With thanks to Sue and Studio Photo Gallery for the facilities.
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I was browsing in a Waterstones shop and came across the book Women Walking by Karin Sagner.
As a side note, I can’t stress how important physical bookshops are to our knowledge. I am certain that I would not have come across this book from browsing online.
The book is a collection of paintings from the late 18th to the early 20th century which depict women not inside the home environment but out and about in the towns and countryside. So what is so special about this? Well, the point is, that if you look hard enough, there are works of art which do not show women as passive objects.
Even though during this time period there were very few female artists to give an alternative to the male gaze, it is good to see that there was work being created which, as the subtitle of the book suggests, showed the Freedom Adventure Independence of women.
Now that we are in 2018 the question has to be asked: have things improved? Well from this piece on the BBC News website Do ‘dead’ models live on in fashion magazines? we may not have moved on as much as we think we have.
Digging a little deeper, the research by Jennifer Moss is a few years old and you can read the 2017 update here.
For me this is more evidence in how important it is to think very carefully about how I am depicting the women I am photographing for this project.
The Nude – A New Perspective by Gill Saunders was written in 1989 and from what it says on the the jacket cover, accompanied an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Even though the book is coming up to being thirty years old, it is amazing how relevant it still is today.
This book examines how the human body has been used by artists through a careful curation of example works and arranging them not just in chronological order but also by topical juxtaposition within the book. For example how Adam and Eve are depicted and early photography through to more modern artists like Picasso.
The author argues that the common theme of nude art is that it is usually created by a male artist featuring a female subject who is in either a submissive, powerless or seductive pose. If a male subject is being featured they would be in a powerful dominant pose.
A pretty clear message being sent to women about the world of art.
In my previous post about Sotheby’s Erotic: Passion & Desire auction you could say that the message has not changed. However the final section of this book gives hope that with more female artists looking at the world from a new perspective change is happening.
So why is it taking so long? My guess is that the vast back catalogue of works that artists use today as reference is a very hard habit to break. If any new work gets created with no reference to this back catalogue it is soon drowned out by the many recreations of the same old stuff.
This book has forced me to cast a more critical eye over what I am seeing around me. Is it right to be viewing people in this way? Are the images I am taking communicating an outdated or incorrect stereotype? And if this is what I am doing, what am I doing about changing this?