Throughout the history of photography male photographers have found the temptation to photograph women in sexually provocative poses irresistible. It is often, and sometimes erroneously, seen as an indication of the historical objectification of women by men as sexual objects. Obviously there is an element of this, often more than a little, in almost every photograph a man takes of a woman.
But; and I am not entirely on solid ground here; there is a genuine and I think strongly votive, adulatory, celebratory impulse behind this. Think of it this way, men and women are designed by evolution to be alluring to one another.
The imbalance is that whether due to biology or social construct, it is men who are traditionally regarded as the more visual of the two sexes.This is how it is generally described, that whereas men achieve the largest percentage of their sexual stimulation visually, by looking at the object of their affections, women gain their stimulation from more lofty stimuli such as love and warm feelings and so on. This as most clichés is probably complete nonsense since it is well documented that women constitute quite a healthy proportion of the pornography viewing audience. But we for better or worse go on clinging to the notion that men on the whole can not get enough of seeing sexually charged pictures of women.
Whatever the case it is certainly true that the vast majority of pin-ups are historically exclusively of female models. The men mostly taking the voyeuristic role in the equation. Of course it is also probably true that even these days the majority of professional photographers are still male. Anyway whatever the sociological statistics behind the whole subject, the fact remains that at least speaking for myself my main interest in photographing people is heavily oriented towards female sitters. It would also be very true to say that I find photographing and working with women by far more exciting and gratifying. Perhaps the strangest thing of all though is that in discussions with women, as well as female photographers I find that the majority of them also would rather look at images of women than of men, on the whole. There is a sneaking feeling that somehow a woman will always be more beautiful than a man as a subject of erotic and photographic scrutiny. Now don’t bite my head off for the foregoing, this is not a polemic or a well researched thesis, backed up by fact-checked studies and so forth. This is just a cursory opinion, given as is, with no desire to argue the point much further or in a more meaningful way. Nor do I wish to somehow prove that my intentions in photographing beautiful and sexy women is in some way a noble thing.
The WOMAN project was conceived as a series to counteract the plethora of assumptions in our Western society about the meaning of beauty, attraction and sexuality/sensuality. It was made specifically to question the predominance of extreme youth and fashionable anorexia as defining and encompassing our tastes and the parameters of desirability. It was never thought of by me as a project that would turn over the whole of our cultural precepts on the larger subject of “WOMANHOOD” or questions of the dictatorship of fashion industry fuelled standards of beauty and value. Of course as any practitioner I would hope that my input with this project would at least field a kind of a counterbalance to the flood of painfully skinny, impossibly smooth skinned objects of awe in our media.
But as I believe that on the whole no one argument could ever totally dominate and vanquish the industry that has poured so much time, effort and most of all money into creating this leviathan, my targets were set somewhat lower.I thought “OK I disagree with this cage, so let’s file away at one or two of the bars and see what happens”.
Now anyone reading this could of course say that I obviously am totally contradicting myself by then going ahead and doing a series of Pin-Ups! I disagree. Firstly I have never intended in any way to claim that I was setting out to destroy sex, or deny that men find women attractive. Absolutely the opposite if anything. But with the strong proviso that I refused to use the techniques and tricks of the fashion industry, the faking and the massive reconstruction that they undertake in order to present us with idealised images of women. Rather to prove that beauty is not the property of the young, nor the thin, nor the perfect. That beauty is everywhere. A strong impetus was my attempt to show the distinction between “Beauty” and “Attraction”, the idea that beauty or the fact of being beautiful on its own was not enough of a condition for someone to be deemed attractive.
I have always maintained that most ordinary folk, in complete disregard of what the media tells them choose their paramours on the basis of some deeper instinct, some other irresistible chemistry that has little to do with systematised standards of beauty. The old saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” for me is an absolute truism. The difficulty is in showing why one sees someone as beautiful to others; in other words allowing the audience to see the object of affection through the eyes of the photographer. But also taking it one step further. Making the point that there is no intrinsic yardstick for measuring the amount of beauty one person has in excess of another.
In effect what is beautiful is beautiful for almost completely indefinable reasons.
This is a test shoot for the sporadic “Pin-Up” series (part of the WOMAN project). I like these a lot. The idea is to shoot pictures that remind the viewer of pin-up photos without actually following the cheesecake formula rigorously. I am still developing this notion, it’s just one of those things I’d really like to do, but feel uncertain where to go with it… Here it is with my friend, and total beauty, Lara. Forgive me for having said I was not going to discuss or defend my position here, it seems I went ahead and made a case anyway. I have written extensively in other sections of this and the main site about the purpose and methodology of this long running project.
I shall now shut up.