“Nobody ever discovered ugliness through photographs. But many, through photographs, have discovered beauty. Except for those situations in which the camera is used to document, or to mark social rites, what moves people to take photographs is finding something beautiful.” Susan Sontag 1977.
Following on from my discovery of Peter Lindberg I am reminded of some different portrayals of women. One thought I have relates to their portrayal as slaves to homemaking where men are portrayed as the dominant gender as in the book and subsequent 1975 and 2004 films The Stepford Wives and in the imagery of Joyce by Juno Calypso and comparing this to current social media trends. When I first saw Juno Calyso’s work at the Unseen exhibition in Amsterdam in September this year I was immediately taken back to the time I first saw the Stepford Wives. The image ‘Twelve Reasons Why You’re Tired All The Time’ (2013) was provocative and initially I felt uncomfortable. What was the point of it? What was it saying? Was it just making a woman seem like a robot? As I looked and saw that her images were of the character Joyce using equipment to make oneself more beautiful and appealing to men I began to realise my first reactions were missing the point.
What strikes me in the posted selfie images created by women and girls is that they have and are continuing to mould their self images to impress men. Some may have the intention of being chosen to promote and keep expensive products while others the need to be ‘liked’ and ‘followed’ for various reasons. Over coiffed, made up and dressed seductively are common themes to this trend. Needing to have such enhancements and adornments and the ability to take and post images in particular poses and locations seems to have become a lifestyle for some. On the negative side this can create pressures to keep up with school friends and women friends as well as lure the more vulnerable into more dangerous territory.
Whatever their personal reasons and needs are there seems to be an assumption that the ‘beholder’ only sees beauty in them if they adorn and pose in certain ways. It is this imagery that perpetuates the perception of the objectification and vulnerability of the female gender in relation to the assumed dominance of the male sex.
I often wonder about the lives of these people and how well or not the images reflect their real everyday lives. While I am sure that some are consumed by preparing for, taking, processing and posting images for much of their waking hours and some making a living out of the activity, others maybe are struggling behind the mask they portray. If, as I suspect this is the reality, their cameras lie (Hilton, 2008).
Calypso, Juno. 2017. London based photographer Juno Calypso talks about femininity and disappointment in a man’s world. Studio International. 08/11/2017. Available at: http://studiointernational.com/index.php/juno-calypso-interview. [accessed 11-12-2017].
Hilton, Isabel. 2008. The camera never lies. But photographers can and do. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/sep/27/photography.pressandpublishing. [accessed 11-12-2017].
Levin, Ira. 1972. The Stepford Wives. USA: Random House.
Lindberg, Peter. 2017. Shadows on the Wall. Berlin: Taschen.
Photoworks. 2016. Ideas on Talent: Juno Calypso. photoworks. 9 August 2016. Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/talent-development-interview-juno-calypso/#close-no. [accessed 11-12-2017].
Sontag, Susan. 1977. On Photography. New York: Penguin.