Representation of the female form in photography.

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by jenni_deeley, Jan 4, 2007.

  1. I am currently writing a dissertation on the representation of the female form within photography. I begin by discussing how the female form has been depicted through modernism, through the work of Clarence White and Alfred Stieglitz. I then continue to the main point of discussion, Feminist Postmodern photography. I have written about many photographers such as Cindy Sherman, Jo Spence, Jill Posener, Barbara Kruger and the photographic work of Jenny Saville. But through my research I have found it difficult to separate these artists into chapters to show the progression of the representation of the female form through photography.
    If anyone could suggest anything I will be very grateful. Thank you Jenni
    Moderator: Please stay on-topic. Meditations on the state of the university and what Hustler is doing have nothing to do with the topic here.
  2. Most male
    photographers shoot female nudes for three reasons

    1.) artistic history (the artsy fartsy justification) : images of a naked female body has long
    been interpreted as a symbol of the muses, artistic inspiration and purity.

    2.) Lust: pretty much self explanatory: the sexual urgings

    3.) money: for the above reasons, nude images of women sell.

    None of which (or the initial reply) answer Jenni's question. I suggest jenni read Kenneth
    Clarke's boo "The Nude", and some Robert Hughes for masculine readings of art history
    and development, and for feminist viewpoints: Naomi Wolf (Wolfe?), Camille Paglia, Suzi
    Bright, and Annie Sprinkle.

    And as long as she is looking for classical photographers of the nude: the late Ruth Bernard
    and Imogene Cunningham. Also see photojournalists Susan Meiselas work documenting
    Carny strippers and Jodi Cobb's work particularly her book "Geishas".
  3. I have found it difficult to separate these artists into chapters to show the progression of the representation of the female form through photography.
    What compels you to think there is any progression whatsoever, except through time which is inevitable and not notable? The field (gatekeepers) define progression by their literature.
    I suggest you find critics' statements and then ride on their back to make your point That's the way the arts work. Get the hell over it. Get your friggin degree, and then do something important. If you can.
  4. "...What compels you to think there is any progression whatsoever..." That's the way scientists work. Empirically, they collect some statistical data and then extrapolate to whatever they want to prove. E.g, a typical dissertation would go like this: 1. Compile a table as follows: [Year] - [Artist's name] showed [insert part of female anatomy]. Same year/age/millenium [insert name] [insert action: defeated the Romans/started a WW/banned slavery/etc] 2. REPEAT 150 times - different artists/different events/years. 3. Conclude how this proves [your point: e.g. women being liberated/enslaved/global warming threat/save the whales). 4. PRINT 5. PUBLISH 6. COLLECT YOUR PhD. 7. Send Pico his share of your degree.
  5. I don't think you are going to find any progression...with the possible exception that later "artistic" nudes may have a tendency to be more explicit...and that is more of a reflection of the evolution of moral standards.
  6. "...and that is more of a reflection of the evolution of moral standards."

    Destroying moral standards yes, evolving moral standards no but the concept is essentially correct in that by breaking down any reverence of past moral standards, anything now goes in the wonderful world of Postmodern artistic endevors.
  7. You'll probably find that the arts reflect, anticipate and criticize cultural positioning on all moral issues. Despite TG's belief that it's a steady downhill ride in these "postmodern" times (artist = pervert), we humans have been decadent before, puritanical before, liberated before, enslaved before, enlightened before and so on in an uneven yet cyclical spiral. Artists are humans too and so display human characteristics and/or revolt against them (depending on the individual and their culture's tendencies)... t <p>(Ellis's list is a good one. Naomi is a favorite of mine and Camille makes a grand counterpoint that will get your blood up. Great fun.)
  8. Lots of guys responding to your posts Jenni - almost ironic.
    Pico's degree acceleration program aside, I did tend to question the same assumption: why are you assuming there is a progression of the female form? And what underlies the "main point of discussion" being Feminist Postmodern photography?
    Is there a relationship (causal) from Clarence White and Alfred Stieglitz to Barbara Kruger? The latter's work seems less related to "photography" evolution and more rooted in social commentary and reaction to attitudes in general around women (and not their form always). Kruger's images that stand out in my mind were less about form and more about message in a propagandist style.
    Also, boy, if you asked me who were classic nude photographers, I would have said "Weston, Bernhard, Cunningham". I never considered Stieglitz first a master of nude photography (modulo his obsessive, but brilliant, studies of Georgia O'Keefe).
    In terms of significant historic nude photography, associated with Stieglitz in the photo- secession was Anne Brigman - who I certainly associate more with nude photography than Stieglitz and broke out from the (then) current constraints of nude photography (as part of the pictorialist school).
    I guess I'm questioning your assumptions about the evolution...
  9. "If anyone could suggest anything I will be very grateful. Thank you Jenni"

    Perhaps "the progression of the representation" in "Feminist Postmodern photography" is too modern a notion?


    Don E
  10. Perhaps a wider sweep of history of art may provide some clues. Consider the representation of the female form in pre history (sometimes extremely graphic, with over emphasized sexual parts). Compare with the idealised realism of Greco Roman and Renaissance art. Look at the impact of puritannical backlashes in intervening periods, and also moves to more intellectual representations (think of e.g. Picasso). Consider the influence of changing materials and techniques with technical progress.
  11. Get your friggin degree
    Yes, I for one am glad Michelangelo got his... Oh wait... He wasn't a photographer, never got a degree and primarily did male nudes. In retrospect he must've really sucked. He must've gone to a diploma mill and really padded his resume' to get that Cistine Chapel gig. ;-)
    Which brings up a rhetorical question: Why did much of art (generalization here) switch from (mostly) depicting the male nude to the female, which I suspect has carried over to the mostly modern art of photography? Heck if I know... Like Thomas Jefferson, I never graduated from college! And we all know what a maroon HE was! ;-)
  12. Except for my poor humor, this thread has been quite enlightening. Thanks to you all for
    keeping it alive and well.

    Jenni - Your task is on the bleeding edge of the literature of criticism and will require some
    mind-bending engineering to make it fit feminist agendas. Frankly, methinks it more of a
    task of social engineering than philosophy, and too early to embalm living artists in history,
    but that's what agendas do, for better or worse.
  13. Jenni, since you mention Barbara Kruger I would just remind you of a post by Sally McKay-LePage about similarities in the work of Dorothea Lang and Barbara Kruger here

    Clarence White used anatomical latex body parts for her grotesque images, and Jenny Saville made photographs based on many hours of observation in a plastic surgery. Just a hint.
  14. J, try the Book Women's Camera Work: Self/Body/Other by Judith Fryer Davidov; some good insights.
  15. As long as this link is still in my clipboard, why waste it?

    Evincing the female form as it pursuades the male photographer to move focus to the
    liberated woman rather than his usual penchant for mechanics (blah, blah, blah)
  16. Hey Jenni,

    I think you'd have a much better time finding an answer to your question over at my website: Fine art nude photography only. Maybe the
    photographers there would be more sympathetic to your question.

  17. Zoe:

    Your work will be super collectible fine art when you hit senior citizen age. Money in the

    Sucks that the wait is so long, eh?
  18. There might be something for you in Geoff Dyer, The Ongoing Moment: New York, Pantheon Books, 2005. It may not give you exactly what you want as far as feminist postmodernism is concerned but it is worth a look for the material on the photographers and Dyer's take on their view of the female form.

    Having gone through the dissertation experience, although not in your field, I understand your search for perspectives.

  19. I applaud your research technique of getting a whole bunch of enthusiastic amateurs to do
    your work for you - I hope they will be credited in your dissertation.

    PS I don't think anybody would accuse Zoe of being a feminist, maybe a post-feminist in
    the screw-the-gullible-male-punters sense.
  20. A possible seperation could be the historical changes in social position of women regarding education, work, income, mobility, etc. on one hand, and the need to find a new form of (self-)representation to meet the personal and social needs of these changes on the other hand.

  21. Ellis said:

    3.) money: for the above reasons, nude images of women sell.

    except mine! LOL....hahahahaha...ROFL.
  22. It is a very regional topic that would change more than slightly if you travel around continents but as far as pop photography works I cannot advise much as Im not adequately familiar with the work

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