Canon Criticized for All-Male Ambassador Lineup in the Philippines
Canon Philippines recently unveiled its full list of brand ambassadors in the Philippines, but the company was met with under heavy criticism for only selecting men. Anger spread quickly on social media, with followers from the country calling for more diversity.
The Facebook and Instagram comments for the Canon Philippines announcements are full of hundreds of upset or angry comments that point to the male-dominated list as a reminder of social norms that should be challenged.
Non-binary Filipino photographer Pau Villanueva told Vice World News that intentional or not, it sends a poor message.
“Women and non-binary photographers are not given enough opportunities and have no place in the industry,” he says. “Canon as a brand has a huge influence and impact, but I think they did not use their influence the right way. It affects the industry, especially the photographers who are just starting out.”
Vice also spoke to Filipina music photographer Niña Sandejas, who agreed.
“There has always been a stigma that hiring women is a disadvantage because of stereotypes built by the old school macho society Filipinos have been accustomed to,” she said. “Giving women representation to work in these conditions can create a ripple effect elsewhere, making our presence a norm in places where we feel unsafe, that we can walk into it with a sense of security and be able to show our unique perspective and just worry about making great work.”
Pia Wurtzbach, 2015’s Miss Universe, commented on Canon’s announcement on Instagram to call out what she saw as a lack of inclusivity in Canon’s lineup. The comment is written in a mixture of English and Tagalog, and translated sections are marked in brackets.
“No hate to the chosen ambassadors but [why is there no] room for inclusivity? How were the ambassadors chosen? Based on what? Not hating on the ambassadors but the marketing team should fix this asap,” she wrote. “[Because it also doesn’t look good for their ambassadors]. I’m sure (and hope) not all of them agree with this kind of narrative.”
The backlash to the list of ambassadors reached such a fever pitch that Canon Philippines issued a statement yesterday, but it has stopped short of an apology.
We abide by our Canon Group Philosophy of “Kyosei”, which is living and working together for the common good. Canon Marketing Philippines Inc., supports camera enthusiasts and content creators regardless of gender, culture, customs, language, or race. Our Brand Ambassadorship is continuously growing and always welcomes more members who are interested and committed. Members are evaluated through their professional expertise and consistent brand support. We appreciate learning from your voices in the community. We are listening. Our activities have just kick started and based on your valuable feedback, we will enhance your experience with us. Please continue sharing your opinions with us, so we can improve and grow better, with you.
Many who read the statement were not satisfied, however. Ezra Acaya, a Filipino photographer for Getty and Chairperson at Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines, wrote a response to the statement on Facebook expressing his displeasure.
“Where’s the apology for failing to be inclusive in your campaign? Where’s the apology for the insensitive and mysoginistic remark (“lady shooters”) made by your staff? And where’s the apology for the elitist and condescending statement made by one of your ambassadors? You managed to use so many words and still say nothing. And why post this non-apology at 1AM when most people are asleep?” he asks.
“You had three days to say just two words: “We apologize.” This is so disappointing. My apologies to my sponsors at Canon UK, Canon Europe, and the Ian Parry Scholarship but I guess it’s time for me to get rid of this camera brand in my bag…”
When reached for comment, Canon USA — which operates under a different leadership wing — responded that it recognizes the importance of diversity and appreciates that the issues here have been raised.
“At Canon U.S.A., Inc., we have made improvements to our programs, such as Explorers of Light, over the past year recognizing that diversity and inclusivity is an integral part of the photography community,” a company spokesperson told PetaPixel. “While we have made strides, we understand more improvements need to be made globally through our affiliate companies. We appreciate you raising this concern and we will continue to support the immensely creative and diverse talent here in the U.S. and globally.”
Photojournalist quits as Canon ambassador as brand faces non-inclusivity backlash
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 22) — Filipino photojournalist Jilson Tiu has decided to withdraw as one of the brand ambassadors of Canon Philippines after the company faced backlash for a campaign void of diversity.
Canon on Monday released its list of brand ambassadors for 2021 composed of 11 male photographers from different fields.
It was heavily criticized for not including any woman or LGBTQ+ photographers in the lineup.
In a statement, Canon Marketing Philippines Inc. said it supports camera enthusiasts and content creators regardless of gender, culture, customs, language, or race.
Netizens, however, pointed out that the statement was a “non-apology.”
Tiu broke his silence on Wednesday. Clueless about the details behind the campaign, he said he was hopeful a woman can be added to the roster, which was revealed in batches.
A photographer working with Canon for years now, Tiu said this incident was his “tipping point” and he was dropping the opportunity to become one of the brand’s ambassadors.
“What I don’t like is they didn’t apologize for the mistake that they’ve done,” he said in a Facebook post. “They should make up for it and apologize publicly.”
Tiu said his decision came about after the realization that he does not have the same principles as the brand.
“Thank you Canon for the three years, I will continue to use your camera as a tool, but I don’t want to be an ambassador to a brand that doesn’t align with my principles,” the lensman stated.
“Paalam at salamat, magkaiba tayo ng daan na nilalakaran [Good bye and thank you. We are taking different paths],” he added.
Canon Under Fire for All-Male Brand Ambassador List
The Canon logo is seen Jan. 8, 2020 at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. PHOTO: Robyn Beck / AFP
One of the world’s most recognizable camera makers is under fire after unveiling a list of brand ambassadors in the Philippines that featured only men, prompting calls for more diversity to change the status quo.
Canon, which is based in Japan but has operations all over the world, unveiled the list for its Philippine division last week, highlighting the profiles of photographers working in the advertising, wedding and fashion industries or as photojournalists, among other fields.
But anger spread on social media in the country as it became evident that the group of mostly local photographers included only men.
Non-binary photographer Pau Villanueva told VICE World News that the campaign was a reminder of male-dominated norms and how “women and non-binary photographers are not given enough opportunities and have no place in the industry.”
“Canon as a brand has a huge influence and impact, but I think they did not use their influence the right way. It affects the industry, especially the photographers who are just starting out,” Villanueva said.
Filipina music photographer Niña Sandejas told VICE World News that giving women more representation will positively impact their work and job security.
“There has always been a stigma that hiring women is a disadvantage because of stereotypes built by the old school macho society Filipinos have been accustomed to,” she said.
“Giving women representation to work in these conditions can create a ripple effect elsewhere, making our presence a norm in places where we feel unsafe, that we can walk into it with a sense of security and be able to show our unique perspective and just worry about making great work.”
“There has always been a stigma that hiring women is a disadvantage because of stereotypes built by the old school macho society Filipinos have been accustomed to.”
It was not immediately clear what benefits come with the brand ambassadorship. But a local photojournalist said similar partnerships usually involve an honorarium and equipment loan in exchange for presentations or advertising benefits for camera makers.
The backlash started on July 14, when Canon Philippines first published the portraits of the 11 male brand ambassadors. It has only escalated since then, moving beyond the tight-knit world of professional photographers.
On Tuesday, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach used her Instagram account where 12 million people follow her to call out the lack of inclusivity in the lineup.
“No hate to the chosen ambassadors but why is there no room for inclusivity? How were the ambassadors chosen? Based on what? Not hating on the ambassadors but the marketing team should fix this asap,” she said in a comment under Canon’s Instagram post.
“I’m sure (and hope) not all of them agree with this kind of narrative,” she added.
In a viral Facebook post, Ezra Acayan, an award-winning photojournalist in the Philippines who works with Getty Images, said he respected those who were appointed but called Canon’s lineup a “sausage fest.”
He also posted a screenshot of a supposed callout from a Canon representative for “lady shooters” that was widely shared on social media in what appeared to be an attempt at damage control. Acayan said it was shared with him by a woman photographer who had been invited to join the new group.
“Canon is a top camera brand and their response was really disappointing,” Acayan told VICE World News. “They were scrambling to come up with a list of ‘lady shooters.’ It is so insensitive, and they show that they don’t really take diversity seriously.”
“They should really listen and think about what really happened,” Acayan added. “Their band-aid solution will not work.”
A photographer who was mentioned in the “lady shooters” screenshots declined to comment.
Canon Philippines released a statement early Wednesday on its social media accounts saying it “supports camera enthusiasts and content creators regardless of gender, culture, customs, language, or race.”
“Our Brand Ambassadorship is continuously growing and always welcomes more members who are interested and committed. Members are evaluated through their professional expertise and consistent brand support,” it said, highlighting the “valuable feedback.”
Many expressed disappointment in the statement, with some characterizing it as a non-apology apology.
But Edwin Martinez, one of this year’s ambassadors, brushed off the criticisms and said people were jumping to conclusions.
“And these ‘younger demographics’ clamor for attention and yet they have not proven themselves in this craft, but they become the judges and jurors,” he said in an Instagram post.
Update: This story has been updated to reflect a statement from Canon Philippines.