Archive for May, 2011

re-picturing PHOTOGRAPHY

Objectification is defined as seeing and/or treating a person, usually a woman, as an object (Nussbaum, 1999).

In photography, women are often treated as sexual objects in which their appearance or sexuality is regarded as more important than their other characteristics, for the use of other people, and capable of representing them (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; Kilbourne, 1999).

You know it when you see it.

When the camera lens focuses on a woman’s body parts rather than her face, she is objectified.

When a woman who is extremely thin with perfect skin and hair needs to be photoshopped to fit in with the other women in a beauty magazine, she is objectified.

When a woman is depicted as welcoming or enjoying sexual violence, she is objectified.

When a woman’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, dreams, hopes, and desires – those very things that make us human – are not apparent, she is objectified.

But, how do you not objectify women in photography? Through this project I have learned that this is much easier said than done. Even with the explicit goal to challenge sexual objectification, how do you not create images that objectify women? After all, photographs literally are objects. By simply clicking the shutter, your subject becomes an object, a two-dimensional thing, rather than a multi-dimensional person. This is frustrating as I think about ways that I may be contributing to rather than resisting objectification.

However, words keep popping up as I struggle work my way through this project. Although I didn’t realize this initially, this seemingly random occurrence revealed one way in which we might photograph women in less sexually objectify ways (I’m not convinced that we can completely eliminate sexual objectification from photography).

As a noun, voice is defined as the sound or sounds uttered through the mouth of living creatures, especially of human beings in speaking, shouting, singing, etc. As a verb, voice is defined as to give utterance or expression to; declare; proclaim.

Although we may not audibly hear women’s utterances in photographs, we may literally give women voice, the power to utter, express, declare, or proclaim, when we read the words that women choose to describe how they make meaning in their bodies, their frustrations with their bodies, or the ways their bodies give them strength.

I have only recently begun to hear these voices, but as I listen and create I find myself finding a new photography voice of my own.

Have you discovered ways to photograph yourself or others as subjects rather than objects? If so, I would love to hear your voice.

re-picturing FAT TALK

Do you engage in fat talk?

A classic example:

One person says: “I’m so fat”

Another person says: “No you’re not.”

There is a lot of scientific evidence that women and especially adolescent girls frequently engage in fat talk with other women and girls.

I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it can promote closeness and connection with others. Women need to be able to talk about appearance and weight-related issues, especially with other women.  Society places an enormous weight on girls and women when it comes to their appearance. Being able to vocalize and share that experience with others can be freeing. It is also somewhat positive and complimentary. Given the importance we place on women’s bodies, hearing someone else say that we look OK or good enough can be reassuring.

On the other hand, however, implicit in “fat talk” is the idea that it is not OK for women to be heavier or bigger. In fact, when people hear fat talk, they tend to think being skinny is even more important than before they heard it. When I was 17, I lost 20 pounds very quickly. I never fancied myself as fat, but after I lost the weight, you would not believe how many people asked “Have you lost weight? You look great.” Gosh, how bad did I look before? It is for this reason that I rarely ask people if they’ve lost weight. Again, it seems complimentary, but carries along heavy baggage.

Do you engage in fat talk? Do you think it helps, hurts, or both?

I wish I could offer a simple answer here, but I think it is a difficult and weighty issue.

re-picturing THE LOVELY LIST

Have you made your lovely list? It’s a list of those things that you love about your body.

Can you list five things you love about your body?

This question often meets with an empty stare and a thoughtful silence.

OK. One thing that you love about your body?

Something you even like about your body?

When I ask people what they hate about their body, comments abound. If we really want to transform from self-hatred to self-love, we need to be able to look in the mirror and find something, anything that is endearing.

Now wait. This will not work if it is not authentic. Half-assed affirmations about bodies do more harm than good.

I love my thunder thighs. Cellulite makes my arms more interesting. No, no, no.

However, can you come up with 5 things that you actually like (perhaps even love) about your body. If you can, write them down. Share them with someone. Post them here. If you can’t, ask someone else. Often times others reflect our beauty back in ways that we cannot do ourselves.

My list is below.

1) The color of my eyes — a mix of aqua that appears blue in some light and green in others

2) I have successfully run 26.2 miles in the Marine Corps Marathon.

3) My straight white teeth (from 5 years of braces starting in 2nd grade)

4) I enjoy moving in my body — walking, running, biking, swimming, skipping, hopping, jumping — it makes me feel alive.

5) I have a relatively narrow waist (that remains narrower than my hips and breasts no matter how much I weigh), so A-line skirts look good on me.

Wow, that was actually kind of fun. Your turn 🙂

re-picturing WORTHINESS

Worthiness (noun). Having value or worth.

Do you believe you are worthy? Wait a second. Let me ask again. Do you really believe you inherently have value or worth?

I am continually reminding myself that my worthiness is not contingent on anything I do or have. It does not matter how much I weigh, how old I am, how much I earn, how beautiful my home is, how many publications I have, how many places I’ve traveled to, how many hits I get on my blog, how many good photographs I take. Your “hows” may be somewhat different than mine, but so many of us make our worthiness dependent on something outside ourselves. We are all worthy. Period. That’s a wrap. Enough said. You have worth. Do you believe it?