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The troubling reason why so many fashion photographers are men.

If you tuned into Tuesday night’s episode of Australia’s Next Top Model, you were privy to a curious fact about the fashion industry that very few people notice.

While viewers were distracted by the beautiful sights of Milan, Italy, aspiring model Sabine Jamieson was busy admiring the female photographers presence on set.

In fact, the 17-year-old labelled Stefania Paparelli’s mere existence as a female fashion photographer “empowering”.

“The industry is such a man’s world,” she told the camera. “It’s comforting to see Stefania.”

The contestants on Australia's Next Top Model saw the presence of a female photographer as "empowering". (Image: Fox8/Australia's Next Top Model)

That might seem like an odd choice of words for someone who merely possesses female anatomy and an affinity for the still image, but Sabine's not wrong. Despite the positive body image movement that's gained momentum in recent years, there's a disturbing reason why female fashion photographers are gobsmackingly rare, and it extends far beyond the hit Fox8 show.

One of Melbourne's prominent female photographers, Stevie van der Chys, refers to the cut-throat fashion photography industry as "the boys' club".

After spending three tiresome years covering fashion festivals and shoots, Stevie, 26, knows exactly why female photographers are so scarce.

"If you want to be a female photographer, you’ve got to have balls," she explains.

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"[When I first started] I shot fashion week and I came up against a lot of male fashion photographers and it was really tough.

“I’d be on the end of the runway and these male photographers, who were 20 years older than me, would grab their lenses and smack mine out of the way."

Aside from physical intimidation, Stevie's male colleagues would also belittle her, and make her feel like her career path was invalid.

“I’ve had many of them saying to me ‘I’ve been doing this for a lot longer than you, you shouldn’t be doing it’,” she explains. "It was incredibly frustrating."

Perhaps the main reason men dominate the fashion photography world, the Geelong-based artist says, is because they're more willing to "nip, tuck, and photoshop" women's bodies.

"[On the whole] male photographers tend to buy into Photoshop, and are happy to edit the photos of the girls to look like the magazines," Stevie says, adding the majority of men can't relate to the body issues that plague women.

LISTEN: Mia Freedman sits down with body image warrior Taryn Brumfitt to discuss the consequences of wanting a 'perfect body'. (Post continues...)

While most male photographers don't see it, slimming down already tiny models has had a toxic effect, Stevie says, where women are no longer content with their appearance unless they are professionally retouched.

“I’d be photographing these beautiful models and then we’d get to the end of the shoot and they’d ask for all these changes to be made," Stevie says.

"They'd ask for their thighs to be made smaller, and that was really tough for me. I mean, these women were selected ahead of hundreds of others at castings, yet they're photoshopped as if they're still not good enough.

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"I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

Familiar with the pressure that the regular female body is somehow inadequate, many women refuse to use Photoshop on ethical grounds. Unfortunately, this makes them less desirable to high-profile clientele who want the models to look as thin as possible, leaving female photographers with smaller portfolios and, inevitably, less work.

Frustrated with the industry's constant reinforcement of negative body image, Stevie decided to step away after three years, and in 2013 began her own initiative, Body Love.

"Body Love is beautiful, everyday women without Photoshop," Stevie, who has also teamed up with Embrace's Taryn Brumfitt recently, tells me.

“I don’t do photoshop at all anymore, and that might put some clients off, but that’s OK, they’re not my clients.

"Now, I'm all about capturing women naturally, and helping them to love their skin."

You can engage with the Body Love movement, too. Follow Stevie van der Chys on Instagram here, or visit her website here.

Featured Image: Fox 8/Australia's Next Top Model

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