Female Photographers, the Phallic Camera, and the Male Gaze
If we must turn the art of photography into a sexual metaphor, this is how it usually goes: The camera represents the photographer's phallus. The camera's lens is the artistic extension of the male gaze. Female subjects "make love" to the camera, and by extension, the artist. But what happens when a photography exhibit featuring solely women artists wants to get a little sexy?
(a) NEGATE THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S SEXUAL AGENCY. At Georgetown's L2 Lounge this Thursday, "Art Soiree" will host a photo exhibition of five female photographers. The title? "Five virgins and the camera." Naturally, since the photographers are not dudes, the camera—the phallus in this scenario, remember—will just turn around and penetrate the photographer-virgins, because it can! Instead of the photographer enforcing her sexual agency upon her subjects by wielding the camera, per the traditional sex metaphor, the camera is actually fucking the photog in celebration of her first public exhibition.
(b) TURN THE MALE GAZE ON THE PHOTOGRAPHER. Note the photograph chosen to illustrate this exhibition. No, it's not a work by exhibiting artists Alyona Vogelmann, Emily Clack, Natalya Skiba, Xeniya Kirpichenko or Zanyasan Tanantpapat—it's a thin white lady with no head in a see-through dress holding a camera in front of her crotch. Because even when a woman is taking the photos, we still have to make sure there's a male gaze taking photos of her taking those photos, sexily.
(c) AND THE SUBJECTS? STILL WOMEN. Art Soiree says that its virgin-photographers will be "capturing emotions, personality and individuality in everyday reality of women’s lives." Sounds great! But again, even when women are photographing other women, the "everyday reality of women's lives" they are revealing necessarily comes down to that old traditional display of submissive femininity: "The vision of hidden weaknesses and the vulnerability that create beautiful and mesmerizing moments."
(d) BONUS! PRETEND THIS IS ALL IN THE SERVICE OF FEMINISM. From the press release: "This Thursday Art Soiree is all about women, celebrating their beauty, elegance, talents, achievements and much more. Come and meet these talented photographers as they share with you their lives through their works, all while enjoying a jazz performance by our female guest
musician." When exhibiting the work of female photographers, remember that a woman's beauty comes first, followed by her elegance, with her talents and achievements—her fucking photography, presumably—bringing up the rear. But wait: The guest musician is "female." Forget about the jazz performance, is she pretty and elegant?