Is it just me or does searching through Tumblr cause one to develop a slight identity crisis?
MADISON SMUKALLA @ Major
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Photo by Morgan Olivia Newton / Makeup by Elsie Simone / Styling by Marissa Gonzalez / Los Angeles
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Photographing Women from a Male vs. Female Perspective: Part I
As I continue to shoot in front of and behind the camera I started to think about the ways male and female photographers capture female subjects. I pondered the question: If we didn’t know the name of the photographer would we be able to tell which gender took the photo?
I opened the discussion online and the responses were very thought provoking. One of my former female ballet teachers compared the situation to male versus female choreographers; could we tell from watching a female dancer onstage which gender created the work? Having been a dancer for 8 years I’ve always noticed the similarities in communication and direction amongst choreographers and photographers. I also tried my hand at choreography and am currently photographing people and can definitely acknowledge that it feels different to be on the controlling side of things.
But going back to the question of photographing women from a male versus female perspective; I began to look through my own portfolio and decided to question whether I could even see a difference.
One woman noted she could tell who took the picture based upon the model’s poses; that men tend to direct models into “sexier” positions while women let models pose more organically. A male photographer remarked that he feels his models often try to pose in a way that appears more sexually appealing to men as a result of innate societal conditioning.
In my experience I definitely feel more comfortable shooting with women for the main reason that I am more comfortable around women on a social level but I also feel much less vulnerable and exposed even when I am being photographed naked. I feel they can understand what my existence as a woman means and that seeing my bare breasts or bottom half seems rather mundane to them, regardless of their sexual preferences (I’ve shot with both heterosexual and homosexual female photographers). With men (and I do not believe I’ve shot with many homosexual men) I sometimes wonder what goes through their minds when they’re photographing a beautiful woman wearing little to no clothes. I can see from their previous work how they generally view women on an aesthetic level but on a personal level—a respect level—I have no clue….though that often becomes clear in their communication.
But what if we do not take into consideration the “behind the scenes” aspect since people who weren’t on set wouldn’t know these details anyway? Would we be able to see from ONLY the final, edited image with no name attached to it, whether it was a man or woman who took it?
I compiled a number of photos (of me) following a similar theme including beauty, natural light portraiture, prop usage, topless nudity, full body nudity, fashion, and androgyny and put them side by side not necessarily for comparison, but to challenge and/or prove the notion that there is an evident difference. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s more open to interpretation. I know from my experiences shooting each photo that the gender stereotypes weren’t always there but I do find tiny hints of sub-conscious gender dynamics stemming from societal conditioning here and there in the final results.
Note: I am not crediting the photographers with their photos only because I don’t want to give away their genders. General photo credits at the end.
I can certainly say shooting with these two photographers was different in terms of communication; one allowed me to feel very comfortable while the other highly sexualized me with their verbiage:
Using point and shoot film cameras while adding their own props:
Two photoshoots alongside a female model in which I assume a more “masculine” role; both photographers hail from the same country:
General photo credits in alphabetical order:
Alyson Louise Allison, Sebastian Cviq, Cameron Davis, Edward Duarte, Evol, Emily Knecht, Jaesung Lee, Tim Ngo, Louis Oberlander, Haoyuan Ren, Esteban Schimpf, and Taschka Turnquist