Women’s Month Series: Jill Silva on Equal Work Culture
Women’s representation and participation in all facets of society is a basic right. They make up nearly half the population of the world but across all sectors of society, they continue to be underrepresented.
Although there are movements to progress women’s rights, the changes are slow. Women up to this day are still perceived as more inferior than men because of their gentleness and sensitivity.
Building a sustainable future for all includes inclusivity.
As we progress, we need our society to realize that there is power and strength in feminine qualities. Women deserve equal work, equal voice, and equal opportunities.
How many more women need to stand up for people to realize their worth?
Read how a passion for photography steered this Filipina woman to overcome the deeply rooted patriarchal norms and traditions through being demure gentle, and soft in the photo-taking industry.
What made you love photography, and when did it start?
My childhood dream was to become an artist because I loved drawing, and it seemed to be the only thing I was good at and was invested in growing up. When I was 13, I grew out of it, but I still loved art. My first camera was my mom’s blackberry phone. My family would spend the weekend at the beach back in the day. One day as I was taking photos of random stuff that caught my attention, the process became more exciting and magical for me, mainly because I had just been introduced to photography. It’s amazing how different the world looked from a certain angle.
“You have an eye for photography”, wrote a teacher who was a veteran in the field on my Facebook post of those photos at the beach. That kind of sparked the beginning of my photography journey.
It was in college that I was able to explore more of the craft. Beautiful views looking out to the sea, tree-lined paths, and a lovely subject in a sheer dress give me this calm and peace that I don’t seem to find anywhere else. The goal was to share that peace and softness with the hard world. I always find myself daydreaming, and nostalgia is my favorite feeling. I try to translate that into my photos. Hence, the dreamy look which I’ve become most recognized by friends and some clients.
What were the challenges you faced when you started as a photographer?
I’m very introverted and an overthinker. I have this inferiority complex that always gets in the way of everything I do. I was officially introduced to the industry by male photographer friends, and I’ve only ever worked once with a female. I worked as a “second shooter” in all our events, which was still a big role to play, there was always this notion in my mind that I had to be “as good as the guys”, even when I know we have different ways and approaches. But mainly because they’ve had more experience than I do, and growing up, I had this image of them as the better, the smarter, and the stronger gender. I admit I wasn’t as confident and as firm as them, or because of the thought that they got into the industry first and guy’s discovered photography first.
One struggle also is society’s immature view of the unconventional and of things in general. People in our community still have a long way to go when it comes to embracing art and giving value to artists and their work. It’s a huge struggle for artists, others might think it’s easy without knowing the amount of time and effort that go into the preparation and visualizing layouts for a shoot, from the styling to the set designs, and how tedious it is to make adjustments on the camera settings as well as the lighting. Oftentimes, clients take advantage of my calm and gentle aura that they nag and demand more from me.
“Ohh he definitely knows what he’s doing,” “Oh he’s so cool,” “He’s using big lens on his camera, he must be really good.” These are the few and constant sayings that I hear from my clients. I bet if I were a masculine guy, they’d trust me.
One time, I bumped into my high school teacher. She asked me what I do now for a living, and I mentioned I was a photographer and gave me a disappointed look as her response made me feel like I achieved less in life. Some high school friends would even say that I need to get my life together and that, I look better working in a corporate setup.
Were there occasions where you were given unfair treatment because of your gender?
There were a couple of times, clients don’t intend to pay the full price of what my work is worth and would negotiate my fee asking for a bigger discount even if I already charge below the minimum rate. I would feel that they don’t see the worth of my photos. I later realized that I need to speak up and let them know that my work for them and their event is as valuable as their expensive cakes and glamorous decors.
What do you want to say to the people who have the same struggles as you do?
I’ve gained a lot of perspectives, I could say. It’s really up to you to make experiences that are worth the while, experiences that will enrich your life. Learn to value yourself and your craft because people will only appreciate you and acknowledge what you’re capable of if you have enough faith in yourself.
Listen to what you feel and try not to get caught up in the thoughts. At the end of the day, you’re doing this for yourself, for your growth, and for those people who find the same joy and comfort in pretty pictures, not for external validation. Rewards and accolades will come to you eventually.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.