Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2007/09/30

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Subject: [Leica] re: portrait of elizabeth (secrets revealed)
From: kcassidy at (Kyle Cassidy)
Date: Sun Sep 30 21:38:15 2007


>indeed correct Kyle, more than correct...since she as photographed 
>looks roughly 14-16 yo...
>by choice I guess...
>I looked at her web site, so I knew she was 33yo.
>So why did you and she make her look 20 years younger...and put her 
>into that setting...?
>Why indeed?
>The answer can indeed be found in google...more likely in the words
>ambiguity, titillation, exploitation, opportunism...

If I could by choice make women look half their age, I wouldn't be 
photographing war veterans, I'd be photographing the cover of Vogue every 
month. Fortunately for Liz, and unfortunately for me, that's just simply the 
way she looks, we didn't do makeup or styling, it was a spur of the moment 
thing in the last hour of a Sunday afternoon.

But Steve makes an extremely important point. If I'd posted this image with 
the subject line "Photo of my friend Elizabeth" -- my guess is that a few 
people would have clicked on it, but not nearly as many as actually did 
because they suspected they were to see something on the very edges of 
propriety. My own somewhat vacillating definition of "work safe" is "no more 
skin than you can see on prime time U.S. television commercials" -- so there 
was obviously nothing that I thought wasn't work safe about this photo -- 
you can see this much skin in church on Sunday in most places in America, 
and were there a teenager standing on a street corner holding a scarf in her 
mouth like that not even Jerry Fallwell would have pulled his car over to 
tell her to stop making a scandal. So, as Steve correctly points out, I am 
guilty of attempting to mislead people into thinking the photo is naughtier 
than _I_ think it is. But if I'm doing that because i'm trying to be ironic 
or truculent, I can't honestly say, it's just what comes out of my mouth.

I do think that if I'd titled it "photo of my 16 year old chewing on a 
brightly colored piece of fabric" people would have probably said "very 
funny image!"  and nobody would have thought it inappropriate and we all 
would have gone on about our business -- it would be an interesting 
experiment. But what lead anyone to suspect that there was something off 
kilter here? I don't think it was the image, I think it was a combination of 
the title, and the revelation that what people thought at first was a 
necktie was actually a skirt -- somehow that seems racier than a tie. Those 
two bits of information tint the way we view the photo. After all, the same 
photo titled "sleeping man" and "murder victim" elicit different reactions 
from us, despite the fact that there is no visual difference. (as an 
anecdotal aside, I had someone on rate an image I took of 
president bush with a single star -- the photo wasn't about to win a 
Pulitzer, but it was obviously competent and the viewer gave it a rating 
based on something other than it's visual merits.) 

over the last ... nine years ... I've posted far more scandalous things than 
Liz chewing on a skirt here. I must admit that I'm surprised that this one 
generated that much attention for anything other than the lighting, which i 
think is nice, but I'm happy for the opportunity to discuss what are very 
relevant, deeper, and more important issues of age, gender, and propriety in 
photography in general and fashion in particular. Next time you're in a 
dentists office and pick up a copy of Cosmo, or Vogue, or W -- think about 
Steve's valid criticism -- where does all this fit in with "ambiguity, 
titillation, exploitation, opportunism..." -- because he's right, it's all 
there. But why do we click on it? Why do we read it? Why do we buy it?


Replies: Reply from kididdoc at (Steve Barbour) ([Leica] re: portrait of elizabeth (secrets revealed))