Why I Do Glamour Photography
Some people I know have come to be critical of this "semi-erotic" photography stuff. I know that I have to get used to negative criticism from certain social elements, and Ill probably write an essay on the subject to get my point across accurately. But, portraits I do that emphasize the feminine allure of a woman(and at times, the masculine structure of a man) are a small part of my growth as a photographer. More than one person has suggested that I "apply my talents in a more appropriate way". Ive been told that Im "selling myself short" with this type of photography. Are we to assume that portraiture requires no photographic skill? I would be very offended by someone who would feel that way! In fact, I would say that no photographer has earned the right to be called such until they have at least attempted to master the use of shadows, light, and composition of the human form in a controlled situation. (Go to an art school and one of the first things youll do is sketch nude models.) Sure, the pictures dont always have to be beautiful women in skimpy clothing; they can be whatever the photographer finds interesting or appealing. I refuse to apologize to anyone for the fact that I find women visually appealing! And, I dont think any man should have to apologize for what he finds visually appealing, whether it be the contours of a Ferrari Testarossa or the contours of Pamela Lee. If this makes another woman feel insecure because shes not built like Pamela Lee, too bad; I wish I were as wealthy as Donald Trump, but I dont feel inadequate because of it. Aesthetic appeal is part of the intelligent mind; a person cannot change what appeals to him just because someone feels its immoral. (Someday Ill also write an essay in defense of mens natural attractions.)
Back to the subject at hand: one of the goals of my portraiture (for both men and women) is to capture them at their absolute best. I find beauty in almost everyone, and my goal is to make a record of that, to enhance it, to define it. When what appears on paper matches what appears to me in person, I have succeeded on one level. When I can take that one more step, to create a fantasy image that goes beyond practical reality, not only have I succeeded on the next level, but I usually make my subject very happy. And thats just the icing on the cake. Whether the feminists like it or not, most women want to be desired by men. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and if it were not an innate quality of the human female, the species would be extinct. If my photographs can produce the image a woman wants to portray, a team effort has been achieved, and my form of expression is complete. Anyone who gets to know me understands the science behind this and doesnt cheapen it by assuming more. Im also realistic enough to know that many male photographers want to photograph "models" with ill intentions. Im constantly picking up the pieces they leave behind, and constantly apologizing on behalf of legitimate photographers as a whole. The trust I build between myself and my female models keeps me a step ahead, and if I am to be respected as a photographer, my closest companions will recognize this.
Ive been thanked by some of my subjects dart with comments like "I never knew I looked that good", "youre the only one who has taken a good picture of me", "that is the best photograph ever taken of my daughter", and "Ive always been uncomfortable about my shape; now I feel great in everything I wear". Years ago, we picked a woman (early twenties) to model swimwear for our little "surf shop". We didnt think she had an ideal body, but she had an effervescence and warmth that really stood out. She had a great time and thanked us for letting her participate (she was also compensated). We were told by someone later that she was a recovering anorexic, and that this experience completed her recovery. Shes married now and still gives me a warm "hello" when we pass on the street.
What seems to really bug me, though, is the fact that, if I were doing nude sculpture, it would be more accepted as a legitimate and moral art form than even conservative photography of women. I cant understand why this is, other than the fact that sculpture has been around so much longer than photography. You can go to the park in downtown Franklin and visit a fountain with a nude woman perched on either side. This fountain has been there for 100 years. A recent ice-sculpture contest in that same park featured more than one nude female, without protest. A friend of mine entered a water-colored linoleum-block print recently in an art show in the Mercer County Courthouse. This particular print depicted an Eve-like nude woman arising from a forest pool. One of the female county employees was so offended by this painting that she taped paper over the "naughty parts". (The judges thought the artist was making a statement with the paper taped over, and commended her for her originality -- she won a ribbon.) What makes an image in print more immoral than a 3-dimensional image in stone?
Male or female, why cant we just celebrate the human form without worrying about whether its "politically correct"? Is it the "objectification" of women were concerned about? Are men too concerned about the aesthetic value of a woman, thus resulting in depersonalization? Well, try this sometime; collect some "semi-erotic" photographs, and make sure to mix in some basic nude figure-studies (you know, the kind that just show one section of the body; a butt, a chest, a torso). Spread them all out in front of someone (male or female). Ask them which photos are tasteless, pornographic, etc. I guarantee you, in most cases, theyll be the most critical of the ones that show facial expressions and total personal images. But which are the most depersonalizing? The most objectifying? Explain this logic to me.
Meanwhile, I'll keep studying, appreciating, and capturing the human form, and hopefully I can do some justice to that which I find so beautiful.