Just the other day I received a letter from woman who said she was offended by some of the illustrative (example) images in my book, 100% Reliable Flash Photography. It’s not the first time I’ve received comments of protest over my photography, or discussion of it, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that people tend to see what they tend to see; or what they expect. Whether it’s an ink blot test, or a photograph, or the expression on someone’s face, the world is open to interpretation.
Case in point: After I mentioned this woman’s criticism and asked anyone in my Facebook group if they had any thoughts along these lines, I was informed by one woman that these two images (below) might stir up bad feelings with any female photographers who’d been raped or tortured in the past, and that my using them in the flash instructional was possibly a bad move. Uh, you can imagine how that might have made me feel.
The first one had been described by the critic as a women in a blindfold who’d been tied up/bound. The second as a women who’s being attacked and trapped. In the critic’s defense, I think she was trying to play Devil’s Advocate, looking for a way to “see” the original critic’s point of view. But I was surprised, probably because I saw these two images as I do most of the images I make featuring women; I feel I’m creating images showing strong women in control of their own bodies, their own sensuality.
The first image above doesn’t contain a blindfold, but a length of lace fabric the model and I thought of as an impromptu “mask.” The pose, to me was more reminiscent of Madonna’s True Blue album cover than someone in peril. The second image is supposed to come off like a performer being “caught” by the paparazzi; a statement on how a star often pretends not to want to be photographed when her “people” probably called the photographers in the first place (yes, this happens).
Here’s another shot from the same lace mask set. This one definitely comes across as a woman in control of her own situation to me, if not about to be in control of her counterpart, too.
I realize that while I may be a little uncomfortable with some of the ways that some of my work is viewed, I can’t do much about it except stop working. Of course, I’m not going to do that. That’s like telling me to stop talking, or breathing. As a matter of fact, much of my work is intended to get a reaction or make people question something about themselves or the world around them. I guess it’s just a little off-putting when I’m accused of being insensitive in the context of my instructional material. And as one supporter put it, as I am reaching an ever-wider audience, I’ll inevitably hear from the fringes.
Overwhelmingly, I’ve received positive comments from both men and women. I’m glad that 99.9% of the people get it. Thank you.
Here’s an iPhone shot from earlier today. I think I like it for how ambiguous, and open to interpretation, it is. This one’s about artistic expression. In this context, you can accuse me of whatever you want.
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