Nowadays, I identify quite strongly as a photographer since most of the stuff that I spend my time with relates to cameras and visual culture. Now being an artist -or an art student means that people want to interpret your work based on their knowledge of you, of your traits - of anything they know about your personality. If you are known to be depressed, your work can always be read as a metaphor of your condition. If you are gay, so is your work. If you've been mistreated somehow, you're constantly going through that experience in your art.
Well, it's not as straightforward as that but just to give a hint of what I'm talking about.
Let's consider me.
I'm gay, a fact which isn't known by many since I don't look like your stereotypical butch with short hair and masculine posture. Some of my central points of interest in photography are body image, gender diversity and sexual identities. I have worked on with one project on female body image and written an essay on the problematic of the objectifying male gaze in visual culture, and although I feel like ripping my hair off every time I bump into psychoanalysis whilst doing research on feminism, I'm still drawn back to these topics. Now obviously being a) a woman, b) a lesbian and c) something called a feminist who's interested in this kind of stuff makes me some sort of a labelled product because it's all so typical, isn't it? A man-hater who doesn't wear bra and refuses to be helped by men because that would be sexist oppression.
Let's start again.
I love human biology and anatomy. I'm a sports freak who gets thrilled by pain in before undiscovered muscles, and regularly tortures her flatmate with back massages, the sole purpose of which is to find new lumps of stiff muscles that are connected to other lumps of stiff muscles, which eventually cause headaches and can even make one's mouth twitch when pressed at. I don't really enjoy causing pain, I just like finding these connection between muscles and tensions.
I think it's extremely cool. My flatmate probably thinks it's mostly painful.
All this and the fact that I've done sports and been active my entire life has made me very conscious of my body and its capabilities. I've always had muscles, and I've never liked the way I look but I've managed to overcome that by learning to do stuff with my body. Most of the time I'm not even happy about what I can do but at least I know that I can become better. With the muscles.
The reason I'm rambling on about this is to demonstrate the kind of relationship I have to my body. I don't dress up or exercise for anyone else but myself. I don't go out and wonder whether other people find me attractive or repulsive. If I feel like not giving a shit of my appearance then I wear some baggy t-shirt, jeans and tie my greasy hair on a ponytail, and if I want to make an effort then I do but it's just because I want to. The only thing that really matters is my physical ability - what I can do.
To claim that I don't objectify my appearance would be misleading, for I do. What I don't do is to sexualise myself, to put myself on display that way.
And now let me try to explain what I mean by this.
I look at myself and other people through selective eyes, picking up the details that please me visually. Admittedly I mostly look at women but I think it's because men are mostly the same shape and wearing similar kind of clothes whereas with women there's more variety - or maybe I'm just biased. Anyhow, I don't think male body as less beautiful or intriguing than female just because it's male and, to put it bluntly, I don't want to have sex with men. And to be exact, there are more sexes than two even though the majority of the world refuses to give them official recognition, and so in this light the male-female dichotomy is a bit pointless. Yes, there are two types of sexual organs, but honestly, I'm not very passionate about presenting them as art since I don't find much aesthetic value on either.
So yeah, bodies are cool, but when I look at people - men, women or something in between - I don't look at them as sexualised objects. If someone with what I think as a beautiful feature catches my eye, I often can't take my eyes off them, which of course is very subtle and courteous. But for me a long neck, beautifully formed thigh muscles or collarbones are as captivating details as a sunset or a piece of Victorian furniture. If you catch me staring at someone's breasts, it's not because I desire to get into more intimate contact with them but because I happen to be marvelled by their perfect shape.
What doesn't these days?
The fact that you can sell nearly anything with sex has probably led people instinctively to assume that everything that happens and is said around them connotes sex as well. You have to be careful of your choice of words when commenting on someone's appearance because you might get accused of sexual harassment, which for me seems quite ridiculous considering the massive lingerie billboard ads that all the biggest cities are flooded with.
Yeah, but anyway.
I just wanted to say that whilst I do enjoy looking at nude female body and would love to spend ages with my camera just exploring it from different angles, it has nothing to do with sex. I would just as happily do the same with male body. However, at this point at least, I prefer soft and round shapes, consequently more characteristic to female than male body, so there we are. You still might argue that this preference emerges both from my sex, and sexual orientation, but again I could tell you that for me looking doesn't provide much of a sexual pleasure, and especially when working with a camera my eye is thoroughly professional. The pleasure that I gain from looking at uncovered bodies is aesthetic: I see them as shapes, lines, shades, lights and texture. A human body is a kind of an object for me, but not a sexualised one.
My course mates are used to making fun of me and my fondness of female body: if boobs are involved I'm sure to be informed of it, and on the other hand, I'm being apologised of if I have to look at naked male body. I don't mind this for it's what we do amongst us, but here also lies the reason as to why I'm not too loud about being gay. I don't want all of my work to be interpreted as 'gay art' or something like that. I don't even want it to be seen as feminist art but these things are always tricky because people need some sort of background, with which they can justify their conclusions.
I guess I really just want everything not to be about sex.
Sex as in sexual desire or eroticism or that kind of stuff.
The world is overly charged with sexual imagery and subtext as it is.