Lexar’s ‘Elite Photographers’ Roster Was Entirely Men and That’s Absurd

Lexar Elite Photographers gaffe
Lexar’s mistakes with its recent Elite Photographer 2024 selections go far beyond the typo in Lexar’s graphic.

Famous memory card maker Lexar announced its (now outdated) 2024 roster of “Lexar Elite Photographers” this week, and many online commenters quickly noticed something each of the seven photographers have in common: They’re all men.

“Ruh roh! There’s a common theme with your choice of elite,” writes Australian photographer Melissa Findley on Instagram, alluding to the lack of diversity.

“Silly of me to think women could be elite photographers,” adds Iceland-based photographer and videographer Kyana Sue Powers.

“These are all great photographers, that’s clear. But… surely, you could have found at least one female photographer that’s on par with them. At least one? No?” asks travel content creator Eva zu Beck.

“You’re a great brand, but you could’ve done much better. There’s a million insanely talented women photographers there doing new things. And they actually interact and represent the community,” writes adventure photographer Ryan Resatka. “Not sure if this was intentionally selected or done by one of your agencies for targeted marketing but yeah…”

“I have been shooting for nine years. I have seen it all with brands excluding female photographers and every year I think to myself, ‘This has to change this year. It will, because I know so many in the industry. So many with so much talent,'” writes photographer Emily Thomas. “And yet, here we are in 2024, with a huge brand saying that ‘elite’ photographers are male… I am disappointed, hurt, and hoping for change. Women deserve to be recognized and admired in an industry where they can contribute so much. Please do better.”

These are but a small sampling of the comments on Lexar’s since-deleted Instagram post announcing its 2024 class of “Lexar Elite Photographers,” and they touch on numerous facets of the issue and why so many people are so troubled by Lexar’s initial selections.

Lexar Elite Photographers gaffe
Lexar has since deleted this Instagram post in which the company announced seven men as their 2024 Elite Photographers.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the initial picks for the 2024 Lexar Elite Photographers. All seven are very talented. Further, despite what some commenters assert, none of the individuals are responsible for Lexar’s exclusively male selections.

The problem is that there are plenty of exceptionally talented women for Lexar to have picked to be part of this brand ambassador group. And let’s be clear, that’s precisely what these photographers are: brand ambassadors. While they all showcase talent in their respective photographic fields, their participation in the Lexar Elite Photographers group is a commercial endeavor meant to market Lexar’s memory cards to a broader audience. It also expands the reach of the selected photographers, not that any of the seven original picks need much help in that department.

The Lexar Elite Photographers are not some group of contest winners. It isn’t like there was some big pool of entrants and a thorough and critical judging process that blindly selected these seven specific men.

This is also not a random selection from some pool of pros, where you could stick your hand in a hat and just so happen to pick out seven men because there are more men in the field. Precisely how photography became a male-dominated field is a much larger and more complex topic, but suffice it to say, it’s the result of many factors, including institutionalized sexism and discrimination.

This is also not some thoroughly exclusive group. It is not like Lexar would have been forced to exclude one of its seven picks to “make room” for a woman or anyone else. This differs from when a university makes admission decisions based on meeting some desired racial makeup.

Lexar concluded — wrongly — that the best way to reach and expand its audience and sell more products to photographers was to enlist these specific people.

Do you know what makes an audience wider? Including women.

Do you know how to connect with a more diverse and more extensive group of photographers? Involving a more diverse group of brand ambassadors.

It seems so simple. I’m not a marketing expert, but I do care about photography, and it’s tiresome seeing how frequently women and people of color must do twice as much work to receive half the recognition.

The situation gives off major vibes of Canon Phillipines’ similar gaffe with its ambassadors in 2021.

Filipino photojournalist Jilson Tiu, who was part of the Canon’s original “Crusaders of Light,” went so far as to quit the program because Canon Philippines failed to apologize for its mistake.

Representation matters, and women are historically woefully underrepresented in photography despite occupying a large and significant role in every genre of photography.

And yeah, maybe this is all a bit rich coming from a white man. I get that. But it is precisely my position that makes it somewhat hard for me to fully understand just how much representation matters for people who are underrepresented and historically marginalized. When people speak up and say something is wrong, it’s my — and everyone else’s — responsibility to listen.

And obviously, Lexar has listened and agreed with some commenters because it has reversed course and deleted its original post. The company has also changed its tune concerning Lexar Elite Photographers dramatically in a new Instagram post:

Lexar Community, we heard you loud and clear regarding our Lexar Elite Photographer selection. You’re correct — we missed the mark. The selection is not an accurate reflection of our amazing community and for that we apologize. We need to do better. And change can’t wait for next year, it needs to happen now.

Starting today we are actively looking for diverse photographers and creators to add to our Lexar Elite Team this year. We are looking for educators, innovators, and photographers who are constantly pushing the boundaries of creativity and technology in order to create stunning images. If you’d like to nominate yourself or someone you know please tag them below.

We appreciate your honest feedback and will continue to look for ways to improve our community with your support and input. Thank you team!

So that’s where we are now. Lexar made a horrible blunder, got hosed in the comments, deleted the original post, and reversed course in response to the criticism.

On the one hand, it’s genuinely baffling that the original choices were all men. If Lexar wanted those seven individuals in particular, which is reasonable, the company could’ve also selected at least a few of the many qualified women to include as part of a bigger roster. Ideally, Lexar would have included photographers from a wider range of racial and cultural backgrounds, too.

That at no point before the 2024 Lexar Elite Photographers were selected and published, did someone say, “Hey, wait a minute,” is still concerning. I’m unsure if there are just not enough different voices in the room, but it’s not a great look.

On the other hand, Lexar heard the feedback and listened, which is excellent. Because people got involved in the discussion and did so with a level of restraint and rationality that, quite frankly, wasn’t wholly deserved, a change for the better is in the works.

In Lexar’s original and new post, many are tagging photographers who are perfect candidates for a revised roster of Lexar Elite Photographers. It’s fantastic to see.

The photography community isn’t always one big happy family, but when it is, we all benefit. Inclusion and representation ensure that more voices are heard, stories are told, and meaningful art is created.

Lexar’s new class of Elite Photographers will surely be more diverse than the original selections. Nonetheless, this is a week that the memory card maker will be keen to forget.