Cameramen and Congresswomen: How photojournalists framed female candidates in the Year of the Woman

Presented at the Future of Journalism 2019 conference, Cardiff, UK, September 12-13

Abstract: This paper explores how female politicians were visually depicted in the 2018 midterm elections in the United States. Through a content analysis of published photographs of female candidates from both winning and losing campaigns, this work adds to the body of literature on visual framing in American politics, with a specific focus on women. 2018 showcased a record number of female candidates varying in age, race, sexual orientation and political party, so it is important to understand how women in politics are being visually depicted. This extends to the photographers themselves, especially in gender and race. The demographics of journalists can impact their coverage and while female photojournalists have been around for many years, the field is still traditionally seen as male-dominated, though that is changing. The areas of interest in our content include the nonverbal behaviors depicted in the image, the demographics of the photographers, and the media outlet the image was made for (wire vs. non-wire). A content analysis of 1,093 images reveals most were made by white male photographers, followed by white female photographers, but there is no significant difference in the way the female candidates were portrayed based on the photographer’s demographic. The female candidates were mostly portrayed with positive nonverbal expressions, regardless of political party or house/senate race. This same-ness is explored in the context of controlled election events, while also highlighting the lack of diverse photographers.

Andrea Briscoe  Kyser Lough