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16 January 2009
what's a girl to do?
Now Playing: dresden dolls - no, virginia
Topic: photography

untitled #4

A Flickr contact of mine posted a photo today that caught my attention as soon as it appeared on my Flickr homepage when I did a refresh. This isn't all that odd. Often his photos do catch my attention because he has a lot of talent, a signature style and I'm always impressed by his knack for making his wooden box within a basement or bedroom look like an impressive studio, replete with wallpaper, carpet, props and himself or a stunning model posing within it.

However, he is not prone to posting photos of breasts and nudity unless he has something to say, so of course when I saw what appeared to be a semi-nude woman reclining on a bed, I guessed he had some axe to grind.

Sure enough, he was taking a (not-at-all veiled) shot at Miss Aniela and Rebekka Gudleifsdottir's inclusion in a recent issue of Spanish Playboy. He was pretty quick off the mark too, given that only a few hours earlier I had clicked through to Rebekka's stream to view the tearsheets she'd uploaded, and already here he had a custom-edited photograph of his head sewn Frankenstein-style onto a naked female torso to go with his comments.

Although this photographer is somewhat infamous on Flickr for posting controversial rants about female self-portrait artists, especially those who use nudity in their work, he has a tendency to claim it all as a joke when confronted by the artists he is criticising / lampooning the work of, so it's hard to really tell how serious he is being.

A lot of the time I just shrug off his rant posts and go "oh well, he's at it again", and move along to whatever else I'm working on, or check out work from other contacts.

But today, without it actually making me angry (because it didn't), it disappointed me once again that the attitude "Having tits is all I need to become famous, I don't need talent" seems to abound amongst those jealous of the success of artists like Miss Aniela and Rebekka.

The assumption they haven't spent tireless hours devising, shooting and editing photographs; they haven't done the "hard yards" of contacting galleries, magazines, potential clients, potential sponsors, of promoting their work through Flickr, their blogs, and other online outlets (and anyone who claims this is far easier than toting a portfolio around door-to-door really hasn't spent any time updating sites / profiles / blogs, researching, and promoting their various endeavours online); that they've just snapped off some quick shots of T&A and then whacked them up on Flickr and waited expectantly for galleries, magazines and clients to click through and hand them everything on a platter, is really quite insulting, both to Miss Aniela and Rebekka, but by extension to any successful female self-portrait artist who might take nudes or implied nudes. The notion there is a direct correlation between the amount of nipple shown and the amount of success these artists achieve outside of Flickr is a naive and offensive point of view, and I'm disappointed that it exists.

I haven't seen the spreads of Miss Aniela's images, but as Rebekka says in her post about the article, she's "going to take at least some pride in being featured in this publication wearing clothes". I think that is a testament to the quality of her work that it has been included in a magazine where her imagery is quite different to the magazine's standard photography and does not include the (seemingly) obligatory nudity.

But moreso than all of this, why is it such a bad thing that so many female photographers are now getting recognition around the world? Personally I think it's fantastic and about bloody time, especially since in the past there were probably many, many talented female photographers but relatively few of them became famous because, like most industries, photography has historically been a male-dominated arena.

Here's a challenge for you: see if you can name 50 world-renowned female photographers. They can be in any field – fine art, portraiture, self-portraiture, photojournalism, fashion, etc.

Wikipedia is not the ultimate resource, but as an example, I only found around 24 female photographers in their list of photographers who I would consider "world-renowned" (and that was being generous, some of them may not be as well known as I would like to think).

However, going through their list for world-renowned male photographers, I found 50 before I even hit the end of the S's, and that was me being restrained as I know not everyone has studied photography or art history to know many of the ones I know from classes in college.

Oh, and guess what? Of those 50 male photographers, around half of them shoot / shot nudes, and many are / were renowned for their nudes. Only difference I can see is that, apart from a few of them, they photographed other people nude, not themselves...

And for those bitter and jealous about the success of these artists, if you want to become famous and get your "15 minutes of fame" for your photography, here's a tip: spend less time sledging the work of others and more time concentrating on your own photography and I'm sure you'll find more success.

Posted by Bronwen Hyde at 09:24 GMT
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