New Zealand D-Photo

Assignment | Melissa Nickerson

Oregon-born, Auckland-based photograph­er Melissa Nickerson is fighting back against prejudice and negativity with an empowering series of personal portraits

- WORDS: ADRIAN HATWELL PHOTOS: MELISSA NICKERSON

Commercial photograph­y has a gender problem. Despite the gender ratio of profession­al photograph­ers being about equal, and female-identifyin­g photograph­y students clocking in at 75 per cent, it is estimated that only about 15 per cent of advertisin­g imagery is shot by women.

It is a global situation that many across the world are trying to address but perhaps none so creatively and powerfully as a group of female commercial photograph­ers here in Aotearoa. Women’s Work is a collective, establishe­d by Auckland photograph­er Victoria Baldwin in 2019 — see D-Photo

Issue No. 96 for an in-depth interview — to shine a light on this large gender imbalance while promoting the work of Aotearoa’s many accomplish­ed female commercial photograph­ers.

Auckland-based Melissa Nickerson is one photograph­er involved in the collective. Having worked in the commercial realm for six years, Melissa contribute­d to the inaugural Women’s Work exhibition held on Internatio­nal Women’s Day in 2020, and again on the same day this year. She says the project has really transforme­d the way that she relates to other females in the field.

“They were all my competitio­n,” she explains. “I knew these women because I had gone up against them to get a job or I really admire their work and I find them super intimidati­ng. But after working together on Women’s Work, and having open conversati­ons, supporting each other, offering help and advice, you stop seeing each other as competitio­n and start seeing each other as comrades.”

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