Canadian photographer Alana Paterson was on the hunt for a subject through which to explore gender inequality when she came across some shocking statistics on women’s ice hockey. “I heard the top-earning female in hockey takes home a salary of $25,000, while the top-earning male hockey player makes $14 million,” Alana tells It’s Nice That. “People always say, well, they draw big audiences so they make the money, but I’ve found it goes so much deeper than that.”
Women’s hockey is completely unfunded in the US, whereas men’s hockey receives $3.5 million annually, the photographer says. “Despite that, women’s hockey enrolment has gone up more than 1000% since 1991. The top two of three all time medal winners are female, yet none of these women have ever had endorsements.” So, Alana found her subject: a group of strong, determined women that she wanted to depict with aptly brazen and raw confidence.
“I wanted to show a group of powerful young women who have dedicate themselves to something completely outside their conventional gender expectations but retain their femininity as much as they choose to,” she says. “What I found at the hockey rinks were bold colours, bold postures, chins up, shoulders back – that sort of stuff. I met it with bright, full exposures and asking (at times) for direct gaze at the camera. I really love the confrontational portraits. It says so much about how a female hockey player has to walk in the world.”
Alana used high flash to tackle the lighting inside the rinks, but also to reference 80s and 90s sports imagery, where there was a distinct lack of female representation. With a no-holds-barred flash, she wanted to show “the harsh truth”.
“It exposes every nook and cranny, and doesn’t leave any room from dreamy feelings or romance,” she explains. “It’s very matter of fact. From the beginning this project was very much about facts. Facts that I didn’t like and I wanted people to think about.”