It’s been a crazy busy non-stop week. Bu the best thing happened. A client commented that the photos I had taken for them had a feminist quality. My heart stopped, my internal lens panned out and I had a Sally Fields moment. It felt so incredibly good to have someone feel that way about the pictures I take. Because it’s something I think hard about too, and there’s been a bit of an internal dialogue going on about it that I wanted to share today.
Cait and I both are big on the empowerment focus when it comes to our work. Whether it’s clothes that spiritually lift, or a picture that represents power, it’s also feminism, showing strength and celebration. Our pal Jen, who is basically my photography guru and mentor, once discussed with me how she “poses” women in difficult circumstances. Instead of lifting their physical attributes, she directs them towards celebrating their strength. It resonated with me so much that it is now how I shoot all people, and not just women. And this strength can be channeled in the most subtle nuances of light, or where a chin is pointed.
So do women shoot differently than men? I really don’t know. Discuss! Less male gaze? An empowered posterior or bosom instead of a sexualized one? Subversive empowerment? Is there a difference in how female photographers direct and compose their shots based on how they themselves were socially constructed? Does the shared experience of womanhood reflect in photography? Max Weber and Sociology 101, please tell me something.
I can only really comment on how I shoot. And we need to promote women in photography more beyond the Annie Lebovitzes of the world. This makes for a great opportunity to point you to some of my favourites. Lee Miller was a pioneer in the art form during World War II and on its battlefields and devastated cities. I can’t help but wonder what she took from her previous career as a fashion model during the booming 1920s of Manhattan (think Great Gatsby-esque) that influenced her shots. Fast forward to our current affairs and Lynsey Addario is capturing conflict from the trenches and the non-combatants.
On the fashion and lifestyle front, Cait introduced me to Boys by Girls while she was studying in London this past summer. They explore menswear through the female lens, and I can’t help but notice the complexity, the depth and the…nuances. I’ve also been enamoured with the work of Denise Bovee. I can’t even count the ways I want to be able to channel not just the West Coast playfulness, but also intensity and depth, all at the same time. Prue Stent is only 21 and she pushes the boundaries in such a way that would make Francis Bacon proud. Of course, there’s also Alice Gao, who is just so good.
And those are just a few of my favourite lady photogs. The ladies whose qualities I inspire to embody and practice.