that they do is in terms of the categories which each male representative belongs to: filmmaking, photojournalism, fine art, fashion, advertising, you name it.

Following the heavy flak that came quickly after they announced their all-male ambassadors, Canon issued a statement—which has been dubbed by some as a non-apology— that read: “Members are evaluated through their professional expertise and consistent brand support.” Without taking anything away from the distinction these guys have achieved in their field, Canon’s statement indirectly said that no female photographers were good enough. And as a female myself, that’s hard to believe.

There is no industry anywhere in the world that a woman has not broken into. What these industries do have in common is the fact that that woman most likely had to fight tooth and nail to show she deserved that space.

Canon dug its grave even deeper with damage control, but it was haphazard at best. Text messages were sent out to female photographers for what they called “Canon Professional Lady Shooters”, a campaign name that bears a note of condescension. They also made it clear that there would be no monetary deal, only “online workshops and other photography engagements.” As if that was not bad enough, they were asked to just send their PROFILE PICTURES, not their portfolio.

The mind boggles.

One male ambassador has since stepped down, Jilson Tiu. On Facebook, here is an excerpt of what he wrote: “I love Canon cameras, so far, it’s been my partner for a decade of my photography career. What I don’t like is they didn’t apologize for the mistake that they’ve done. They should make up for it and apologize publicly. Thank you Canon…I will continue to use your camera as a tool, but I don’t want to be an ambassador to a brand that doesn’t align with my principles.

“Paalam at salamat, magkaiba tayo ng daan na nilalakaran,” he ended.
On a more personal note, this is upsetting to me, because I am part of the creative industry. I have some good friends who are also in the creative industry. It’s highly competitive and you have to be good at what you do.

You have to continually hone your skills and be innovative. Not only have I experienced having to fight for something as basic as getting paid—and this is a real problem—but also proving to clients and peers that what you do is worth valuing.

The world is tough, they say—try being a woman. And if this is the case, Canon yet again missed the boat by failing to look for LGBTQ+ creatives as well. Professionally and personally, they are unfortunately the most overlooked and marginalized.

Our work and identity as members of the industry—regardless of sex and gender—should be accorded the respect and recognition it deserves.

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