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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

The Gaze, Photography and Advertising. The gaze is a way of psychoanalysing the images that are put in front of us today. It uses a variety of techniques to achieve the optimum way of viewing a situation or in this case an image. In effect, it looks at the male way of viewing women in the most mundane and derogative form and the affect this has on the viewer. This essay aims to interpret the gaze within the controversial Sisley advertising campaign. This involves studying photographs that supposedly show a neutral gaze. Photographs are theoretically a neutral representation of an image. However, the interpretation of the image is really controlled by the perception of the individual photographer. Wells (2009) believes that, “The problem lies in deciphering whether the resulting photograph is a true reflection. Or whether by taking this photograph in a particular content that second has been tampered with in some way to best emphasise that culture shock or message the photographer is seeking�. This infers that whether intentional or not, the photographer’s personnel perception tends to dictate the message behind the photograph. Images in advertising campaigns such as the Sisley campaign always have an agenda behind even the most neutral of photographs. This may involve either invoking an emotion in the viewer or simply trying to create a discussion. The power then within photography becomes apparent, and thus ties to the power and manipulation used within the gaze. Coward (2000, p.34) discusses the idea of the power within the camera, implying that the photographer is ultimately in control of the photograph taken and images of women in provocative and controversial styles are intended to empower the male audience.

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

Susan Sontag has also theorised the power of the gaze within photography, “To photograph is to appropriate the thing being photographed” (Sontag, 1977, p.4) This infers that by taking photographs of women in erotic ways, the photographer and viewer take something from the woman in the image, without her permission, thus empowering the male audience through their gaze. This takes away the woman's freedom so in turn she becomes subordinate to the photographer and the male audience. Sontag (1977, p82) states “instead propose we collect it”, suggesting that by taking images of attractive women or situations we build up a collection of what is deemed as sexual or erotic in nature, again adding to the control of the male viewer over the subordinate woman in any picture, reinforcing the male gaze on women. Coward (2000, p33) observes the power within photography and the male hold over women, “Use of women's images, in ways which make men feel comfortable... Clearly this comfort is connected to feeling secure or powerful”. This again illustrates the power within photography and the impact it has on a male audience. John Burger theorises the manipulation used within the power of the gaze and women “Men survey women before treating them” (Burger, 1977, p.32), this highlights the idea that men will judge a woman before engaging with her. This makes viewing women in this objectified way extremely easy through photography. It also shows the power of the gaze, as men are the ones looking and the women are being objectified and know they are being studied. Photography lets women be subject to scrutiny through the male gaze without men feeling judged or guilty. Suzanna Moore also theorises that “the female gaze my actively invite it” (Moore, 1992, cited in Dotter, R. Bowers, S. 1992), this suggests that women openly invite the men to gaze upon them in such an elicit and intrusive way because women

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

are conditioned to let themselves be watched. Burger (1977, p.46) states “How she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life”, infers women are conditioned from a young age to appeal to themselves and more importantly the male audience. Photography is powerful in a sense of documenting the woman prostrating herself for the male gaze, and almost demanding the male audience feel power over her. Foucalts (Foucault, 2001 citied in Faubion, 2001, p. 340), theories that for their to be power over the female subject there has to be power given, again joining the same theories of Burger (1977, p.32), and Moore (1992, cited in Dotter, R. Bowers, S. 1992) that without women giving themselves over to the camera and its audience, there would be no power for men to hold over them. Foucalt also makes the point that “power is not a matter of consent” (Foucault, 2001 citied in Faubion, 2001, p. 340) fundamentally pointing out that regardless of how the woman views herself, the male audience’s view will not always be in concur with hers. What may appear as an innocent image in the females eyes may be manipulated and misconstrued by men because looking is not neutral and there is a certain gender bias. The two photographs discussed in this essay were shot by photographer Terry Richardson for the Sisley advertising campaign. Richardson is a controversial and compelling photographer who prides himself on shooting shocking images. “There was the Terry Richardson trend with Juergen Teller, both of them trashy photographers that transformed nudes into something sexy and crude rather than glossy” ( Huffington Post, 2011). Richardson’s photography is not to everyone’s taste but it does illustrate the power of

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

sexuality and the gaze. The images discussed within this essay will cover two styles of the gaze; the spectators gaze and the extra-digetic gaze. The principal of the extra-digetic is that the viewer enjoys a ‘privilege of invisibility’ i.e. looking without being looked at. This is supported by Mulvey (2009) who said, “The look of the camera and the spectator seem subordinate to that of the characters - the protagonist's point of view”. This essentially states that the spectator can look without the pressure of being judged and the ‘characters’ within the image immediately become subordinate to that of the viewer. ‘As such the spectators are forced to confront their contradictory impulse, of being titillated by violence yet shameful of their enjoyment” (Mulvey, 2009). This implies that the gaze is structured in a way within images to confront the audience. The first image discussed in this essay is in the style of the spectators gaze. This style of the gaze involves the subject of a photograph looking out of the shot at the viewer. “The gaze is presented in order to draw the viewer into the world of the text. The subject may look out but with an adverted gaze” (Governor, n.a). The second image discussed in this essay is in the style of the extra-digetic gaze. This image has a hint of homosexuality that alters the way the viewer scrutinizes the images. DeRosia (Kubricks, 2003) presents the idea that “such films may target and traumatize male subjects with a greater intensity than females ones”. This implies that suggestive male homosexual images unnerve men and may shatter their masculinity as they no longer feel secure or empowered. This once again emphasises the power that these images have over the male audience. The first image depicted is the product of a male mind and shows how the audience can gaze at a woman unchallenged under the guise of a controversial advertising campaign. 4


Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

This adds credence to Mulvey’s (2009) argument that the spectator will not feel judged by looking at this image as they are ‘invisible’. This image works in conjunction with the idea of the spectators gaze, as the woman is depicted as being abused. With regards to what Coward said about power, this image is a perfect example of the power of photography and the actions within the photography. The image shows a woman being handled violently by a man thus connoting the power towards men. There are definite connotations to the male power of a woman and her subservience showing that she is weak and vulnerable. This image also emphasises how photography can show a distinct gender bias, especially towards the male orientated audience. This image can also be seen as voyeuristic. The idea that the viewer is spying on an intimate and hidden world gives the male audience a feeling of power over the woman. The fact that the image is hinting towards a sexual nature again adds to the feeling of control the viewer may have over the subject and again adds to the control feeling of a peeping Tom. Coward (Reading Images, 2000) also commented that “Peeping Toms can always stay in control. Whatever may be going on, the peeping Tom can always determine his own meanings... Distanced he may be, but secure he remains”. This resonates through the argument and the image itself.

The advert itself is a prime example of the spectators

gaze and the power it creates. All the aspects brought together within this image communicate the idea to the viewer that wearing this brand of clothing leaves you feeling empowered, confident and in control. The image is controversial in its staging and the interpretations that lead from it, but it ultimately works as an advert. This is because the viewer walks away with that image and the associated ideas it generated stuck with them.

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

This is especially true of the male audience as it’s perfectly framed to suite a male’s power strive over the woman. The context of the gaze has changed in this image. Instead of it determining women being objectified by men, it is men objectifying men and it does this by playing on the idea of homosexuality. Again this image is open to the viewer’s interpretation but certain elements within it have been controlled in order to give a provocative response. The image uses a similar illusion taken from the famous and idolised image of the woman in the Lolita advert . That image is very sexual in its nature and depicts a woman sucking on a lolly pop in a suggestive manner. Richardson has cleverly changed the subject matter to two men sucking on lolly pops, which again is equally suggestive. A male audience could view this and inadvertently link it to the Lolita style image which in turn would allude to a sexual nature. This then leads the male audience to view these two men in a sexual way making the male audience feel uncomfortable, thus giving an example of the idea DeRosia suggested. This is controversial because although society now proclaims the tolerance of homosexuality, people are still uncomfortable viewing such images, especially in such an explicit and sexual way. When looking at this image through the gaze eyes, the men within this image are still being objectified just as much as the woman in the previous image. Coward (Reading Images, 2000) believes that our culture is male dominated, or has been, and therefore the images within our culture have been produced from a male view on gender and sexuality. This has lead to women being the subject of pornographic fantasies and elicit ideals. However, the culture we are emerged in today is beginning to change and

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

therefore the way we look at and interpret images it is changing too. Our culture is still viewed as male orientated but the subjects of sexual fantasies are now crossing both genders. The men depicted in these images have a feminine look so it is now becoming men acting or depicting themselves as more feminine in order to be objectified in the same socially acceptable manner. Freud said that, “We could say that the image of woman comes to be used as a sign, which does not necessarily signify the meaning ‘woman’” (Freud, cited in Mulvey, 2009). This means that it may be appropriate to use the idea that it is not so much about being a woman as the symbol or sign of a woman. This could be seen to be reflected within the image of the men in the Sisley advert. Their expressions, bodies and gestures take on a womanly exterior to give off the symbol of being womanly and feminine. The photograph itself works on an extra-digetic view point. The males within the image are purposefully looking down the camera giving the idea that they are looking straight at the viewer. This is very engaging which forces the viewer to recognise and pay attention to them. The subjects within the image also give off a youthful look and feel about them, and therefore connote the idea of naivety. Their faces are also do-eyed which in turn makes the audience feel dominant, and look at the men in an assertive manner. This can be recognised in the way that an adult views a child. This image challenges the dominance in viewing an image, especially in a sexual nature. This is supported by Mulvey (2009), “As an advanced representation system, the cinema poses questions about the unconscious (formed by the dominant order) structures ways of seeing and pleasure in looking”. Unlike the first image, the points of power can clearly be outlined and seen. The audience is made to see it in a pleasurable way, except for the fact it is two males being looked at in a sexually suggestive nature. For the intended

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

viewer this can make them panic. They see the image in a sexually suggestive way and it makes them feel uncomfortable and unsure. Unlike the previous image which could be seen as a way of empowering the male audience, this image takes that power away. Instead it empowers the males within the photograph because they now have the power over the audience by controlling a certain reaction as if goading the viewers. This essay has discussed two very different styles of the gaze. The first image was in a spectator’s style and it showed a woman being abused. This from the spectators point of view leads a male audience to feel empowered and in control. This is because the woman is prostrated in such a subservient manner. This is beneficial in advertising as empowered men are more likely to buy the brand. The second image differs greatly from the first as it shows two men in a homosexual stance. Using the extra digetic gaze, this image leads to the male audience feeling emasculated and vulnerable. This is because men feel confused about what they should feel when viewing it. This essay has shown how the gaze’s psychoanalytical style is now beginning to change as our culture changes around us. This has caused people to view images in a different way which therefore changes their interpretation and feelings. It has also shown how the gaze can be used in different forms to advertise a brand.

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

References and Bibliography BURGER, J. 1977. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books. DANAHER, G. SCHIRATO, T. WEBB, J. 2000. Understanding Foucault. Australia: SAGE Publications. DOTTER, R. Bowers, S. 1992. Sexuality, the Female gaze, and the Arts. Ontorio: Associated University Presses. FAUBION, F.B. 2001. Michael Foucault Power - Essential Works of Foucault 1954 - 1984. London: Penguin Books GAMMON, L. Marshment, M. 1988. The Female Gaze. London: The Woman’s Press Limited. HEKMAN, S.J. 1996. Feminist Interpretations of Michel Foucault. United States Of America: The Pennsylvania State University Press. KAPLAN, E.A. 2007. Woman in Film Noir. London: The British Film Institute. KUBRICKS, S. 2003. A Clockwork Orange. Cambridge: Press syndicate of the University of Cambridge. MULVEY, L. 2009. Visual pleasure. 2nd ed. Cheshire: Palgrave MacMillan. SONTAG, S. 2001. Susan Sontag Against Interpretation. London: Vintage. SONTAG, S. 1979. Susan Sontag on Photography. London: Penguin Books THOMAS, J. (2000) Reading Images, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

THE HUFFINGTON POST. 2011. Franca Sozzani slams ‘trashy photographers’ like Terry Richardson. [online]. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/21/francasozzani-slams-tras_n_812300.html [Accessed 7th February 2011]. GOVERNOR, SR. (n.a). Photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are’ (Susan Sontag). Illustrate with examples how photographs can be seen as involving the photographer’s interpretation of the world. [online] Available at: http:// webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:MwInP51zl9gJ:www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/ sfg0201.doc+The+gaze+is+presented+in+order+to+draw+the+viewer+into+the+world+of+the+text. +The+subject+may+look+out+but+with+an+adverted +gaze&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&source=www.google.co.uk [Accessed 7th February 2011].

WELLS, L. 2009. Photography: A Critical Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

IMAGES Image 1

SISLEY ADVERT. TERRY RICHARDSON. [online] Available at: http://www.google.co.uk/ imgres?imgurl=http://www.about-face.org/images/embedded/goo/archive/repeat/sisley/ sisley14.jpg&imgrefurl=http://jade-nadezhda.blogspot.com/2007/07/remembersisley.html&usg=__eApcajDWHt2YF5sfu08J0REGso=&h=300&w=447&sz=22&hl=en&start=74&zoom=1&tbnid=y gqa4kRDeyVujM:&tbnh=131&tbnw=178&ei=VTpYTdPFHISYhQesnej3DA&prev=/images %3Fq%3Dsisley%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26biw%3D1259%26bih %3D576%26tbs%3Disch: 10%2C1685&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=470&vpy=270&dur=110&hovh=184&hovw=27 4&tx=165&ty=126&oei=STpYTfuJGoaBhQe0uJ3WDA&page=5&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r: 2,s:74&biw=1259&bih=576 [Accessed 8th February 2011]

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

Image 2

SISLEY ADVERT. TERRY RICHARDSON. [online] Available at: <http:// www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://2.bp.blogspot.com/__0C108yIsIQ/SdB-j-u4shI/ AAAAAAAAAbE/kVNvKmSo4yM/s400/sisley%252B1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://pavementfrippery.blogspot.com/ 2009_03_01_archive.html&usg=__UDRIVcVVmyesUk5tPEyX4Bd1JTU=&h=269&w=400 &sz=30&hl=en&start=18&zoom=1&tbnid=xReDvyPb2zUDM:&tbnh=122&tbnw=166&ei=6DlYTe3XH4TChAfr7p3RDA&prev=/images %3Fq%3Dsisley%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26biw%3D1259%26bih %3D576%26tbs%3Disch: 1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=437&oei=4jlYTdqgNYmLhQf135jcDA&page=2&ndsp=18 &ved=1t:429,r:9,s:18&tx=57&ty=90> [Accessed 8th February 2011]

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Robyn Russell BA Graphic Design: OUCS206

Image 3

LOLITA. Available at: http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://ferdyonfilms.com/ lolita-1962.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/%3Fm %3D200811&usg=__UjFQAIdg_d55Iv640M6_jbvKUo8=&h=600&w=449&sz=200&hl=en &start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=0Z1nI_JCs6b2WM:&tbnh=139&tbnw=109&ei=yURYTZOQNIi AhQfVpbTNDA&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dlolita%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26biw %3D1259%26bih%3D576%26tbs%3Disch: 1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=218&oei=yURYTZOQNIiAhQfVpbTNDA&page=1&ndsp= 25&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:0&tx=65&ty=121 [Accessed on 8th February 2011]. 13

Essay  
Essay  

The Gaze, Photography and Advertising

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