why are we still being bombarded with images of sexualized cis-women?
The founders of Skin&Blister discuss the problem with standard representations of women in popular culture.
photography marta gut
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
Founded in late 2015 by five female artists, Skin&Blister is a creative platform dedicated to sharing and supporting work from a female-identifying perspective. Challenging existing modes of female representation within culture, Laura Solomons, Sophie Davis, Francesca Oldfield, Marta Gut, and Dafne Salis, have come together to explore the concept of the female gaze within image making and popular culture today.
The history of photography, and art in general, shows us that men have forever been the image-makers and women the muse. With social media making traditional artistic roles redundant and getting rid of the cultural gatekeepers — and wider society demanding equality — women are no longer just being looked at, but are also doing the looking.
Although there are countless conversations around gender and equality, we are still bombarded with images of sexualized cis-women and the "feminine" ideal. The media in 2017 is still ruled by the male gaze and dominated by the heteronormative fantasy sex sells and women's bodies are still commodified, but finally people are becoming frustrated with the airbrushed, unreal bullshit.
The current influx of women exploring the female gaze is opening up a new visual culture to experiment with gender, sexuality, and identity. Women looking at women, women turning the camera on themselves, and women photographing men are creating images that show what it really means to be the other half of civilization.
From being the "looked at" to doing the looking, there is a power shift happening through the medium of photography. We are finally beginning to see the world in all its diversity and it's invigorating.
Skin&Blister came together with the desire to have a discussion around female representation. It's not only a platform to share and develop work, but to openly discuss subjects that have been off-limits to women, such as the porn we watch, the fantasies we have, and the everyday sexism we encounter.
Francesca Oldfield, for example, uses her camera to explore gender stereotypes. Dance as they dance, Francesca's most recent work, explores the construction of masculinity through photographing male strippers. With the shift in power dynamics from being the looked at to doing the looking, Francesca produced a series that attempts to break through the masculine bravado.
With a similar approach, Marta Gut produced a series of demure self-portraits for Leave No Stone Unturned — a way of forcing herself to face up and challenge her personal fears. In the portrait of her mother and grandfather in Malady, she explores feelings of loss and dread. She uses the female gaze as the "desire to tell," a solution to air her mind. The emphasis is yet again on doing the looking and becoming the brave observer.
In Unresolved, Sophie Davis explores the power shift in the desired gaze, where the consumed and the consumer become blurred. The subjects are unknown, approached because of an instant attraction. Sophie tries to gain each girl's trust and ask them to sit for intimate portraits. Her body of work can be seen as a celebration of women, but also an attempt to challenge ideas of objectification, the traps of beauty and our constant pursuit of it. In this series, both the photographer and the subject are searching for validation and reassurance; creating a refreshing sensitivity in the images.
Dafne Salis's recent work is a reproduction of the female genitalia cast in bronze. Normally inaccessible by light and sight, she gives the uterus new power, an almost iconic and holy representation of female sexuality. Laura Solomons's portraits work to reveal a truth and reality, not an airbrushed fantasy. Goosebumps, bruises, and lines insist on a beauty that is individual.
This recent focus of the female gaze and representation of women is a vital progression in not only our visual culture, but also the ways in which we view the world. Seeing through the "female" lens provides a more inclusive view and a move away from rigidity and stereotypes. This evolution means the unrepresented are finally put in the spotlight and have a platform for expression. Such focus needs to continue — the creatives working today will pave the way for future trends in popular culture. Let us make sure it continues to challenge the norm and diversify our viewpoints.
Skin&Blister will be launching their online platform later this month with a growing collection of interviews from female artists and creatives.