Project Images of woman

For this project I had to review John Berger’s picture essay (Chapter 2 – Ways of Seeing) and watch episode 2 of his TV series Ways of Seeing. The first task following this was to prepare two collages of images from magazines and newspapers which illustrate two opposing views of the visualisation of women today.

Here is my first collage. It shows how women are represented (for the most part) in the popular press and men’s magazines. Essentially women are placed on show for the sexual gratification of men. They are objectified and are depicted as available. ‘Indulge your fantasies’ as the headline in the centre says.

Woman as sex object

The second set of images are images of women who are successful in politics and business. Here there is a curious mix of woman as nurturer (smiling, helpful), woman as role model (businesslike, successful, chic) and woman as castrator (bossy, dominating, powerful)….

Woman as role model, nurturer and castrator

The second part of this project involved collecting images of nakedness and the nude. Berger makes the distinction by saying that to be naked is to be oneself, but to be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised by others. The distinction if thus that the nude image is created specifically to be seen by others. The nude man/woman is on display. The subject is objectified.  Lord Clarke makes the distinction differently. He maintains that to be naked is to be simply without clothes, whereas the nude is a form of art. There is some overlap in these views as art is made to-be-seen. I decided to put in a google search first for ‘naked’ and to take the first few images and annotate  and classify them as nakedness or the nude. Then to repeat the process for a search based on ‘the nude’.

The first ‘naked’ image is a photograph by Spencer Tunick who makes series of photographs of people who are naked in public. Interestingly this image is intended as art – Tunick refers to his work in this way. And in fact this is how I interpret this image. The large numbers of people are indeed being offered up for display. They are presented anonymously. We seem to be being invited to imagine ourselves within this scene which can readily be interpreted as sexual.

Mexico City – Spencer Tunick

The second image is from a news report in the Guardian newspaper. It shows a naked cycle ride. The image on the face of it represents nakedness. It has not been made as art or to be seen by others. It is simply a news report.

York’s naked bike ride pedals into its seventh year – Guardian Newspaper

The third image is of a group of clowns posing for a photograph for a naked calendar. This is interesting because it could hardly be called art as Clarke would call it yet it is made specifically to-be-seen by others. A distinction here however is that the individuals are being themselves and are recognised as such. This is part of the fun of calendars such as these. So I would classify this image as depicting nakedness.

Members of San Francisco’s Clown Conservatory.
Photo © Naked Clown Calendar

The final image is a photograph of Mischa Barton which was on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the UK. Here it seems to me she is presented as a nude to be seen by men for scopophilic pleasure and women as an Ideal-ego.

Mischa Barton – Cover Cosmopolitan UK

I next typed in the word ‘nude’. The first image is a rather strange image which presents a naked manikin who has her face and arm covered with what looks like ‘bondage’ clothing for sado-masochistic sexual acts – a gas mask and a curious contraption on her right arm. This for me is presented to be seen as an object – definitely a nude. But can a manikin be a nude?

Lucy in the Nude by Airbournevirus Deviant Art website

The next image is from an article called ‘a day out in the nude’ from the Olive Press website. It shows a naked woman diving to return a volley ball. Whilst this could be presented as an item of news, it can so easily also be seen as an image which objectifies the female form. The fact that the woman has an attractive figure readily supports this view. This brings into the debate the question of how the viewing context might change the interpretation of whether an image is simply a depiction of nakedness or the nude.

‘a day out in the nude’ from the Olive Press

My final image is a copy of a painting by Paul Desire Trouillebert – The Nude Snake Charmer. The for me definitely falls under the category of the nude. Why one wonders would a snake charmer wish to carry on her trade in the nude??

Paul Desire Trouillebert – The Nude Snake Charmer