Tag Archives: female gaze

Assignment 5 – Only Angels or Demons: or Do You Need a Willy To Be Taken Seriously?

Reflective Commentary

This piece of work was conceived and begun as a furious response [1] earlier this year, to the way that women are treated differently in public life than their male counterparts.  Since I wrote the original post in late September, the#metoo campaign [2] has taken off and women’s voices are being heard loud and clear for the first time, revealing the ways our lives are routinely subjected to harassment and sexual abuse, artificially created limits by men, and to different and much more exacting standards of behaviour in both public and private life. (See Mary Beard’s (2017) essay Women and Power: a Manifesto [3] for a full discussion on how this has been built into our culture from ancient times). We seem to be at a potential tipping point at present, with enough women being willing to stand up and share the ways in which so many of us are ridiculed, harassed, and sexually abused both in the work and the home environment, that men hopefully will begin to understand a little of the limitations to which we are subject, but of which they have often been oblivious.

The images for the piece were made during an all-female photo shoot, where we had gathered to explore our creativity as a group through the use of props and lighting in a studio environment. The collaborative, non-judgemental nature of the event enabled us (the photographers, the studio owner and the model) to simply play and to explore our creativity together through performance.

Thereafter, I used some of the images to make an object that is rooted in feminist avantgarde photography, and which uses the materiality of the handmade book to symbolise aspects of how women’s identity and function is represented in social culture, through themes such as performance, two-dimensionality and entrapment. The use of the female body as a means of making a political statement has been a feature of Third Wave Feminism, but I have concerns about the concept of reclaiming the body through the deliberate use of overt nudity – we have been there and done that – and I feel that there are other ways that a statement of feminist intent can be made without using that historic symbol of objectification.

At the same time, the handmade book makes reference to the tradition of women’s craft work, and the recent surge in enthusiasm for paper arts such as scrap-booking and card making. In both this assignment and Assignment 4, I use the form of the book and its connotations of credibility, gravitas and permanence as a means of expanding the semiotic aspects of my work beyond the images themselves into how they are displayed.

Separate posts here [4] and here [5] discuss the background and photographers that informed this work, but I must make specific mention here of the Feminist Avantgarde in the 1970s exhibition political pieces [6] and Albarrán Cabrera’s use of gold leaf [7] to add depth, mystery and value to their images which I have drawn upon here.

References

  1. Woodward, Holly (2017) Exercise 4.5 – Fictional texts: Holly goes off-piste, again [online blog] In: hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-4-image-and-text/project-3-fictional-texts/ (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  2. France, Lisa Respers (2017) ‘#MeToo: Social media flooded with personal stories of assault.’ In CNN Entertainment [online] At: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/15/entertainment/me-too-twitter-alyssa-milano/index.html (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  3. Beard, Mary (2017) Women and power: a manifesto. London: Profile Books.
  4. Woodward, Holly (2017) Assignment 5 – Background Research [online blog] In: hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/assignment-5-background-research/ (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  5. Woodward, Holly (2017) Assignment 5 – Photographic Influences [online blog] In: hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/assignment-5-photographic-influences/ (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  6. Güner, Fisen. (2016) ‘Feminist art of the 1970s: knives, nudity and terrified men.’ [online] In: theguardian.com. At: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2016/oct/03/feminist-art-of-the-1970s-knives-nudity-and-terrified-men (Accessed on 09.01.18
  7. Lensculture (2017) ‘Albarrán Cabrera.’ [online] At: https://www.lensculture.com/albarrancabrera  (Accessed on 07.01.18)

Assignment 5

The box , covers and page spread for the book are shown here, while the original has been sent to OCA for the assessment process.

Individual images

Box and Page spreads

Box

Side A

 

Side B

 

Reflection

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Overall, I am happy with the technical skill level of the images. They are what they are, and silhouettes offer a less demanding technical requirement that other photographic processes. The visual skills for the assignment cover two different areas, a) the posing and positioning of the model within the frame to tell the story, and b) the use of skills outside the direct photographic arena to present them effectively. My use of a window format using Sewn & Tied bookbinding was my own idea, as it is one I may use again in future projects.

Quality of Outcome

Unlike the other assignments in this course unit, this was a piece of work that wanted to be made. I did not have to struggle for months over a theme and images; they simply put themselves together in two afternoons of creative immersion. Subsequent to the original idea, my main decisions related to how I was going to present and contextualise the images. I am pleased overall with the final product, although ideally I would have liked to make the series longer. My issue with doing so was that it might diminish the message held within the current sequence of images. My bookmaking skills improve with each object I make, but it will be a long time before I achieve perfection of a final product. Having said that though, there is a certain pleasure in producing and holding a clearly handmade object, imperfect but still attractive.

Demonstration of Creativity

This is possibly the most creative piece of work I have undertaken so far in my degree journey, but also the one that is least aligned with traditional photography. It has opened up a new avenue of exploration for future units, using the physical aspects of photographs and their presentation, particularly through handmade books, to expand the ideas I wish to examine. I would like to explore the use of ideas from book-making and scrapbooking to make one-off objects which contain and present my images in ways which extend their stories. A new love of studio work has also been uncovered, much to my surprise; I was not expecting to enjoy it so much. A consideration of the five assignments in this module together has shown me that I enjoy making work which provides a social commentary to issues which are of current interest, but in a non-standard format, and I intend to continue exploring this in the future.

Context

For this assignment, the work came first and only afterwards did I consider contextualisation. I believe that the sheer number of possible ways in which work by other photographers could be said to have influenced the piece, and my difficulty in picking a few specific photographers to reference, means that the assignment was a subconscious distillation of many different ideas relating to the current social media interest in women’s experiences of life’s limitations in comparison with men and the potential of the Female Gaze. Not only has it drawn on other photographers’ work, but it also uses ideas, processes and concepts that I have explored myself in previous coursework and assignments, and it really feels as if the project gathered my learning and experiments together in this final piece of work.

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Assignment 5 – photographic influences

Introduction

This assignment is rooted in the tradition of Feminist Photography, which first appeared in the 1960s. Women photographers had their place before this, and in the very early days , ‘those with ability found professional photography a refreshingly level playing field.‘ (Ang, 2014, p114) [1] but it was limited to the wealthy, as only they could afford the necessary equipment. People such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Zaida Ben Yusef, Anna Atkins and Gertrude Käsebier were among those who made a name for themselves before and around the beginning of the 20th century. On the whole, their images tended to be more artistic than documentary in nature.

In the period from the beginning of the 20th century to the Second World War, women photographers gradually expanded their acceptable remit to include social documentary,  domestic and vernacular photography and fashion, as well as an under-reported representation as war photographers [2]. However, it was only with the huge upsurge of the so-called  Second Wave of Feminism of the 1960s [3] that the place of women in society and more specifically as photographers was addressed. This was the period of history that spawned the feminist photographer – one who used photography to make specific and overt political points about women’s place in the world.

The 1970s was a hugely creative period for both feminist artists and photographers, and the exhibition Feminist Avantgarde of the 1970s, [4][25] which was shown at The Photographers Gallery in London in 2016 revealed the range and ability of work that was undertaken at that time. Of particular interest to my assignment was that produced by Barbara Kruger [5], with its use of words overlaying images in a Dada advertising style, Francesca Woodman‘s use of the body in performance to make specific points about her place in the world, [6] and Carolee Schneemann’s reclamation of the female nude as a feminist symbol through tableaux. [7] Some of the work was aggressive in style, with overt use of female nudity to make people feel embarrassed and ashamed, such as VALIE EXPORT’s Genital Panic [8], which actively courted hostility in its audience. Others used self-mutilation to make their point, such as Karin Mack [9] and a third group questioned their place in society through the different roles that they were required to take, e.g. mother, lover, working woman, etc. (Martha Wilson [10] Marcella Campagnano [9].

From the 1990s a new wave of feminism began to appear – The Third – which has focused on ‘the micropolitics of gender equality‘ [3] and which continues to this day. This has been attempting to find an acceptable path between the aggressive politics of 1970s and 1980s feminism, with its hint of butch women in dungarees which is actively rejected by many younger women, and the selfie generation – obsessed with how they look, and who often see current feminism as permission to choose whether to seek equality and independence or the role of the traditional Stay At Home Mother/Wife/Girlfriend. Alongside this, views about gender and cultural politics are changing at an ever-increasing pace, with non-binary, non-gendered and LGBTQ groups each claiming a Gaze of their own and intersectionality, gender mainstreaming, and the reframing of woman as ‘subject, not object’, all being added to the mix. This is outlined in the concluding chapter of Angela McRobbie’s The Aftermath of Feminism (2009) [11] and leads to concerns about whether diluting the message too much risks losing it altogether.

It is not until one is shown a clear alternative that some of the baggage that mainstream arts is carrying becomes obvious. Throughout this course unit, I have been considering different aspects of how much of our world is wholly perceived through the lens of the Male Gaze, a term coined by film critic Laura Mulvey in her 1975 essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ [12] and which is defined as

The perspective of a notionally typical heterosexual man considered as embodied in the audience or intended audience for films and other visual media, characterized by a tendency to objectify or sexualize women.
‘it’s because of the male gaze that female characters are regularly eroticized’  Oxford Dictionary (n.d.) [13]

With the concept of the Male Gaze having been accepted, it was only a matter of time before feminists asked whether a Female Gaze might also exist [14], and more lately a Non-gendered Gaze, and we began to wonder what art using the female gaze might look like. Jill Soloway brilliantly outlined it in her lecture On the Female Gaze (TIFF Uncut, 2016) [15]. Two books which consider this are Annie Liebowitz’s Women [16],  which is a series of portraits of some of the important women in world affairs around the millennium, (although I was not convinced at her lecture recently that she specifically started with a feminist viewpoint, and she indicated that it may have been added by Sontag) and Charlotte Janse’s Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze [17], which considers work by 40 female photographers from all over the world in a refreshing reversal of the usual male-oriented photographic anthology. The latter book in particular is fascinating in the way it subtlely offers an alternative viewpoint on matters as varied as Nakeya Brown’s Hair Stories Untold [18] and Pinar Yolaçan’s Maria (2007) [19] a series on Afro-Brazilian matriarchs, whom she dresses in handmade costumes of meat and offal. It soon becomes abundantly clear that half the world’s population has views that are quite different from the historic patriarchal one, and that those views are interesting and as worthy of exploration as the more traditional male ones.

Influences

Bringing this from the general to the particular, my assignment uses the concept of the female gaze to question where women are really positioned in today’s society. It draws on the performative aspects of work by photographers including, Carol Schneemann, Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman and Jo Spence’s Phototherapy series [20], whose work specialises in using the female body as a prop/clothes horse to make political and social points. Schneemann and Woodman were often unclothed in their work and used the environment of the studio to make their point, while for Sherman and Spence the clothing is an important part of the performance, connoting different domestic and societal roles.

I have written previously [21] about the work of the Albarran Cabrera duo, who use gold leaf as a part of their image making, and my own early experiments using similar techniques. On the whole, one cannot actually see the gold leaf in their work, as it is usually only the back of the works, but I rather like being able to see the leaf around the edges of the image – it firmly acknowledges its presence and provides the opportunity for symbolic value.

Process of work towards the final assignment

As has been stated previously, the starting point for the assignment was a series of silhouette images that I made from a photoshoot. My early experiments with them included printing them on thin washi paper and backing them with gold leaf, so that there was a hint of it showing through the paper.

P1640387v2

I also tried using words around the images, which I liked but which did not provide sufficient depth of meaning for an assignment. However, it did produce the variable of using the images in reverse silhouette, offering the opportunity of viewing them as two different sides to the story.

two side of woman

At this point, I became interested in how the series could be presented so that the gold leaf would be visible but also contained, as it is very fragile. Further experiments using some of the book making skills which I had begun to learn at the SW OCA’s workshop day [22] gave me the idea of remodelling a Sewn and Tied Binding [23] to include a window within each page, and sandwiching the images back to back. When sewn together the final result becomes a book that one can view from either end, but with each end beginning a different story.

The final part of the production process was to make a box in which to present the fragile book, initially to protect it, but also to add an element of mystery and value to the object inside. I made the box from instructions found in Marie Clayton’s (2017) Ultimate Papercraft Bible, p141 – Made to measure box [24].

The overall aim was to produce a physical piece of work that had a story to tell, but in which the materiality of the piece added layers to that story. I have avoided giving too many suggestions in the Assignment itself about what viewers might like to read into the object, but will outline a few here:-

  • the box as container (Pandora’s Box) and as mystery (The Box of Delights)
  • the physical book giving gravitas and value to the images as well as being a showcase for them
  • the images being seen through windows (voyeuristic, trapped, exhibits-objects)
  • the gold leaf extending raggedly from underneath the images, with occasional spots on the surface (imperfection, partially hidden value/worth of women to society)
  • the silhouetted figure (everywoman) who is clothed and shoed (not vulnerable, strong)
  • the double-ended nature of the book – whichever end one begins, the story becomes the same, and it is binary in nature. One can either start from a good, white demon or angel, but the internal story moves to the reverse, but identical conclusion, a bad, black demon or angel.
  • the powerful strength of the poses – there is nothing submissive about them at all.
  • the concept of woman as being a stereotype, either good or bad, and its transformation between the two ends (angel and demon) to indicate that there is a middle ground.

However, despite all these meaningful connotations, the overarching feelings that it provokes for me is one of exuberant play and the joy of collaborating with other women.

Finally, I would like to thank Kate Aston for all her help during the process of making this assignment and for pointing me towards her post [25] on the Feminist Avantgarde exhibition. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this myself and her review was very helpful.. She has been a great source of support and ideas throughout.

References

  1. Ang, Tom (2014) Photography: The Definitive Visual History. London: Dorling Kindersley.
  2. Taylor-Lind, Anastasia (2017) ‘Women Photographers Are Being Written Out of the War Narrative.’ In: Time.com [online]. At:  http://time.com/4694204/women-war-photographers (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  3. Dorey-Stein, Caroline (2015) ‘ A Brief History: The Three Waves of Feminism.’ At: https://www.progressivewomensleadership.com/a-brief-history-the-three-waves-of-feminism/ (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  4. Güner, Fisun (2016) ‘Feminist art of the 1970s: knives, nudity and terrified men’ [online] In: guardian.co.uk At:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2016/oct/03/feminist-art-of-the-1970s-knives-nudity-and-terrified-men (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  5. Woodward, Holly (2017) ‘Barbara Kruger, Sarah Sense and abstract layers of meaning.’ [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA I&P Blog. At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/barbara-kruger-sarah-sense-and-abstract-layers-of-meaning/ (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  6. Tate (n.d.) ‘Francesca Woodman 1958–1981’ [online] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/francesca-woodman-10512(Accessed on 09.01.18)
  7. Rose, Steve (2014) ‘Carolee Schneemann: ‘I never thought I was shocking.” [online] In: guardian.co.uk  At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/mar/10/carole-schneemann-naked-art-performance (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  8. Tate (2007) VALIE EXPORT Action Pants: Genital Panic 1969 [online] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/export-action-pants-genital-panic-p79233 (Accessed: 09.01.18)
  9. Poyner, Rick (2016) ‘Feminist scrutiny.’ In: eyemagazine.com At: http://www.eyemagazine.com/opinion/article/feminist-scrutiny (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  10. MOMA (n.d.) Martha Wilson: A Portfolio of Models, 1974. [online] At: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/165440 (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  11. McRobbie, Angela (2009) The Aftermath of Feminism: gender, culture and social change. London: Sage Publications.
  12. Mulvey, Laura (2009), “Visual pleasure and narrative cinema”. In: Mulvey, Laura, Visual and other pleasures (2nd ed.), Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 14–30.
  13. Oxford Dictionaries (n.d.) ‘Definition: Male Gaze.’ [online] At: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/male_gaze (Accessed: 09.01.18)
  14. Loreck, Janice (2016) ‘Explainer: what does the ‘male gaze’ mean, and what about a female gaze?’ [online] In: theconversation.com At: http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-does-the-male-gaze-mean-and-what-about-a-female-gaze-52486 (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  15. Soloway, Jill. (2016). On the Female Gaze. [Online Video]. 11 September 2016. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBvppooD9I. (Accessed: 09.01.18)
  16. Liebowitz, Annie & Sontag, Susan (1999) Women. New York: Random House.
  17. Janse, Charlotte (2017) Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze. London: Laurence King Publishers.
  18.  Brown, Nakeya (n.d.) Hair Stories Untold. [Online] Available at: http://www.nakeyab.com/Biography. [Accessed 09.01.18)
  19. Saatchi Gallery (n.d.) Selected works by Pinar Yolaçan. [online] At: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/pinar_yolacan.htm (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  20. Woodward, Holly (2015) Photographers – Jo Spence (1934-1992). [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA Blog C&N At: https://hollyocacontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/photographers-jo-spence-1934-1992/  (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  21. Woodward, Holly (2017) Some experiments in homage to Albarran Cabrera. [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA I&P Blog.  At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/some-experiments-in-homage-to-albarran-cabrera/ (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  22. Woodward, Holly (2017) Saturday 14th October. In: South West OCA October 14th newsletter. At: http://www.ocasa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/SWOCA-October-14th-2017.pdf (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  23. Woodward, Holly (2017) Preparations for assignment 5. [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA I&P Blog.  At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/preparation-for-assignment-5/ (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  24.  Clayton, Maria (2017) Ultimate Papercraft Bible. London: Collins & Brown.
  25. Aston, Kate (2016) Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s – The Photographers’ Gallery 8.10.16 [online blog] In: Kate Aston: welcome to expressing your vision At: https://kateastoneyv.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/feminist-avant-garde-of-the-1970s-the-photographers-gallery-8-10-16/ (Accessed on 09.01.18)

More thoughts on subverting the male gaze – NSFW

WARNING – this post contains images of nudity. NSFW

Several of my fellow students have been extremely helpful in sorting out how I should take the idea of working with a feminine or ungendered gaze on the nude male. My thanks to Stephanie, Micahel, Stefan, Kate and Gesa particularly and all the other poeple who have commented here on my blog and on the OCA Photography Students Facebook page – for me, the group feedback is a massive part of my thought distillation process and a part I could not do without. Their comments can mostly be seen under the Comments section in my previous post on the subject. The long and the short of it is that my original photos were actually quite traditional in their style and content, and that I needed to subvert them in some way to bring in the feminist perspective. Returning to my interest in C&N of using thread and cutting to alter images, I have been trying out a few different ideas and there is definitely something that I can work with here.

In the images below, I have firstly stitched the (Google Translated) Chinese word for womanly/obedient across the model’s rear and in the second, I have used a cross stich generator program to pixelate his genitals and then photoshopped the cross stitch colur chart in place of the real thing.

There is much research to do yet, on both the importance of tattoos (w/r to Image 1) and for both on the role of feminine arts such as sewing as acts of subversion to the genreally male-oriented artistic paradigm. (Note to self: look back at the concept of  Subversive Stitching as a political statement)

Additionally, it has been suggested that I consider using Greek or Latin rather than Chinese to stitch words on the model’s body, which would reference the Ancient World’s obsession with sculpting the naked male figure. So much to think about, but I am moving this work onto Preparation for Assignment 4 in Coursework, as I will almost certainly be using it for the Assignment itself.

The male art nude – a workshop

WARNING: This post contains nudity

and is NSFW.

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Yesterday, I attended a workshop on the male art nude. It was led by Jo Suthurst, who is an MFA student at the University of Falmouth, and the workshop was part of her degree course. Jo is interested in the human body, and the parts that are usually hidden, particularly in people who do not conform to the current norm of beauty, and her blog is here. The timing of the workshop fitted in perfectly with some research I am currently doing on the male and female gaze (more of which I will address in a separate post).

I had two aims in mind for my own participation in the workshop. The first was to practise studio lighting, at which I am still an absolute beginner, and the second was to question the idea of the Female Gaze and how it might affect a photography shoot where the subject was a naked male.

Firstly, I will explain the practicalities of the day. It was held at a small studio near Cricklade, with which I have become familiar as a result of a Facebook group for local female photographers. We meet monthly to try out different concepts in a non-threatening environment and to share our collective experience. The attendees range from near beginners to commercial photographers, so there are plenty of different ideas to discuss. They have started to do regular workshops recently, and I signed up for this, as well as an Creative one at the end of the month, as I find studio work intriguing.

Jo explained the etiquette of nude photo shoots and referred us to some literature on poses for men, and also the model release form, which I have posted about here before our model, Clint, turned up. We were two students, Jo, and two other ladies, one of whom was the studio owner and the other a female model whom I had already met. The latter two were around, but did not take part in our activities. We started with a range of slighting situations for upper body nudity, and as the day progressed and we all felt more comfortable with the situation, moved on to full nudity.

I have never been to a female nude shoot before either, and have nothing to compare the experience with, so I asked Clint and Gemma (the female model, who does nude work, but was not involved in this day) how our approach differed from a shoot where the photographers were mostly men. Clint’s response was that an all female group was less threatened by his nudity and that there was a lot more conversation than would have been the case with male photographers. He is very experienced in nude shoots and was entirely comfortable without any clothing, so very soon his nudity became irrelevant from a social point of view and an outsider would have been startled to see three middle-aged women and an overtly naked man all huddled up together looking at a camera screen to see if a shot had work and discussing what might be improved.

Clint has done a lot of modelling for top shelf female magazines, and  his natural range of poses tended to reflect that. We also tried various ideas from David Leddick’s The Male Nude (2015), which includes an extensive series of images right through the history of the genre. The great majority of these fell into the category of “tasteful”, rather than “explicit” but Clint told us that he has been asked to pose for everything right up to extreme porn. This was well outside our remit for the day though, thankfully. Below are three images which give a flavour of our day. I won’t post any more for now, as I am planning to use them later in Part 4.

 

So, where does a day like this sit in the gap between the Male and Female Gaze? And what did I get out of it?

Laura Mulvey (1999), who coined the term The Male Gaze in 1975 to convey how through many centuries our viewpoint on practically everything has been that of the white heterosexual male. It is tripartite, and consists of a) the director, b) the actor’s performance and c) the viewer, all of whom are traditionally assumed to be male. (I am writing another post on this subject too, so won’t go into a great amount of detail here.) In this scenario, women are considered as the Object – largely silent, and something for the male to view and/or own, as John Berger said in Ways of Seeing.

One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.” (Berger, 1972)

Berger talked about The Gaze, but his gaze was the Male Gaze, and amazingly, he seemed to think that it was women who put themselves in the position of being objectified.

The response to this came with Jill Soloway’s lecture on the Female Gaze in 2016 (see my other post on this for details) where she asks society to move away from the male way of looking at the world, towards something more inclusive of many minority groups. This she characterises as the Female Gaze, which she argues consists of  a) a feeling-seeing on the part of the director, b) the actor is fully aware of being seen and can choose to agree to it, i.e. having a sense of agency in the transaction and c) returning the Gaze, as in I see you looking at me and I don’t want to be an object any longer.

Along the way towards this, feminists and sympathetic men made several less than successful attempts to subvert the Male Gaze, through notions like the Female Combatant, in which the female heroine plays what is essentially a faux-male role, including leadership, violence and super-strength, and the Objectified Male, in which the Male Gaze is twisted back on itself, with women supposedly looking at men as men have looked at women.

This workshop might potentially fit into this last category, but I would argue that it does not. Taking each of Soloway’s elements in turn, Clint said that he could tell from an image of himself whether it was taken by a straight man, a gay man or a women, as those taken by the latter two categories have a different feeling about them. The great majority are not what we would consider objectifying, but are using his body to express other ideas and/or feelings. He was aware of what we were doing and why, and I don’t think there was any question of him not having agency in the process. He was as fully involved in the making of the art as we, the photographers were. (It’s interesting to contrast this process with that of life drawing, as a quick diversion. In life drawing the model is simply there to be looked at, while in the photographic process we undertook, our model was an active participant with opinions and personal rights.) In some of the images I took, Clint has chosen to present himself as an object of desire, but that was his choice and wasn’t requested by me, and I am not intending to use those images as they do not convey the messages I want to examine.

Overall, it was a fascinating and very creative day, and I must thank Jo again for her teaching and knowledge on the subject of the nude. Finally, you might like to know Jo’s thoughts on the subject of Clint’s tattoos, which are something I have made no reference to in my own post, as for me, they were just something that was part of who he was. Jo puts a more considered academic viewpoint to the subject. From my own aesthetic point of view, the images I like best are the minimalist ones I took with rim lighting, like the top one, although the masked images are also interesting. (Jo does a lot of work with masks, and it is something I too have looked at before. She has access to a much wider range than me though).

Edited to add:

Following discussion on the comments thread below about the importance of the model’s tattoos and whether the work really does have a non-traditional viewpoint , I’ve now started to stitch Chines symbols for female words onto the photos, in the style of tattoos. I think this has some potential for assignment 4. Here’s an example below.

References

Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.

Leddick, D. (2015) The Male Nude. TASCHEN GmbH

Mulvey, Laura.(1999) “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44. [online] At: http://www.composingdigitalmedia.org/f15_mca/mca_reads/mulvey.pdf (Accessed on 13 August 2017)

Soloway, J. (2016) Jill Soloway on The Female Gaze | MASTER CLASS | TIFF 2016. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBvppooD9I (Accessed on 13 August 2017)

Suthurst, Jo. (2017) Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#7 – Male Art Nude – “Clint” At: https://josutherstphotography.blog/2017/06/08/surfaces-and-strategies-shoot-mod37-male-art-nude-clint/ (Accessed on 13 August 2017)