I saw on an online forum a question asking if there is the female equivalent of the Male Gaze.
There is no question when you look around in photography and wider popular culture the phenomenon of the Male Gaze. Scantily clad young women adorn pages of magazines, newspapers and in advertising. Movies are told from the male point of view. Take The Graduate, the story is about the coming of age of a young man and what his future holds. How different and more interesting it would have been if it was told from the perspective of Ann Bancroft’s character Mrs Robinson and her attempt to break free from an unhappy life.
So is the Female Gaze the exact opposite of the Male Gaze? Is it male strip shows and “Playgirl” images? To me, it doesn’t feel like a definition created by women but rather created by men assuming what women think. There might be some women who see the Female Gaze as this but if you started with a blank sheet of paper or canvas would this be what it really looks like?
Western art has been developed through men’s eyes. It hasn’t until recently that the influence of women been able to break through the centuries of male domination. Giving women a voice is what the Female Gaze should be all about.
So how easy is it for women to achieve this? Well not that easy. Social media has a habit of censoring real images of women.
What I have found that it is so much easier discovering work by men than women. There is the attitude of some (male) photographers discouraging women photographers to the point which you could class as bullying and harassment. If you ask me the male bias is still alive and well.
So what can I do about it? It isn’t a direct battle for me to fight. All I can do is to try to support as many women artists as possible by buying their books, art or visiting their exhibitions and telling other people about it.
It is pretty hard to believe that I have been working on this project now for six years. Time has flown by.
So what back in 2013 did I want to achieve? I knew I wanted to do something different with my photography. Learning a new skill was part of it. But to be honest, at the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say with the pictures.
As the days became weeks and the weeks became months, I have learnt a lot. Not just about the technical side but also about the world around us. Coming up with creative ideas and making interesting photographs from those ideas is not easy. I am very much in awe at the photographers who make the process look so simple.
Many thanks to all the people who I have had the pleasure to meet and work with over the last six years. Thanks also to you for your interest in my journey and I hope you continue with me to wherever it leads me next.
I first heard about the project Form & Function from a tweet by Photofusion who were displaying Chloe Rosser’s images on their walls for an exhibition. And just before Christmas a copy of the book landed on my doorstep.
The best way to describe the pictures are that they show people’s backs in while they tuck their heads and sometimes their arms in. What this results in is a Henry Moore sculpture type look to the human body. A similar approach to the human body that Bill Brandt did in his images. These photographs do somehow capture the person behind the body while a Moore sculpture or Brandt photograph does not.
We are so used to seeing images of people without any blemishes or marks and it does take you a bit by surprise seeing these on the walls of Photofusion.
I was lucky enough to go to an evening talk by Chloe Rosser at the exhibition and it was an evening to remember. There was a member of the audience who insisted that the photographs should not be considered nudes or portraits and that everybody should agree with him. When he was challenged about his opinion he had enough by that stage and stormed off. He certainly was passionate about his art.
When I started this project I wondered what “art” meant in terms of photography. And the more I work on this project the greater the understanding I have in what it means.
I like my art to surprise me and make me think in ways that I would not have considered before viewing it. Regurgitating the same ideas is not a fresh way of looking at the world around us. Chloe Rosser’s work is surprisingly simple yet very thoughtful.