Week 5 BJP Female Gaze 27.02.20
In April 2017 the British journal of photography released the issue ‘FEMALE GAZE New perspectives from he selfie generation’ . This issue was recently re-released by BJP as a free download, in celebration of women’s history month in March, and international women day on March the 8th 2020. The issue included an article on the female gaze written by Charlotte Jensen, author of Girl on girl, Art and photography in the age of the female gaze (2017). I purchased Jensen’s book back in the first module when I discovered it through research that module, and have been reading through it slowly since, and popping back to it each module, dipping in and out for quotes. I find Jansen’s way of writing, refreshing after so many scholarly articles and essays, it is well written, professional , but modern, and easy to connect too, much easier than a lot of the reading I have been doing this module, accessible is definitely the word, it is a modern book, about modern day photography, written for the modern day audience. I have to admit, I didn’t think I would find anything new in this article, having met Jansen and attended a talk by her at TJ boulting last module, and having both read a lot about her, and listen to interviews with her as well, but I thought it was definitely worth reading to see if anything new came up. Also though to see whether her method of discussion had changed or evolved at all since girl on girl and the BJP article were released nearly three years ago now. I was pleasantly surprised by the new information I read in the article, things that I hadn’t seen written about elsewhere, there were also rehashing, or tellings of some of the things that feature int he book, but that is only to be expected when reading about the same subject, by the same author, written at roughly the same time. Below are my notes and quotes from the project.
“I saw this as an opportunity to try to understand the female gaze and how it was being used.” (BJP. 2017. pg 37)
“Images are created by fellow women, and do they photograph women differently to men?” ((BJP. 2017. pg 37) This quote is the all encompassing question of Jansens work and writings, when discussing the female gaze , and something that we need to keep coming back to. In the forum discussions I have been a part of so far, there seems to of mainly been talk of the female gaze in the terms of I am a female photographers, and the female gaze is so much more than that. It *is* how women view the world, but it is how women photograph other women most importantly, and how this differs from how men photograph women, and the fact that as women, we have only, until recently been used to viewing ourselves, through the gaze of the male. The important thing is how when one female photographs another female, if there is a difference in how that woman is portrayed, and how when that image is sent out into the world and viewed by other women, it alters are perception of the female mind, the female body, the female role in the world.
“All emerged since 2010″ (BJP. 2017. pg 37) I didn’t actually realise that about Jansens book, that all of the photographers in the book had been ‘born’ post 2010 “The year the front-facing camera was introduced tot he iPhone” I find this a hard sentence to swallow, it implies that these photographers may not of existed without the selfie, and whereas I know Jansen’s work gravitates around that theme, it seems to be limiting to me, to imply that they only came about from this, through this, or because of this. I’m thinking that isn’t what is meant by this sentence. More that Jansen is referring to how the selfie has altered how we view female photographers, and the emergence of them but I still find that hard reading, as a female photographer that has probably not taken more than 20 selfies and definitely less than 5 without my kids in them ! Strange I felt the need to write that, like if they are on my own they are shameful somehow ! I do have an odd association with selfies though, one cannot ever get the duck pout out of ones head when thinking about them. Something I would never link the likes of Maisie cousins, Juno Calypso, or Poloumi Basu too !
“I wanted to find out why and how they photographed women and what the effect might be on the way we perceive women in society. This is what the book, titled Girl on girl : Art and photography in the age of the female gaze , is all about.”(BJP. 2017. pg 37)
“There is a wider shift happening in photography as more and more women get behind the camera and more of their work is out in the public domain.”(BJP. 2017. pg 37) I don’t really know about this, I would need to look at statistics. Maybe women have always been behind the camera, it is just that the work was not seen before, not out “in the public domain” , that to me would make more sense. But, this is merely assumptions, with no basis of fact, but given my understanding of the world and the history of women portrayal in other realms, and other arts, such as the female sculptures we have learnt about in recent years, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.
“Women are able to control how they are represented more than ever before in cultural history.” (BJP. 2017. pg 37) I think, although Jensen refers predominantly to how women are portrayed physically, this certainly falls in with my sphere of research. It is hard to explain to someone in only a few minuets, how my work is altering perspectives of the female role, or mothering in general, but it is. It is about feminism, and the ability to choose, the choice to be a stay at home mom is as much as feminist choice in this point in time, as the choice to go out and work and to focus on your career instead of staying at home and having babies. My photography is about alternative education yes, but it is about so much more, and goes so much deeper than that on a personal level. It is about a choice I have made as a female, about the choices I continue to make every single day, some would be deemed feminist, some anti-feminist , I do not hold to such labels, they are about the right to choose everything, every day, just as men have done before us, and the way we wrestle with the internal happiness, sadness, fear, guilt, seduction, and sublimeness of those choices as well.
“Most of the photographs of women we see daily are made to appeal to the heteronormative male gaze.” (BJP. 2017. pg 37) I have thought about this a lot when reading many articles on this subject, the very talk of the male gaze, seems in a way seclusionary , we talk about the way straight men view women, and straight women view women, but this is all about sex. What about the way gay women view women, or gay men view women, it always sits a little bit oddly with me, because then I ask myself the question, why are we not discussing the way gay men photograph other men , are we in fact perpetuating the problem by talking about the way women photograph other women as if no woman has ever been sexually attracted to another woman, when we reduce the gaze down to pure physical attraction and sex, it , to use Jansen’s own words “We often miss the nuances that reflect, in varying degrees, the photographers perspective of living in our times ” (Jansen 2017 pg 9)
“The message such photographs of women give us is still very narrow. Photography undoubtedly has an effect on the way we understand people so, as more women create photographs of women, will it change how we understand them?” (BJP. 2017. pg 37)
“Feminist Avant-garde of the 1970′s” (BJP. 2017. pg 38) Exhibition at the photographers gallery in 2016 …. RESEARCH THIS !
“The photographs created by women in the 1970′s were mostly staged – posed against patriarchy- ad they never really made it to the mainstream.” (BJP. 2017. pg 38)
“In the 1990′s, as Naomi Wolf’s best selling The beauty myth was published, photography as seen by artists as a more malignant power. Images of women in the media were selling a lie: the women shown in ads for the cosmetics and fashion industry were plastic, manipulated, unreal.” (BJP. 2017. pg 38)
(Discussing Sherman, Leibovitz, Golding etc) ” Their work paved the way for understanding women differently through photographic imagery. Making a significant impact on everyday media. Suddenly it was possible to be a woman and photograph yourself or the women around you as you wanted.” (BJP. 2017. pg 38)
“Online, photographs women take of other women and themselves still have the same connotations : that they are narcissistic, flimsy, vain, or vapid. It’s much harder for women photographers working now to move against the patriarchal system because wherever you put your pictures, you are invariably consumed by that system.” (BJP. 2017. pg 38) This is such a powerful statement and so very very true, still three years later.
BJP. April 2017. #BJP 7859: Female Gaze. Available at https://www.bjp-online.com/2017/04/bjp-7859-female-gaze/ (Accessed 05.03.20)
Jansen, Charlotte. 2017. Girl on girl; Art and photography in the age of the female gaze. London, Laurence King.