voyeurism or curiosity?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by lisa_hancock, Oct 24, 2003.

  1. just wanted to start a discussion regarding most people's view that
    voyeurism is inherent within photography. i personallly don't agree
    but am fascinated to hear others peoples views.
  2. I wonder where you get the idea that 'most people' hold such a view. 'Most people' probably see photographs as illustrations in their newspapers and magazines that break up the type and give them something more or less interesting to look at. A slightly smaller number take pictures to remember events and places they have been. A far smaller group still take pictures as a means of personal expression. A miniscule proportion obsess about it and make the most ridiculous claims - all too many of the last group are to be found here on photo.net so people who read this site with their cynicicm shields down can get an entirely wrong view of reality.
  3. As guess that could be applied to just looking around then also. A photo is just a fraction of a second of that activity.
  4. As far as I can tell, the only difference between voyeurism and curiosity (other than the obvious part that most people narrow the scope of voyeurism down to sexual activity) is that a voyeur is gleaning a feeling from what he or she is watching where as the curious are gleaning some information from what they are watching.

    We could argue the semantics of these words for weeks... in the end... they mean the same; to describe people who like to watch.

    So, are you going to let the pergorative use of "voyeur" get you down?

  5. Or even the pejorative use.
  6. For some reason, the 'playboy interview' style of photography made a big impression on me just as I was deciding to try being a PJ. There's something about capturing a range of 'real' expressions while your subject is interacting with somebody else that fascinates me. To this day, I am still 'weak' on posing people, etc, which is one reason I avoided doing weddings whenever I could.

    If I'm doing candids, eye contact works for me too. I've had some strong images that way, sort of a 'shared moment'. It's the posing or the 'where do you want me?' type shots that do very little for me personally.

    I have no idea where this fits on your 'v - scale'.
  7. j_a


    The American Heritage College Dictionary, third edition, defines a voyeur as a person who derives sexual gratification from observing the naked body or sexual acts of others, esp. secretly. The second definition is an obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects. Voyeurism is the act of a voyeur. I hardly think that definition applies either to the vast majority of photographs taken by people or to the vast majority of people’s view of photography. There can be voyeuristic photos, but photography itself is not inherently voyeuristic. Nor is photography inherently curious, it can be used to satisfy a curiosity, but it can also be used record a scene, to make a record of an event, to tell a story, or any number of other things. Photography at its most basic concept is a tool, at its greatest height, an art.
  8. Human beings have got eyes (and later cameras), so they look at things. And sometimes they even feel pleasure doing this - openly or secretly doesn't matter.
    I think that psychological explanations are a typical phaenomenon of the 20th century and in a lot of cases not very useful. Basically they say more about the psychologist/theorist than the human behaviour they try to understand.
    That's all.
  9. I wonder who you hang out with, but can I join your group? As mentioned a voyeuer is a peeping tom, it has a sexual connotation. I like landscape photos but they don't turn me on that way. Scopophilia was described by Freud in one his cases I think it was the Dora case, which was based on the idea that we take possesion of something when we look at it. In a sense when I look at photo of a landscape, I have a desire to be there and take hold of it with my eyes. I think photography can have a scopophilic aspect to it but it's probably secondary to aesthic appeal. I love Mozart's music but I don't want to have an auralphilic relationship with it. Advertising photography I suspect has a strong scopophilic element to it, they encourage it so consumers will buy the product. Film I think is much more fiting with your idea of voyeurism since many commercial films deal with power, dominance and sexuality, while the audience sits there and drinks it in. The best example of this is Hitchcocks "The Rear Window" about the voyeuristic tendencies of the audience.
  10. What are you looking at? Literally.

    I enjoy looking at some things, so I receive a reward when I view them, to enjoy is motivation enough. I am curious about what I see in others, so I may stare to determine the meaning it has for me; my reward is reaching a conclusion to the thought prevoked.

    In other images I have little or no interest, no reward or motivation, no voyeuristic drive to see.

    So it depends on what I am looking at, and to some degree my personality.
  11. Let's face it: to some extent or another, every person is a voyeur. And even when it tries not to be, photography is always voyeuristic. Once the exposure is made and published, it's then up to the beholder as to how voyeuristic they intend to be. That's the nature of the medium.

    In my field of photojournalism, I've always held the opinion that we are professional voyeurs; i.e., we're paid to look in on the activities of others, prurient or otherwise -- kinda like your nosey neighbor who always appears "magically" in his back yard every time you're changing clothes by the window.

    "Voyeur" is a loaded term that comes with all kinds of (mostly negative) connotations. It's unfortunate that such scorn is laid at the feet of what I consider the perfectly normal social curiosity of the human race.

    Even the humans who read People magazine.

    Just my two cents.
  12. Throw out the dictionary. Words mean what people use them for. The dictionary is an ever-evolving record of that. I see the term voyeur used a lot in Photo.net discussions, and it seems to refer to something beyond curiosity--something more obsessive.
    If that is Lisa's point, then there is indeed a quality about much of today's photojournalism that feeds voyeurism. Consider a tragedy that includes much death and destruction. Rarely will you see "police gazette" style photos of mangled corpses. That leaves the destruction itself, survivors, their families, and emergency personnel. Of the destruction itself, there may be many pictures to satisfy the curious, but there is little of interest for the voyeurs. For them will be the exhausted workers, the crying loved one, the horrified onlooker, etc. Those shots make up the bulk of images of a disaster, of any type, anywhere. They are basically the same anywhere. Strip away the attendant photos of damage and emergency efforts, leaving the screaming widow, the catatonic parents of lost children, the weeping officer mourning his partner, and you have the voyeuristic side of photojournalism. The photographers who shoot this stuff don't make the editorial policy, it's true; but these guys are always on the lookout for a prize-winning shot, literally, for their own purposes.
  13. Photojournalism isn't necessarily voyeurism, what photojournalists are good at capturing is the emotion behind an event. Hearing about an five car pileup isn't the same as a picture of bloodied victim being cut out of the their car by the jaws of life. Is a good photo that captures an emotion voyeruristic because it supplies us with a feeling, so a bad snap shot devoid of technique or feeling isn't being a voyeuristic? I think being a little more precise may help here: PJs may be seen as voyeurs because like real voyeurs they intrude on moments that should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. So it isn't really the subject that makes photography voyeuristic but the ethics of the situation. PJs by profession and social policy are allowed to be voyeurisitc, since the importance of a free press often overrides people's privacy. Now where did I put my copy of the National Enquirer?
  14. harvey - when i say 'most people' i mean photographhic theorists. sorry for the confusion but i have been reading alot on voyeurism lately as part of my degree and the idea that photography and voyeurism are eternally linked is a very popular notion. thanks to all for your replies - some very interesting stuff here - don't stop!
  15. I don't believe "Joe average" thinks voyeurism when he see the vast majority of photos. But he absolutely does think it when he sees a stranger's camera pointed at him, and I feel he's right.

    I don't like the fact that street photography especially can sometimes provoke confrontations or hard feelings, but hey, that's life. The occasional good picture is worth the occasional middle finger.
  16. Lisa, since you are doing a degree, you ought to know to capitalise proper names and the first person singular pronoun.
  17. lisa, let us not be involved in words and definitions. let us avoid words that have connotations. let us try to make a sentence without the words voyeurism and curiosity. people like to take pictures to show emotions in others' actions. most of the people get a sense of challenge and achievement. they also enjoy a sense of beauty and proportions out of a good picture. they also enjoy stealing a moment to others without them knowing. possibly, some also get sexual excitement, but this is difficult to say, since sex is such an flexible term and has such undefinable boundaries. last, pros take pictures for money while they make fine arts in the free time. manuel
  18. Have you seen 'Viles Bodies - The Crisis of Looking' by Chris Townsend? Yes, certainly the photography of people is voyeuristic. I do a lot of it, being intrigued by people. But sadly as people become more aware of the power of photography, and as society becomes more tense and defensive, it becomes more difficult due to doubts about photographers' motives. But as Rodchenko said, "Photograph, and be photographed".
  19. Interesting first post for a photo net newbie....
  20. As a more experienced photographer friend told me when once I brought up the issue of voyeurism regarding photography, "OK, let's say it is, now, if you are going to be a photographer, get over it". Say it is, say it isn't, then what?
  21. It depends on the type of photography. Obviously landscape photography has nothing to do with voyeurism.
    Personally, I think too much when it comes to photographing people without their spoken or written permission. What if I took a picture of someone in a seedy area of town and their spouse later happened to see the photo? Indirectly, I would be causing trouble between a couple.
    I admire many photo-journalists for their artwork, but I'm not comfortable with it yet.
    Also, what is the photographer's intent? I believe that rarely will you find a photographer that has "nasty" intentions for his work. The photographer can only do his best for portraying his opinion through his choice of medium. It is up to the observer to interpret the picture. If someone sees a photo as "nasty" or "unethical", it is because the idea is in their (observers) mind.
  22. Well Robert, i didn't realise i was being graded on my grammar in an internet
    forum - why don't you remove the stick from your ass and get back to the topic
    at hand.
  23. I like to study life, people in particular. I believe I gain the most satisfaction
    from showing other people my interpretation of life or the way I see. Let me
    give you an example. I have a picture of my father, which I did not take.
    However, I believe that it is the single best picture that exists of my Dad
    because it captures an expression and gesture that I associate with him, and I
    think that's what great portraiture is all about. You capture the essence of a
    person and freeze it in a photograph. To me that is what distinguishes
    portraiture from fashion photography.

    Of course, different people can still interpret a single photo differently, but I still
    believe that by what your subject is and how you photograph it, the artist
    subjectively interprets the world and shares his interpretation with others.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts about this.
  24. <<i have been reading alot on voyeurism lately as part of my degree and the idea that photography and voyeurism are eternally linked is a very popular notion>>

    Degree in what field?

    Voyeurism concerns both the motive and the surreptitious nature of an observer, with an implication that the observer is at least somewhat immoral. There's really no reason to call anything else "voyeurism." I don't buy the premise that photography is generally linked to voyeurism.

    Some photographers are voyeuristic, and some of THOSE photographers will create voyeuristic photos. But anyone in a degree program anywhere should be able to spot the logical flaw in associating the acts of a few with the motivation of the many.

    Now, if you has asked about French Horn players and proctology, THAT would be a great topic for a thesis.

    Have fun,
  25. lisa hancock , wrote:
    Well Robert, i didn't realise i was being graded on my grammar in an internet forum - why don't you remove the stick from your ass and get back to the topic at hand.

    You're not being graded on manners either, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise some.

    A working definition of voyeurism and the field you're researching in would be helpful.
  26. too much words for activity that only require press the shutter button in few words. thinking brains and a lot of masturbate headwork, is very healthy. -----sailor hat--- .....................AUTOPROPAGANDA................
  27. Occasionally when I'm typing my fingers run away with me and I don't capitalise proper names or personal pronoun in the first person, to wit, 'I'. I frequently reverse letters due to my lack of facility with the keyboard. I try to read through my post and correct any errors but some I miss. It's not a disaster and I'm sure we can deduce the meaning of the post.
  28. Lisa, great thread!

    The conception of 'voyeurism' being used in discussions here is the Freudian-Lananian pschoanalytic one associated with male domination of women and hetrosexual desire. If you haven't already, you may want to check out some of the feminist work of the late 80s which re-conceptualised voyeurism as part of a project to assert an alternative (i.e. independent, non-submissive, sexual, assertive) female identity free of masculine dominance. This re-conception employed images of female nudity and lesbian sex associated with the male dominance it was challenging.

    For a good introduction see chapter 9 of The Art of Interruption by John Roberts.
  29. Being well over 19 years old, and having succesfully passed Intro Philosophy, I think this is in the same category of "Is photography really art?"

    Any answer will do, as it's just an excuse for conversation/rabid monologue. In the former case, if the person is interesting/attractive, make something up with big words. In the latter I advise pepper spray, the big bear-size can.
  30. Hi guys i'm back again - i'm doing a BA(hons) photography degree to answer your question. I'd also like to point out that i have read definitions of voyeurism and know about its links with photography. I merely started this discussion as a way to get people talking about their views. I think i have succeded. Keep up the good work guys, you are relly giving me something to think about.
  31. With regard to most photographs I firmly believve the intent of the
    photographer at least partially can be expressed as "Hey, look at this!" the question
    inside or outside of that is what is meant by this: does the photographer want the
    viewer to look at what is depicted in the image or the
    photograph itself ? <P>By the latter I mean the formal properties of the image:
    framing,composition, the organization of elements, the color, light & gesture of the
    image, the sense of time in the image (and the photographers choice of when to
    make the exposure), the play of shadow and light. etc.
    With some photographers and photographs there is a blend of these two concerns:
    Look at what I am looking at and look at how I am seeing what I am looking
    at.<P>Now if you are asking this question of the audience the questions are the same
    but different and can be summarized thus "why am I looking at this photographic
    image? what am I geting out of the act of looking?"<P>I hope my answers do not
    sound too simplistic, but I think they are at the heart of your query.
  32. The term "Voyeurism" usually connotes situations where the "Voyeur" is a passive outsider, observing situations or events in which he or she is not considered to be a participant. But most photography does not fall into that category. Consider special event photography, such as when guests at a wedding take photographs of the bride and groom and of the other attendees. Even street photography could be considered to not be voyeuristic, as the photographer could be considered to be a member of the community (for example a small town) the activities and associations of which he or she is documenting.
  33. There's a book at my local Border's book shop titled voyeurism. Its a compilation of photographs that deal with the subject of Voyeurism in one way or another. In some the photographer photographs a voyeur: there are several of men looking up women's skirts and stuff like that. In others the photographer is the voyeur; I think most of them were posed and the subjects probably knew they were being photographed, but in some of the more interesting photos it appears as if the subjects were unaware of the photographers presence. This book may be of interest to you if you haven't already come across it.
  34. only photos from a voyeur

  35. Hi all-

    I just read this entire thread and it is very interesting. I have endeavored to formulate an articulate comment on the subject but find that I would only be entering this battle of wits unarmed. I will, however, interject briefly regarding the underlying subplot.

    Robert Clark, wrote:
    “Lisa, since you are doing a degree, you ought to know to capitalise proper names and the first person singular pronoun.”

    Robert, students works toward a degree, they do not "do" a degree.
    (capitalise is actually spelled capitalized)

    Lisa Hancock, wrote:
    “Well Robert, i didn't realise i was being graded on…”

    Lisa, perhaps you should "do" your degree in English.
    (realise is actually spelled realize)

    OK...I'm sorry. Just teasin'. This is the real me now. Got home from work and sat down to the computer to check for comments on my submissions. Started reading random threads and found this one. It really is interesting and I really am outclassed in the knowledge area on this one. I truly don't have anything helpful to share but maybe a weak attempt at humor. There are some very intelligent and interesting opinions on this thread. Again, I was just feeling feisty. Please don't take my jabs to be serious. I WAS JUST TEASING YA'. Have a great night all.
  36. Lisa,

    John is on the right track as far as I am concerned with the topic. Check out this essay:


    it refers mainly to film, but Mulvey is probably someone you would enjoy reading more about.

    From what you have said you may find it interesting to read further about Lacan, and also the feminist semioticians/philosophers. I think Julia Kristeva is the person I am thinking of particularly but there are others. If you really want to explore this from both a male and a female perspective you should really look at the female philosophers on the subject. Good starting points include 'feminism: a beginners guide' and 'post-feminism: a beginners guide'. Don't be fooled by the cartoons - it is quite mind-bending stuff!

    I'm writing this at work, so I can't be any more precise about the references, but I'll try to look through my notes from my degree at the weekend and give you some pointers - if you're interested that is :eek:)

  37. Robert and Bryan, you are both right, capitalise or capitalize are correct spellings. Lisa, if you were hidden in a little room photographing the sexual activities of one or more people of any gender or orientation who may or may not know you are there, you could accurately be described as a voyeuristic photographer.
    Most photographers would be mere recorders of people, happenings or places at one given instance of time. Others for more esoteric reasons
    The main reason I photograph is to return an income. Editorial is my area, so my images are people oriented or deal with life in general. I observe the human condition in my small part of the world, and try to make nicely composed, exposed and reasonably interesting images, but I am driven by financial not voyeuristic impulses.
  38. I have spent ages watching the debate ebb and flow, the nuances of superiority and put down, the mispellings that could be seen as opportunities for verbal spankings but no, reflect a transatlantic difference in that where the Americans use a 'z' (zed to us Brits, zee to you Yanks)we use a 's'. So to normalise the debate, as opposed to normalize it (ow that spanking hurt - hope someone was watching!)I agree with the view that voyeurism is about taking vicarious pleasure from the watching. To just watch is to glean data, that may or may not lead to pleasure. I get pleasure from my viewing through the lens, so ok I admit it, I'm a voyeur.

    ...and on this subject, why does the button at the base of the page order me to 'submit' as opposed to send? Is this something associated with voyeurism I ask myself..;)
  39. I think three factors are involved in voyeurism: (1) watching people do things that they would not want you to see; or (2) watching people do things that, were they alive, well, mature, and of normal intelligence, they would not want you to see; and (3) deriving a sexual or morbid or sadistic thrill from watching people against their actual or reasonably assumed wishes.

    Photography complicates the problem of defining voyeurism, because the photograph can be reproduced so as to allow infinite numbers of people access to the stolen view. The viewers of the reproductions qualify as voyeurs if they view the images for morbid, sadistic, or sexual kicks.

    But the photographers? The photographers are panderers if they make the shots to sell to the voyeurs. They are both panderers and voyeurs if they get a kick out of the viewing that accompanies shooting. They are just voyeurs if they take the shots for their own thrills.

    To get kicks from watching Marilyn Monroe in a movie is not voyeurism. The actress assented to the filming. To get kicks by looking at the infamous postmortem photo of Marilyn is voyeurism.

    For Private England to enjoy a publicity photo of Brad Pitt is not voyeurism. To strip male Muslim prisoners for kicks certainly is.

    I don't think it is voyeurism for a man to go to a beach for the sole purpose of gazing lustfully at the women there. He is not watching from cover, and women going to a public place well know they may be scrutinized. The latter factor of voyeurism is present--he is watching for kicks--but the former is not. So this is not voyeurism.

    Some of the women at the beach may not wish for men to be looking at them lustfully, and others may; but none of the women have warrant to command which attitude prevails. Nor do they have warrant to pick and choose which men have or have not the right to look lustfully. They can arbitrarily regard some of the men as admirers and others as voyeurs; but they cannot object to the looks of the men they have designated as voyeurs. The men have no way of knowing in advance how they will be categorized, nor do they bear responsibility for the arbitrary choices made.

    A woman can, of course, dislike being looked at with desire by the "wrong" people; but to feed a resentment about this is only to harass herself. And to obsess about it, demand that it not happen, and see herself as overpowered by something called the "male gaze" --a supreme instance of reifying--is to choose to feel aggrieved. It is to opt for unnecessary unhappiness, rather like constantly being angered because people are mortal.

    The beach example is complicated if the man who is viewing lustfully is also taking photographs. In this case, not all the people who will be viewing the women are present on the beach and in view. This would qualify the situation as voyeurism. Even if the man intends that he alone will view the photographs, he cannot guarantee it. Photographs are a different matter than memories. So here we have a potential for voyeurism so strong that the situation probably qualifies as voyeurism. Even if the man intends burning the photographs immediately after viewing, the addition of a recording device drastically alters the situation. For the women to protest against the potential for voyeurism strikes me as fair. They have no way of knowing which pictures will be burned and which will be circulated.
  40. Anybody there?

    I?m applying to a school and need to find information about the factors that make a photo or painting voyeuristic. See Edgar Degas for example. I need help.

    Give me names of photographers.

    Thank you, Kristian Schmidt

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