Women are underrepresented in sports coverage. Here's how this photographer is changing the focus

Alana Paterson breaks down why she points her camera at female athletes - and why it's so important that she does.

'They stand in front of the camera and they don’t put a mask on'

(Alana Paterson)

In Alana Paterson's photographs of young basketball players, swimmers and hockey players, athletes often stare back at the camera steadily, even defiantly. When Paterson cites a study of 2014 sports coverage, she may be explaining the reason why: out of about 35,000 hours of sports programming, only four percent exclusively featured women's sports. Beginning with a project shooting young women in hockey, Paterson has worked with female athletes across many sports - she's photographed the first women's team in any sport to come out of Tibet, she's worked with the women's basketball team from Squamish Nation and now, she's shooting with women from the Canadian swim team. 

Photographer Alana Paterson on why it's so important to shine a strong light on female athletes. 6:17

To Paterson, it's clear that making these photographs visible to female athletes has a formidable impact. She says, "What we know is that girls react really positively to images of their mentors. So if you can show a girl – on a regular basis – images of a female athlete like her, doing what she wants to do, she has an incredibly good reaction to that. Boys have the same reaction but it's just taken for granted because they always have access to their heroes or mentors. It's everywhere. It has a benefit for anybody but girls just don't receive that benefit enough."

(Alana Paterson)

In this video, you get to tag along with Paterson as she shoots with swimmers Emily Overholt, Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson and Haley Black, both in action and at rest after their practice. And you'll get to see why that determined look shows up on many of their faces. Paterson says, "They're looking at the camera and they're like, 'Hey, I'm here. I've been here this whole time, playing my sport that I love that nobody supports. I've been here the whole time. And you're looking at me now and I'm a little bit pissed.'"

Follow Alana Paterson here.

(Alana Paterson)
(Alana Paterson)
(Alana Paterson)

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.

About the Author

Camille Vernet is the creator and director of Inspired British Columbia. She has worked in New Zealand, Australia and Canada on TV shows, documentaries and short films. Camille focuses on telling compelling stories that will have a direct impact on people’s lives. With a creative twist, she engages the viewer by shedding light on the human side of every project in which she engages.