I find the way that sexes and genders relate to each other fascinating. I believe that stereotypes from others, especially male perspectives towards women, force women into a weird sort of dual identity. Because of the tradition of objectivity, women have a “character” or “persona” (stereotype) that they believe is what men see them as. They wear it like a costume, subconsciously,and are constantly at odds between their self-actualized identity, and the face they wear because society has created it for them. They ways that women are affected by this in their everyday lives is what I hoped to discover through investigation of this idea.
Before photographing, I set up a discussion board of more than 25 women and showed them my initial proposal. I asked them to think and delve into this idea, prompting them with questions such as:
o How do you think men see you?
o Do you think men have different categories for women?
o If you have alternate sexual preferences, how has this affected you in ways related to outward perception?
o Do you choose to recognize these perceptions?
o How would YOU stereotype yourself if you were and outsider?
o If you are in a relationship, do you still ever feel as if your significant other has a "persona" of you that is not a complete definition of yourself?
The responses I got were incredibly insightful, and I was honored that women would really confront both issues of identity and society with me. The nature of the discussion was private so that they would feel secure in sharing, but their responses provided a framework for me to structure my shoots around. There were two components to the photographic expression of their ideas.
I took volunteers from the group and began a series of confrontational portraiture with a large format camera. Each woman was asked to come up with two different personas, both her private identity, and the “character” that society has created of her. Much of the decisions were left up to the subject,what they wore, where they were shot, and how they were posed was all originally left up to them. In almost every case, they were able to make some choices in the direction of their portraits, but not in all aspects. The close relationships I had with these women were strengthened by the fact that many of them knew how they felt and what they wanted to convey, but did not know how to represent it. It ended up falling to me to interpret their feelings into a visual message, and the amount of trust that I developed through that process was unforgettable.
The second component utilized a 35mm camera. I shot a series of four photographs which sought to convey the feelings of objectification that women feel. To carry this message, I tried to make them feel like they were uncomfortable, overly-admiring, and obsessive, the mindset of a stalker. I tailed one of my friends up and down a street to get the proper feeling. These photos do not have the same level of detail as the portraits, but I didn’t want them to have the same finesse because they needed to be impersonal. They needed to be taken from the viewpoint of the outsider, the one who forces the personas upon us.
The scans did not turn out at as well as I had hoped, and don't convey the detail and clarity of the large formant, but I simply couldn't help but share. This project was too powerful an experience not to.