A (Not So) Brief Critique of Female Objectification in Amateur Photography

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Hey there.

Just so you know,

many of the images below are NSFW. 

Okay?

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I’d like to start this off with a quick caveat that I do not intent do shame, embarrass, or reprimand any of the individuals who appear in these photos. I believe that the human body is a complex and beautiful thing that can often be used in art, literature, and photography to create stunning and thought-provoking work.

But with the endless amount of amateur photography available on the internet combined with my habit of casually tossing my opinion online, it should come as no surprise that I have a massive artistic bone to pick with the objectification of women in amateur photography. Though I do not intend to embarrass or shame the people in these photos as they do not always have artistic control over the final image, I do intend to embarrass and shame the photographers who believe any mildly provocative photo of the female form constitutes as high art.

You’d think in the photo above that if they’re the only two out here, the least the photographer could have done was center the road and the model in the shot. Honestly. A compositionally flat, boring, unbalanced, poorly colored, or otherwise just plain bad photograph cannot be saved by the female form. These low-quality photos only promote the objectification of the female body. And I’m not mad at the folks who aim to be erotic or titillating. Boudoir photo shoots may not be my cup of tea, but they do pay homage to the French voyeur style and rockabilly culture as well. Erotic art can raise plenty of questions about the accepted norms we’ve ascribed to ourselves in our private and/or public lives.

But laying over train tracks and bending over a mustang hardly count as original or artistic ideas. This is bad enough for engagement shoots, but throw in a high-leg bikini and a set of boxer-braids and you’ve got yourself a perfect little insta-art nightmare. I know you know what I’m talking about. These types of photographs require a minimal amount of imagination or creative skill. They do not push the boundaries of their medium. They attempt nothing new. And they carry virtually no emotional power. There is no argument in them.

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A pair of legs cannot make up for a complete lack of artistic vision, or a complete disregard for basic rules of composition. See the photo above. The model has done a passable job creating angles with her body. She’s smizing to the best of her ability. And that stool does not look comfortable. But the quality of the photo shortchanges all of her efforts. The sky is completely blown out, the entire room is tilted like we’re aboard the Titanic (and not in an artsy way), and her foot is cut off at the bottom of the image. In addition, the center of the photograph is her nipple. Not her face. Plus, the photographer didn’t even have the courtesy to Photoshop out the tag on her dress. Without the model, this photo looks like a cellphone camera went off by mistake on the way out of someone’s pocket.

In this photo, part of the model’s knee is cut off as well as both of her feet. Her decolletage and upper body have been brightened, but her arms, legs, and face are still in the dark. The cake is too dark to even look like cake.

Photographers who pay no regard to symmetry, depth, the basic rule of thirds, or even proper cropping aren’t doing the art of photography any favors. And before this post gets shared under the light of misandrist propaganda, remember that it’s not just men who do this. We’ve been so conditioned to view the female form as titillating (and the male form as… not) that the line between an emotional response to art and sexual response to nudity is blurred– and not in a purposeful way.

And who I’m mad at is the photographers who build their name (and their ability to sell) under the guise of a provocative photo. It’s nothing more than the same old ads we’ve been seeing since the 50’s. Today, it just takes a little more cheek to get a second look.

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Now, I’m in no way trying to tell women what to do with their bodies. I have my own bikini-clad pictures on Instagram. And I like them. There’s nothing wrong with showing (or not showing) the skin you’re in. However, I do ask that models be thoughtful about the photographers they choose to work with and develop a critical eye for the art of photography (and fashion if that’s your industry). Not everyone with a DSLR cares about your portfolio. And owning expensive equipment doesn’t make someone a professional. If you’re thinking about doing a shoot, check out the photographer’s work and see whether their style aligns with the types of images you want to create. Consider yourself an artist as much as the photographer, and choose to collaborate with people who value your input. And never be afraid to ask for input from other people who’ve worked with that person.