Penni Gladstone

Los Angeles Times
My first full-time temp staff job 

At the Los Angeles Times, I worked in a temporary position for a few years. I was one of a handful of woman photographers. To get hired I had to endure an interview where the male DOP tossed pictures of a grizzly murder scene at me to see my reaction. Nonchalantly I moved the prints around as if I was interested. I was not given a permanent darkroom for a while and shared with others. One time I opened the negative holder drawer, and a Vodka bottle rolled out. Sexism was noted as more women worked in the society and food section. I was among the few other women who got to work news with the other assignments thrown in. 

San Jose Mercury News
Full-time staffer

I was the only woman on staff. I tried to ignore the obvious as a young photographer. I was very aware of comments, and subtle innuendos. I recall they didn’t send me to a plane crash as they wanted to spare me. I was fiercely independent and didn’t want to be perceived as someone to protect. At the San Jose Mercury conversations would stop when I walked into the photo department. As time passed the men would talk to me as they saw me less of a threat. As younger shooters were hired I felt more relaxed in the office. We learned from each other. 

It was under the direction of J.Bruce Baumann and David Yarnold where I really understood the concept of photojournalism. Bruce and David had set the stage. I overflowed with ideas for picture stories, and they gave me the time to shoot, and they properly laid it out. I dove into humanity and soaked up life on the streets which reflected in the images I made. I aggressively entered the monthly photo clip contest and won national awards. 

While there I was the first woman to enter the San Francisco Giants locker room. Many were naked with only a towel. one Giant baseball player was not so much as he purposely dropped his towel. Without hesitation, the paper ran the photograph. Mary Jo Moss was the next woman hired after me. 

I saw how she stood her ground to get the uncommon photograph. Bryan Moss was a picture editor. He was sensitive and reassuring. I recall Mary Jo standing up to a male editor who asked why she didn’t come back with the “predictable” photograph they had conjured up. She had a fire in her, and I learned from that. 

We watched life transpire in front of us. We never made the moment. 

One day I saw a suitcase left at the door of the photo department to find the luggage tags said Sandra Eisert. My excitement could barely be contained as I knew her reputation. She was hired, and I thrived even more. 

Los Angeles Times
Full-time staffer 

I was hired away from the San Jose Mercury back to the Los Angeles Times where I felt boosted by the same generation of shooters. Things were changing. Nothing was spared here. It was a crazy good time. The newspaper was so large if there was sexism it felt like favoritism. 

Hired away to the San Francisco Examiner 
Then the San Francisco Chronicle. Full-Time staffer

At this time we felt more competition with each other. Sexism was hidden, and favorites were played. Lines were blurred. One very frustrating incident was when the male DOP wanted to take a picture story idea away from me, and give it to a male photographer he felt could do no wrong. Exasperated at his unprofessionalism I fought to keep the story with all my years of experience. I succeeded. 

Eye-opening as occasionally we’d have to fill in on the picture desk requiring us to go to meetings. There we’d get an earful about how the photo management staff felt about the staff photographers. Most badmouthing came from the men. 

We had to remain strong, vigilant and aware even when women were in power. Perception played a huge role. 

All in all, some of my most memorable opportunities were given to me by men. I love traveling, and they chose me to go to the jungles of Guatemala, the highlands fo Mexico, to follow a subject to Europe, photograph gangs, shootouts, and take me to where I saw no limits.