Gender Balance in the Photographic Modelling World and Beyond

The question I asked myself and which I recently posed publically to other male photographers was, "why do you only shoot women?" At the time there were actually a few people outside the photographic world asking me the same question.

I didn't think my own response a year and a half ago was adequate so I started shooting men. But then I stopped again and went back to almost exclusively women.

Recently I've been inspired to pursue this again through much collaboration and many philosophical conversations with Loz Lightyear. Her insights, collaboration and support can't be underestimated. Her passion is invested in this work. It's a project. The results of my own investigations which resulted from basic research into the Instagram platform (see previous post), revealed a whole heap of shyte under the covers, that I can't ignore. One of my actions resulted in complete Instagram account deletion - some words about that here. If you ever wonder what that's like, or you think it wouldn’t affect you much, then give it a go, be my guest. Put it on the line.

The imbalance of gender representation can have multiple insidious effects and contribute to the one thing we ALL whinge and moan about - censorship. We all just love moaning about that shit but we do fuck all about it. If you are a male photographer and you're moaning about censorship and your profile consists exclusively of female nudes, and you are on Instagram, don't talk to me about it. I don't care what your 'intent' is, be it art or whatever, it isn't being consumed as art - on Instgaram at least. If you don't give a shit, then cool, keep doing what you're doing and stop reading this.

Essentially, we're too soft and we care too much about our own personal shit and our own personal profiles. Even the 'aged' ones amongst us have become narcissistic, in the extreme. This is what I can't handle about myself.

When you actually sit down and start thinking about it, the why and the how of it all, you see stuff, and most of it's shit. But you do see ways of addressing it. One thing I hate doing is toeing lines drawn in the sand by some other fucker, especially when the other fucker is a powerful corporate giant. The next article will be about some of those connections. 

The Poll

So after asking 'the question' I did actually get many responses. The responses (about shooting only women) could be categorised into three areas (there would be more with a proper study but I reckon these three would be at the top anyway):

  1. The aesthetics of the male form aren't as elegant or 'flexible' as the female form. 
  2. There is a shortage of available male models.
  3. I don't feel as comfortable shooting men.

Give me a fucking big break. Fuck sake. I don't believe any of these are true. I think, like my former self, I floundered for an answer (an excuse)  because I just didn't know the real reason why I shot mainly women - or I did but didn't want to admit the real reason - start digging deep guys - and enjoy the exploration into your own life. I have a much clearer idea now.

So, those points above:

  1. Men have their own form and way of posing (speaking of figure work anyway) and there is a definite 'male elegance' to be explored and unearthed. It's not as obviously easy as shooting an experienced female nude figure model of course! But that's why it's fun - you get to challenge yourself (beyond the technical parameters of photography) and you get to explore largely unchartered territory. Adventure I think it's called - stepping outside the box and taking a good look around.
     
  2. This one again isn't true. There may be fewer male models around but there are easily enough, on the east coast of Australia anyway, to keep you busy for a long time. Where are they then? Advertise and you'll find out. DO something. Get the word out that you want to shoot men. I placed an ad in Facebook and on Instagram about 6 months ago and received some great responses. More recently, I've been harping on about it and now have a number of guys to shoot. Most of these guys have been 'given' to me by female partners who believe in this cause and also want to seen and heard - so why not give them a fucking voice!
     
  3. Not comfy shooting men? Don't get that one. Men understand men don't they? I think maybe viewing other men nude might be the problem? Dunno. I had one story relayed to me that a certain photographer just couldn't stand it, couldn't stand looking at another man's penis. WTF? 

    Maybe it's my background, but seeing another bloke nude is fine by me. I've also worked in places such as coal mines and shearing sheds, where a whole shift of men strip off in one room and all shower next to each other at the same time talking, joking and generally mucking about. So what? How come photographers can't hack it?

    When you shoot commercially, and in areas on the fringes of our so called 'society', there's some enlightening tales that are worthy of mention here. I've had a few conversations with other male photographers lately around shooting men and had one particularly funny one just the other day. A friend who shoots commercially (and will remain nameless - lets call him Bill), was shooting a male escort who needed images of himself half erect, so he informed Bill quite bluntly "I'm just gonna get myself hard OK?" Bill responded, "yea that's fine mate I'll just go check all my gear's ready, give me a yell when you're right to go!" Cool. Life. If you're holding a camera, you're an adaptable animal.

The work I'm doing with the men I'm shooting is exciting and rewarding. It's challenging and enlightening and soulful - spending time with other guys in this way. I look for pretty much the exact same things whether it's a male or female in front of the lens - it doesn't feel much different photographically and I'm certainly not uncomfortable about being around a nude bloke. The dynamic is different of course, but your communication style etc. doesn't have to change in the slightest. If you can't handle it, you’re limiting yourself and your professional career as a photographer is looking doubtful.

The Camera as a Communication Device

The camera, when used properly, is, more than anything else, a communication device. You can experience other people in a way that you could never experience them otherwise, especially complete strangers - when there is a camera connecting you to those people (speaking mainly portrait photography here). And what I'm seeing through the lens with men is what I've always firmly believed; men are deep, sensitive, complex and continuingly surprising - and that shouldn't be a surprise - but sadly it is for many people. 

Jumping into another thread now but, the patriarchal society that men have created effects men themselves in an incredibly negative way - this should never be forgotten - in fact this point needs highlighting and illustrating - check the latest male suicide rates. So there's a small snippet of information about men that you could use to build a whole series of artistic work on! Go to it art photographer!

A List of Male Models

I'm compiling a list of male models so I can refer male models (many won't be models) to selected photographers at some stage. Many of the people on the list have been referred to me by other people, namely models and collaborators such as primarily Loz Lightyear and more recently Kat Campbell (I'll link when I find the link). If you say you can't find a male model, I'll get my fucking gear off for you, just message me, I have no issues doing that.

My Personal Preference?

Is to shoot women. Ask me why, I'll tell you. But not all the time - it's a story called 'Balance', and in order to address the shyte beneath the covers of 'social' media, censorship and big tangents to art, you just have to make an effort. Plus, being primarily a humanist - i.e portrait photographer, I see so many areas within my own gender that can be addressed with a camera in my hand. So much potential.

If you read this far, congratulations.

Here are some recent shots - and look I'm giving them to you for fucking free! Make the best of it. These represent my take on men based primarily on my way of shooting, and my personal emotional state, which is usually about the person, not the body. You'll of course hopefully have your own ideas (yes, please have youtr own ideas) and interpretations on how to shoot and portray men.

Phil, first 5 minutes in front of a camera, ever.

Phil & Kat

Ryan

Eric Clayton - late sixties, life model.

Eric - he's sixty-something - and he's a man

Eric Clayton - the male form is so inelegant. pfffft.

Insta Freedom

Here's the story:

The Instagram corporation's response:

So after the Instagram corporation has removed your account for exposing their discriminatory behaviour, you can appeal:

"I did an experiment. 
Your censorship policies discriminate against women and need to be upgraded to reflect the year 2017. I posted one male nude uncensored. It remained visible for 20 hours. I posted 3 female nudes in that time, in succession and each was removed within an hour. This was an experiment. I did not post this content for any reason other to test the guidelines that you as a ‘responsible’ body enforce on the public whom you profit from. Your responsibility is to be fair - and you failed. I call on you to explain your bias to me and the public now. This case is now public, right across your other corporate entity - Facebook. 

Discrimination based on gender isn’t too cool in 2017. I have evidence based on my little experiment, that you have applied your ‘rules’ and policies in such a way as to discriminate directly against women. Read my last dispute for the details. My business is also going to suffer and I know you aren’t liable but this isn’t the end of this sad little story. Your other corporation Facebook is a perfect place to engage the public in this discussion and that has already been initiated. Many, many comments agreeing on your blatant discriminatory behaviour, it’s actually indisputable. The case will be progressed following the Facebook dialogue.

As a friend of mine once said as he was signing off from his role as a publisher and writer of a small cult magazine - "Goodbye, farewell and get fucked".

Seriously though, moving on...

This weekend, two shoots and two different male subjects. Next week a female model Tuesday and the following weekend a male and a female. Images from these shoots won't appear on Instagram - of course :)

So here's an image from a couple months ago - Sophie Moyle:

Instagratification

Have been spending time working out where I fit in this world called Instagram. I've been completely disheartened with many aspects of how the platform operates, its model. But I also love it for various things. So rather than disappear I've needed to work out how to make my presence here represent who I really am and what my work is about.

Likes?

I've managed, as hard as it was, to dissociate myself from the 'likes' drug. I found myself waiting on likes, all the time, wanting more. 

This ain't healthy and it ain't me.

Followers?

I've managed to disassociate myself from the 'followers' drug. I found myself wanting more followers and comparing myself to those who had many more than me. 

This ain't healthy and it ain't me.

Like for Like?

Like for like and follow for follow. Sorry, no. Like means like last time I checked. The best arrangement is if we mutually appreciate and like each other's work, then we really have something precious.

Social Media Porn

Looking at the stats of my followers on Instagram was revealing. You don't need to be a data analyst to see what's going on. Essentially, the work I do that involves nudity is being consumed as porn. The overwhelming majority of my followers are from countries where porn is either restricted or banned. 

No artist can control the way their work is interpreted, or consumed. Often when people don't get your exact message, they have their own interpretation which is fantastic - it provides further depth and is one of the great things about art. But when the interpretation of the material is purely porn, it just bothers me.

I have zero problems with erotica and with sexual freedom and expression. Some of the work I've done falls into the category of erotica. I do commercial work connected with the sex industry and sex workers and have met the best people in that world. But I'd prefer my artistic work to be interpreted in any way other than purely pornographic. 

On this point there is the boundary between art-nude and erotica - or more of a 'transition zone', but that's for another post :)

The above points are the heart of the Instagram operating model. So without that, what's left for me?

Quality of Work

There is barely any relationship between numbers of followers and likes, to the quality of your work. Previously to Instagram, and still now, I post my work to one particular art forum. I've always valued the opinions and critiques of my contacts in there because I know they're both genuine and they know what constitutes a good photograph, irrespective of subject matter. So lately I've looked up my contacts from there on Instagram. Most have fuck all followers. I've connected with them on IG and am now discovering a more meaningful and more artistic Instagram world. 

Sharing

I love sharing my work with people who appreciate it and can connect with what I do. Folks who can look beneath the covers and surface physicality of a photograph. So you peeps who do this and form part of my followers - I would hate to lose contact with you - and I appreciate your genuine 'likes' and comments. Sharing and being part of a creative community whose scope is international is a very special and cool thing and I could never under estimate its importance in my life. 

Having said that, I won't be posting all of my work on Instagram. For photographs it's visually the worst platform to use. Size, resolution, presentation and… cropping. I've always posted non-cropped because that's the way I shoot - I rarely crop images after they come out of the camera as when shooting I try to compose with the whole frame in mind (of course). So why would I allow Zuckerberg to take out his own artistic license and crop my work?

Lately I tried doing what most folk do - posting cropped images which allows you to get a nice square feed look. Sorry, can't hack it.

Not only that, I don't think releasing all of your work into the endless conveyer belt of Instagram is the way to go. So some will be held back, maybe displayed elsewhere (my website mainly but also artlimited.net, deviant art maybe - but not Patreon), and some hopefully exhibited (watch this space).

Censorship

Nothing needs to be said.

Tagging

Pffffft. Tagging is mainly to attract attention to yourself. Make it easy for people to find you. Fair enough I guess if you're running a business on Instagram but for this account of mine, that isn't important. The positive aspect is that it can connect you with communities and people with similar interests. So currently I'm not tagging - but hopefully I can arrive at a suitable set of tags that covers that last aspect.

Networking

I also network extensively via Instagram. Most of my shoots are organised through there and I've met some amazing people here who are important in my life for various reasons.

With that said, I'm confident you won't leave me. Those that do, and there's already been around 1500 over the last few weeks due to my efforts (which involved posting pictures of nude men and mainly clothed women), well that's fine. I don't care about numbers now and it's actually such a relief. One beautiful artistic connection is worth a few million meaningless ones.

Photo: Cookie Pix - https://www.instagram.com/cookiepixpix/ - expired Kodak 35mm.

Photo: Cookie Pix - https://www.instagram.com/cookiepixpix/ - expired Kodak 35mm.

SA Deserts Trip

Will write some words about this trip soon but in the meantime all I can say it was an amazing adventure of exploration, camping, driving, amazing campfires, 40 degrees days to 14 degrees days, flies, road kills, rain, mud that won't wash off, red dust, surprised road side tourists, natural 29 degree spas bubbling out of the desert, Icelandic landscapes,space stars, $25 fish and chips etc.

Loz wrote some words about her modelling on this trip, see my last post for her own take. From my side: I've never seen any one so dedicated and committed to their profession. It humbled me much. This isn't a place for the faint of heart. The dirt, mud, dust and flies didn't matter to her, and the blood, cuts, bruises and bites she had by the end of the trip... well it was above and beyond really. Thanks Loz.

And I didn't even mention the amazing images and videos we captured!

Winding through the Flinder's Ranges last week's epic trip to the SA deserts with Loz Lightyear - Art model-muse. On Kodak Portra 160 - Mamiya 7

We found an Iceland in the desert. On Kodak Portra 160 - Mamiya 7

"I just pointed the camera at the first THING I saw" - Loz.

Carrying strange found desert objects.

Transcended Emu.

Roadside shooting tools ready for action.