That Feminist SubtextFriday, October 27, 2017
Alex, always admired the feminist subtext to your female portraits, & I'm not being sarcastic.
John MacLachlan Gray
Sometimes in my doldrums of depression and attempting to not be convinced that I am obsolete-redundant & retired I am saved as I was this week by a comment from my friend, novelist/essayist/musician/composer/etc John MacLachlan Gray.
Not too many people ever look at my female portraits beyond that of free titillation. But it seems most likely that MacLachlan Gray indeed has noticed what I so often inject into my portraits. I have a few rules:
1. I never ask anybody to do something that I would not do (and yes if there are any photographers who would like to photograph me undraped I am game).
2. For me models are subjects. The word model objectifies. As subjects I am forced to see them as human beings facing my camera. I understand that his can be stressful in the confines of a big studio or in my smaller and most intimate Kitsilano studio.
3. My role model is and always has been (since I discovered him so many years ago) Helmut Newton. He always injected grace, elegance and respect into his photographs even if in some cases he had a model riding another on a saddle in a living room.
4. Some photographers that I have known have used subterfuge to make their subjects shed clothing. They thought loud heavy metal, wine and pot would do the job. I prefer to be up front and I ask at the very beginning.
5. In this atmosphere of October 2017 so much of what photographers used to do and still do could be defined as sexual harassment. Some might argue that a woman or a man not wearing much might be unable to object to further escalation.
6. When I was taking photographs of women in tubs for a show some years ago I had my older daughter demand to be part of the series. My Rosemary was shocked. I thought at length as to what to and finally I had another of my subjects who was the same age as my daughter to help and pose (independently) with her.
7. Taking photographs of some ecdysiasts to be dressed as London Bobbies for a large format photograph to be converted into a mural for a local club I set aside an area with blankets and sheets for privacy so my subjects could change. I remember my assistant telling me that this was silly as these women were used to taking of their clothes in front of men. I tried vainly to explain.
8. I had one subject who wanted to be photographed in a series involving hand cuffs and being tied down. As I was taking these photographs I told her that I felt sorry for her. She responded with a laugh and said,”That is not precisely what I want to hear from you.” I took that photograph immediately and for me my sequence of five photographs make sense with that last image with the laugh.
9. All photographic sessions have to be seen as a collaboration. This means that you have to listen for suggestions and objections.
10. Because I mostly relie on eye contact in my photographs, by that very nature most of my photographs are as MacLachlan calls them, portraits.
I thank Mr. MacLachlan Gray for noticing.