Waiting for the purple one

by Sue Dawson

NIKON just came out with a brand-new top-level DSLR, and Alison’s psyched. She uses the D810, which has 36 megapixels. The new D850 has 46 megapixels, which is enough to merit the purchase. But it’s not all about megapixels. It doubles the D810’s maximum ISO, and has a cool screen that tilts so you can view at different angles. Suffice it to say that Alison wants it.

So then this crazy thing happens – the Nikon branch in Asia/Africa did a promotional excursion with 32 top professional photographers, giving them each a D850 to try out. Here’s the photo of the pros, posted on Instagram:


Here they all are again, as headshots:


Notice anything? … I’ll wait… 

They’re all men. ALL 32 of them. And I may be wrong, but is there just one black guy in there? From the African branch of Nikon? 

Photographers and industry analysts are having a field day with this one. Here’s an article in F-Stoppers, and another in Digital Photography Review. I’ve seen it on CNN, and other media too. 

NikonUSA put out an apology on social media. Alison emailed her Nikon rep to complain, and got a very nice apology within minutes. It was a big mistake, and they seem genuinely sorry that it happened. 

I just want to say that Alison has been a professional photographer for over 40 years, has taught workshops all over the world, and has faithfully used Nikon cameras throughout that time. She’s as much of a pro as any other photographer – she’s a photojournalist, artist, gallery owner, teacher, and mentor to many. She was even on the cover of Nikon World back in the day, with a nifty vellum overlay:


Here’s the promo piece for the issue – showing what Alison looked like in 1983 (I discovered her work that same year. We met briefly in 1984, and began working together at the Vineyard Gazette in 1987). 


In addition to working with Alison since 1987, I worked with some of the most talented photojournalists in the world, when I was a designer at The Boston Globe – many of whom are women. Female photographers are just as good, just as professional, just as talented as male photographers. This all goes without saying. And yet, we NEED to keep saying it. And saying it. 

I’ve read a bunch of comments, tweets, and Facebook posts about this. Like the awesome one that says women just need to wait for the pink, sparkly version of the D850. Reminds me of these actual Bic pens “for Her” (click the link to read customer comments, if you have time). The “beautifully smooth,” sparkly, pink and purple pens inspired a great Ellen monologue (worth watching, after the obligatory ad):


Nikon could do a purple and pink D850, that would fit perfectly in ladies’ hands. Hmmm….


Interestingly, I’ve also seen posts by women who think Nikon’s mistake is no big deal, and that people are overreacting. Yeah… no. Complacency isn’t in my genes. Or submission to patriarchal societal norms. I don’t need matriarchal society either. Just equality, and respect. 

Alison still wants the D850. And I think they should give one to her, like they did for those 32 men, and have her represent them. She’d love to. They need people like her, just doing a fantastic job with the equipment. While female. 

What do you think? Post a comment and let me know..

EPILOGUE, 9.23.17
Thanks for all of your support, and great comments!
– As far as I know, there’s only a black D850 – I made the purple one in photoshop 😉
– Just got an email from Amazon Prime after writing this post, suggesting the Bic pens “for Her” – since I was “interested” in them. Scary…

45 Responses

  1. Kathy Nash says:

    I do think it is a big deal that Nikon left out women. It shows what the corporate thinking is, no matter how sincere the apology. It also reflects the attitudes of male photographers (who I know), who also use Nikons. Nikon and Nikon users have always had a bit of Machismo exclusivity, and is one reason that I use Canon.

  2. John Blanton says:

    Big mistake Nikon!

  3. Jessica Andrews says:

    I think it’s a huge deal and I hope Nikon makes it right. I’ve already signed a petition that is supposed to go to Nikon protesting this move, but I guess we’ll see. Alison should definitely get a D850. She would do great work with it.

  4. Melanie Nichols says:

    I have that photo and still love it!!!

  5. Barbara Howe in Maryland says:

    Par for the course in so many professions….will you please pass the cream?

  6. Mark Conrad says:

    Terrible job by Nikon, someone there should have caught that omission, and yes Alison does deserve a new Nikon D850.

  7. Sheri Pascual says:

    I am not surprised, but it is time for Nikon to realize that by including women in their inner circle could benefit them greatly! From what I understand, there are thousands of people that are waiting for the D850, myself included, but I can’t think of anyone that deserves one more than Alison.

  8. Andrea Dawson says:

    It is a big deal! Interestingly I was just commenting to my husband and son how it is remarkable how recently we were at a function where when introduced to someone we had never met, my husband was routinely asked what he did and it was obvious they never considered asking me. For those who don’t know me I am a physician (pathologist) photographer and artist (albeit no where near my skills in pathology).. We have come along way but obviously not far enough . Nikon needs to do more than apologize and we all need to speak up to force the discussion about not only women but race when we are talking about accomplishments.

  9. It is a very big mistake to not include women photographers for business, schools who hire teachers who teach for them and especially the photography manufacturers who have photographers showing what their cameras can do. I taught with Alison on the first workshop she ever taught and she is an awesome photographer and teacher. Alison you are the best and your work is also. Nikon should be ashamed.

  10. Mickey says:

    Its a shame that Nikon had put together a team of professionals excluding women but what really surprised me was that none of these photographers seem to even notice or cared enough to step away.

    I myself have been down on Nikon the last few years when they started making decisions that effected their customers , first by discontinuing selling parts to get equipment fixed. Their management decisions seem to be going by way of Minolta.

    Either way Alison and Sue your fans , customers and students appreciate your contribution over the last 40 years and always will.

  11. Beth Horstman says:

    B&H had more sense than Nikon. I learned about the 850 from a video they posted of two male and one female photographer who raved about it. I found it amazing that Nikon would be so blind. I can’t wait for them to give Alison one so the photographer I respect the most can give her opinion.

  12. Heather Huyck says:

    Oops should read mistreat not mistake groups. Heather

  13. Ann Densmore says:

    Alison! Go for it!! I want a pink one!!!!
    Are they a fortune? Nikon owes you a free one since they forgot you in the 32 men group!!! Ridiculous!!!! Absurd.
    What are they thinking? All photographers are white men in black???
    Ann D

  14. Kolleth says:

    It’s September 2017. At this point I have chronic outrage fatigue.I suspect “Gallery” does as well 😉

    I’m classifying each outrage du jour into one of three categories: stupid, malicious and downright dangerous. This works well for me.

    This one clearly falls into the “stupid” category.” It needed to be brought to their attention, they are paying the price, learning from the incident and saying mea culpa. The next campaign they will overcorrect, I’m sure.

    It did not stop me from buying a D850. Mine is black.

  15. Natalie Graham says:

    I remember those first B&W photos that stunned the pages of the Vineyard Gazette! They kept on coming-crisp,clear clean! It has been a joy to watch Alison experiment with new techniques, grow with each “phase” and astonish our sensibilities!She has been a very kind and generous mentor to both my daughter and me, and to many others.The above mentioned behavior by Nikon is extremely egregious, insulting! An apology does not cut it! Equality and respect is what is required! NOT”waiting for the purple one”!

  16. I respectfully disagree that this is not a big deal, the butterfly in China flapping its wings does not seem like a big deal, but Irma was. Suggesting to a class of 1st graders once a week, that they are all wonderful and that they should all take care of each other was not a big deal. Doing this for four years was not a big deal, but it created a fabulous, creative, cooperative, happy class.
    In my work, I often make mistakes. Sometimes they go into the trash, sometimes they are a new way of looking at or working with a task. Nikon has made a mistake. Here is my suggestion to them as a way of looking at photography in a new way, at the same time rectifying that mistake.
    Alison’s classes included sending her group to the same location and then discussing how each person treated it.
    1. Assemble a new group, (32) sounds like a good number), bring them to the Vineyard, give them all a new D850 (color to be selected by participant), and send them to several sights to see how each photographs that location.
    2. Submit the results for galleries, or slide shows.
    3. Select the participants with the goal of the most diverse group possible. Start with a diverse group of 4, have each one select one other, then together they select two others, repeat this once more, but this time each individual gets to pick one other, and you have your group of 32.
    4. Do not include/exclude anyone based on something as foolish as age, religion, location, profession, gender (born or current), who they love, political leaning, current camera, level of photographic skill.

    I suggest Sue and Alison to coordinate this.
    Good luck.

  17. Jo-Elle Munchak says:

    Alison’s work is amazing, and I had the honor to attend one of her week-long workshops several years ago. Bad move on Nikon’s part, and Alison should get the 850 in any color she wants! Nikon should be begging Alison to try out and recommend its products. P.S. Didn’t her mom break gender barriers in photography/journalism too?

  18. Curtiss says:

    Go Alison, go! Great point, and great constructive tone. Here’s to a better world, ahead!

  19. Tim Clark says:

    I’ve been a Gazette subscriber since my parents gave it to me when I was college in the late 70’s. When Alison’s work first appeared there, I would actually cut out the photo’s and paste them on my frig. I had the winter goose one for years, so this post brings back a flood of nice memories. South Beach 1979 is above our bed at home. Vary bad move on Nikon’s part. Perfect comments from Natalie Graham

  20. reggie forster says:

    It’s an indication of who’s at work in the Nikon marketing departments, at least in the Asian market. Find a way to shame the Nikon USA team into mimicking the event in the U.S. (the Vineyard would be cool, yeah…), with a much better balance of genders and races.

  21. Emily Drazen says:

    Perhaps a little late and off topic but … I LOVE THAT PIC OF ALISON!

  22. Jay L. says:


    As you are fully aware, more megapixels or bigger sensors does not translate into better photographs. Perhaps its time to dump Nikon? With your expertise, this was a huge slap in the face from Nikon. Olympus makes incredible glass and cameras that are actually fun to use instead of big bricks to carry around. And yes, they can be printed large too. Tne Olympus Visionaries and others have printed them mural sized. Check out Joe Edelmans videos on line: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gx2ny12phQg. Make the switch and never look back.

  23. john bennet says:

    I do agree with you on most of the points, not including any women in a 36 people of photography team was a dumb idea, especially today when everybody is so sensitive about racism, women rights etc… I mean it was a mistake on their part, marketing team is not doing a good job it seems to me lol 😀
    As for Nikon D850 camera itself, it is a masterpiece.. I have it and I think it is wonderful, I bought couple of lenses for it and they seem to work great. All the best in future for you and for Nikon!

  24. I had forgotten about what a poor job Nikon did when they introduced the D850. Hopefully, Nikon will do a better job with the release of the D780.

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