On the topic of portrait photography, we almost couldn’t have said it better ourselves…
A Reddit user recently shared a Tweet that pretty much summed up the dark side of portrait photography. Twitter user, @uhhhhmad wrote, “no dude I think it’s really cool and normal ur “photography” just consists of pictures of hot girls.” In case you missed it, the tweet is certainly meant to be received sarcastically. And, while at first, it tickles the funny bone, it serves as a reminder of what a sad, dark place this section of our industry can be. Let’s take a look at the real problem, why it exists, and what we can do to move forward.
“Attractive women have long been synonymous with fame, credibility, and success. Portrait photographers have certainly become one of the main protagonists for this type of culture.”
Is it Wrong to Photograph Attractive Women?
Before addressing the real issue, let’s take a look at what this article isn’t trying to say. It is not claiming it’s wrong to photograph attractive women. It would be exclusionary to suggest that you shouldn’t. So, before the “you can’t tell us what to do” brigade come flying for my head, understand that’s not what I’m trying to do. But, I am asking you to listen. Hopefully, we can open an honest, respectful forum with the collective view of keeping our industry healthy and progressive. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive deeper into the topic.
Portrait Photography Has Become More About Fame
Since the birth of social media, photography has developed a “fast track” mentality. That means, photographers are doing all they can to be recognized as widely and quickly as possible. Attractive women have long been synonymous with fame, credibility, and success. Portrait photographers have certainly become one of the main protagonists for this type of culture. We get it: sex sells. But if you’re this kind of photographer, please don’t think for one moment that when we see your portfolio, we don’t know what’s going on.
You’re using attractive, half-naked women to appeal to the casuals. You’re playing on the fact that many people – men – will respond positively to how “hot” and “sexy” these women are perceived to be. This type of photography will serve you well on social media. It will get you plenty of likes, and you can expect comments from budding photographers who say things like, “Where can I find girls like this, bruh?”
You may ask, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, first off, it disrespects the history of the craft. Secondly, it leaves you with zero credibility as someone who should be respected as a skilled and trustworthy photographer. Thirdly, it gives off a creepy, Terry Richardson vibe, and we all remember how that worked out! Which brings us to the next point.
Something Even Worse Than Fame Hunting
Let’s face it. You know, I know it, everyone knows it; there are some really creepy photographers out there. While we would love to think an Instagram feed of women all face-down ass-up came from a deeply ingrained thirst to create art, we know damn well it isn’t.
“Photography is a serious business, and we should conduct ourselves in a way that mirrors that.”
We can picture it now. “Go on Chloe, spread them just a little wider…a little more…perfect!” A male photographer who only photographs young, attractive women (and nobody else) is likely hoping he’ll get laid or do some naughty things at his laptop after the shoot. You only have to read our series, Stories From Set, by our Columnist Alyssa Meadows, to learn what goes down on set between men.
“But I’m a heterosexual man who loves women. What’s wrong with wanting to only photograph them?” Think about this. The creative world always has to defend itself against other fields and professions. Photography is a serious business, and we should conduct ourselves in a way that mirrors that. It should not be a platform for perversion, sexual gratification, and cheap thrills. Stop devaluing the craft.
The Impact on Youth
Nowadays, kids are being raised on social media. Instead of playing outside and eating mud, they’re looking at computer screens and having their impressionable minds formed by a potentially toxic culture. So, as you display a body of work built on the bodies of others, you’re sending out a message – “be sexy or get off the bus.” This is particularly the case for young women. Don’t believe me, check this…
“And if you’re a creep, check in with your ethics. Learn how to enjoy women without having to objectify them.”
I was recently contacted about doing a photoshoot. The female in question said she “wanted to do something sexy” that could hopefully make her money. As part of her message, she showed me images from an Instagram feed. The images contained women in implied nude and sexual positions (you know the type). No matter who contacts me, this is not something I would do. But the worst part of this story is how old the girl was – 17. Not yet old enough to drink and still in school, yet this young girl feels the need to sexualize her body to be successful and have financial gain. Even worse, she’s not wrong. This is the world we live in now and all you “exclusively hot, sexy girl” photographers are a large part of the reason for it.
If you want your work to be respected, try some variety. Photograph men, or photograph a variant of women. Show that you’re serious about the craft and not just a fame-hungry individual who can’t look beyond the sexualization of women. If you’re a creep, check in with your ethics. Learn how to enjoy women without objectifing them. Otherwise, people will keep calling you out and Twitter users will continue to own you for a long time to come.